Watsonville riots

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The Watsonville riots was a period of racial violence which took place in Watsonville, California from January 19 to January 23, 1930. Involving altercations between Filipino American farm workers and local residents opposed to immigration, the riots highlighted the racial and socioeconomic tensions in California's agricultural communities. [1]

Watsonville, California City in California in California

Watsonville is a city in Santa Cruz County, California, United States. The population was 51,199 according to the 2010 census. Located on the central coast of California, the economy centers predominantly around the farming industry. It is known for growing strawberries, apples, lettuce and a host of other vegetables. Watsonville is home to people of varied ethnic backgrounds. There is a large Hispanic population, as well as groups of Croatians, Filipinos, Portuguese, Sikhs, and Japanese that live and work in the city.

Nativism is the political policy of promoting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants, including by supporting immigration-restriction measures.

Contents

Background

Internal migration

As U.S. nationals, Filipinos had the legal right to work in the United States, and as early as 1906 they were working on Hawaii's sugar and pineapple plantations as full-time laborers. Assuming the Filipino workers' unfamiliarity with their rights, employers paid sakadas the lowest wages among all ethnic laborers; and Filipinos were introduced as strikebreakers as part of a divide and rule strategy to prevent cross-ethnic mobilization and thereby ensure smooth production processes . [2]

Sakadas were Filipino men imported by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association to Hawaii as "skilled laborers" from 1906 to 1946 mainly from the Visayas and Ilocos regions of the Philippines.

Divide and rule gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy

Divide and rule, or divide and conquer, in politics and sociology is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy.

The Immigration Acts of 1917 and 1924, which targeted non-whites of Asian descent, allowed Filipinos to answer the growing demand for labor on the U.S. mainland. From the 1920s on, "overwhelmingly young, single, and male" [3] Filipinos migrated to the Pacific Coast, joining Mexicans in positions previously filled by Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Indians. [4] In California, Filipinos were the dominant Asian farm labor force during the next two decades. [5]

Immigration Act of 1917 United States law

The Immigration Act of 1917 was the most sweeping immigration act the United States had passed until that time. It was the second act, after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, aimed at restricting immigrants, and marked a turn toward nativism. The law imposed literacy tests on immigrants, created new categories of inadmissible persons, and barred immigration from the Asia-Pacific zone. It governed immigration policy until being amended by the Immigration Act of 1924; both were revised by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.

Immigration Act of 1924 immigration-related US Congress Act of 1924

The Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson–Reed Act, including the Asian Exclusion Act and National Origins Act, was a United States federal law that prevented immigration from Asia, set quotas on the number of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere, and provided funding and an enforcement mechanism to carry out the longstanding ban on other immigrants.

West Coast of the United States Coastline

The West Coast or Pacific Coast is the coastline along which the continental Western United States meets the North Pacific Ocean. As a region, this term most often refers to the coastal states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. More specifically, it refers to an area defined on the east by the Alaska Range, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and Mojave Desert, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The United States Census groups the five states of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii together as the Pacific States division.

Farm life

Filipino laborers' resilience in harsh working conditions made them favorite recruits among farm operators. In California's Santa Clara and San Joaquin Valleys, Filipinos were often assigned to the backbreaking work of cultivating and harvesting asparagus, celery, and lettuce. As in Hawaii, the industry and perceived passivity of these little brown brothers were used to counter the so-called "laziness" of working-class whites and other ethnic groups. [6]

The Santa Clara Valley runs south-southeast from the southern end of San Francisco Bay in Northern California in the United States. The northern, urbanized end of the valley is part of a region locally known as the "South Bay" and also part of the electronics, research, and technology area known as Silicon Valley. Santa Clara Valley consists of most of Santa Clara County, including its county seat, San Jose, as well as a small portion of San Benito County. The valley, named after the Spanish Mission Santa Clara, was for a time known as the Valley of Heart's Delight for its high concentration of orchards, flowering trees, and plants. Until the 1960s it was the largest fruit producing and packing region in the world with 39 canneries.

San Joaquin Valley Southern part of the Central Valley in California

The San Joaquin Valley is the area of the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California that lies south of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and is drained by the San Joaquin River. It comprises seven counties of Northern and one of Southern California, including, in the north, all of San Joaquin and Kings counties, most of Stanislaus, Merced, and Fresno counties, and parts of Madera and Tulare counties, along with a majority of Kern County, in Southern California. Although a majority of the valley is rural, it does contain cities such as Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Modesto, Turlock, Tulare, Porterville, Visalia, Merced, and Hanford.

Due to gender bias in immigration policy and hiring practices, of the 30,000 Filipino laborers following the cycle of seasonal farm work, only 1 in 14 were women. [7] Unable to meet Filipinas, Filipino farm workers sought the companionship of women outside their own ethnic community, which further aggravated mounting racial discord. [8]

Mounting tensions

In the next few years, white men decrying the takeover of jobs and white women by Filipinos resorted to vigilantism to deal with the "third Asiatic invasion." Filipino laborers frequenting pool halls or attending street fairs in Stockton, Dinuba, Exeter, and Fresno risked being attacked by nativists threatened by the swelling labor pool as well as the Filipino's presumed predatory sexual nature. [9]

Stockton, California City in California, United States

Stockton is the county seat of San Joaquin County in the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California. Stockton was founded by Captain Charles Maria Weber in 1849 after he acquired Rancho Campo de los Franceses. The city is named after Robert F. Stockton, and it was the first community in California to have a name not of Spanish or Native American origin. The city is located on the San Joaquin River in the northern San Joaquin Valley and had an estimated population of 320,554 by the California Department of Finance for 2017. Stockton is the 13th largest city in California and the 63rd largest city in the United States. It was named an All-America City in 1999, 2004, 2015 and again in 2017.

Exeter, California City in California, United States

Exeter is a city in Tulare County, California, United States. It is situated in the San Joaquin Valley near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The population was 10,334 at the 2010 census.

In October 1929, Filipinos at a street carnival in Exeter were shot with rubber bands as they walked with their white female companions. In response to the knifing of a heckler, a mob of 300 white men led by then Chief of Police C. E. Joyner burned the barn of a rancher known to hire Filipinos; and Joyner ordered the shutdown of a nearby labor camp. According to local press, the riot was caused primarily by Filipinos' insistence on equal treatment by white women. [10]

Two months later, in the morning of December 2, 1929, in Watsonville, a coastal town 189 miles (304 km) away, police raided a boardinghouse and found two white girls, aged 16 and 11, sleeping in the same room with Perfecto Bandalan, a 25-year-old lettuce grower. The Watsonville community was outraged and remained so even after learning that Bandalan and 16-year-old Esther Schmick were engaged, and that they were caring for Esther's sister Bertha at her mother's request. [11]

Riots

Near midnight on January 18, 1930, 500 white men and youths gathered outside a Filipino dance club in the Palm Beach section of Watsonville. [12] The club was owned by a Filipino man and offered dances with the nine white women who lived there. The mob came with clubs and weapons intending to take the women out and burn the place down. The owners threatened to shoot if the rioters persisted, and when the mob refused to leave, the owners opened fire. Police broke up the fight with gas bombs. Two days later, on January 20, a group of Filipino men met with a group of white men near the Pajaro River bridge to settle the score. A group of hispanic men then arrived and took sides with the whites. The riot began and continued for five days. [13]

Hunting parties were organized; the white mob was run like a "military" operation with leaders giving orders to attack or withdraw. They dragged Filipinos from their homes and beat them. They threw Filipinos off the Pajaro River bridge. They ranged up the San Juan road to attack Filipinos at the Storm and Detlefsen ranches; at Riberal's labor camp, twenty-two Filipinos were dragged out and beaten almost to death. A Chinese apple-dryer that employed Filipinos was demolished; shots were fired into a Filipino home on Ford Street; and 22-year-old Fermin Tobera died after being shot in the heart when he was hiding in a closet with 11 others, trying to avoid the rounds of bullets fired at a bunkhouse in Murphy Ranch in San Juan Road on the 23rd. [14]

The police in Watsonville, led by Sheriff Nick Sinnott, gathered as many Filipinos as they could rescue and guarded them in the City Council's chamber while Monterey County Sheriff Carl Abbott secured the Pajaro side of the river against further riot. [15]

Aftermath

The violence spread to Stockton, San Francisco, San Jose, and other cities. [14] A Filipino club was blown up in Stockton, and the blast was blamed on the Filipinos themselves. [16] In Gilroy, masked men warned a Japanese farmer to discharge his Filipinos. Fifty unemployed whites and Filipinos were hustled out of town by police, trying to preempt possible fighting.

Many Filipinos fled the country. News of the riots spread to the Philippines, where there were protests in solidarity. The body of Fermin Tobera was sent to Manila, where he is considered a martyr, a symbol of the Filipinos' fight for independence and equality. [17]

The five days of the Watsonville riots had a profound impact on California's attitude toward imported Asian labor. As a result, Filipino immigration plummeted, and while they remained a significant part of the labor in the fields, they began to be replaced by Mexicans. [18]

Yet, seven months after the Watsonville riots, Filipino lettuce pickers carried out a successful strike in Salinas for better treatment. These strikes were repeated again in the Salinas Lettuce Strike of 1934 and in 1936. In addition, although their relationships were frowned upon, white women and Filipino men continued to meet and marry. [19]

In September 4, 2011, California apologized to Filipinos and Filipino Americans in an Assembly resolution authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas. "Filipino Americans have a proud history of hard work and perseverance," Alejo said in a statement. "California, however, does not have as proud a history regarding its treatment of Filipino Americans. For these past injustices, it's time that we recognize the pain and suffering this community has endured." [14]

Notes

  1. De Witt 1979, p. 290.
  2. Filipino Migration to the United States, University of Hawaii
  3. Lee and Yung 2011, p. 276.
  4. Guerin-Gonzales 1994, p. 22.
  5. Lee and Yung 2011, p. 278.
  6. Baldoz 2011, p. 67.
  7. San Juan, Jr. 2000, p. 125.
  8. Joel S. Franks (2000). Crossing Sidelines, Crossing Cultures: Sport and Asian Pacific American Cultural Citizenship. University Press of America. p. 35. ISBN   978-0-7618-1592-1.
    "Depression Era: 1930s: Watsonville Riots". Picture This. Oakland Museum of California. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  9. Lee and Yung 2010, p. 280.
  10. De Witt 1979, p. 294.
  11. Baldoz 2011, pp. 124-125.
  12. Juanita Tamayo Lott (2006). Common Destiny: Filipino American Generations. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 21. ISBN   978-0-7425-4651-6.
  13. Jonathan H. X. Lee (16 January 2015). History of Asian Americans: Exploring Diverse Roots: Exploring Diverse Roots. ABC-CLIO. p. 103. ISBN   978-0-313-38459-2.
  14. 1 2 3 Jones, Donna (11 September 2011). "Riots in 1930 revealed Watsonville racism: California apologizes to Filipino Americans". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  15. DeWitt, Howard A. (Fall 1979). "The Watsonville Anti-Filipino Riot of 1930: A Case Study of the Great Depression and Ethnic Conflict in California". Southern California Quarterly. 61 (3): 291–302. doi:10.2307/41170831. JSTOR   41170831.
  16. Dawn B. Mabalon, Ph.D.; Rico Reyes; Filipino American National Historical So (2008). Filipinos in Stockton. Arcadia Publishing. p. 25. ISBN   978-0-7385-5624-6.
  17. Okada, Taihei (2012). "Underside of Independence Politics Filipino Reactions to Anti-Filipino Riots in the United States". Philippine Studies: Historical & Ethnographic Viewpoints. 60 (3): 307–335. doi:10.1353/phs.2012.0027. JSTOR   42634724.
  18. Melendy, H. Brett (November 1974). "Filipinos in the United States". Pacific Historical Review. 43 (4): 520–574. doi:10.2307/3638431. JSTOR   3638431.
  19. Sindel, Julie (2006). "Filipino Farm Labor Organization: A Lesson in Filipino Leadership" (PDF). Journal of the History Students at San Francisco State University (26): 161–178.

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