History of Filipino Americans

The history of Filipino Americans begins in the 16th century when Filipinos first arrived in what is now the United States. The first Filipinos came to what is now the United States due to the Philippines being part of New Spain. Until the 19th century, the Philippines continued to be geographically isolated from the rest of New Spain in the Americas but maintained regular communication across the Pacific Ocean via the Manila galleon. Filipino seamen in the Americas settled in Louisiana, and Alta California, beginning in the 18th century. By the 19th century, Filipinos were living in the United States, fighting in the Battle of New Orleans and the American Civil War, with the first Filipino becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States before its end. In the final years of the 19th century, the United States went to war with Spain, ultimately annexing the Philippine Islands from Spain. Due to this, the History of the Philippines merged with that of the United States, beginning with the three-year-long Philippine–American War (1899-1902), which resulted in the defeat of the First Philippine Republic, and the attempted Americanization of the Philippines.

Mass migration of Filipinos to the United States began in the early 20th century due to Filipinos being U.S. Nationals. These included Filipinos who enlisted as sailors of the United States Navy, pensionados, and laborers. During the Great Depression, Filipino Americans became targets of race-based violence, including race riots such as the one in Watsonville. The Philippine Independence Act was passed in 1934, redefining Filipinos as aliens for immigration; this encouraged Filipinos to return to the Philippines and established the Commonwealth of the Philippines. During World War II, the Philippines were occupied leading to resistance, the formation of segregated Filipino regiments, and the liberation of the islands.

After World War II, the Philippines gained independence in 1946. Benefits for most Filipino veterans were rescinded with the Rescission Act of 1946. Filipinos, primarily war brides, immigrated to the United States; further immigration was set to 100 persons a year due to the Luce–Celler Act of 1946, this though did not limit the number of Filipinos able to enlist into the United States Navy. In 1965, Filipino agricultural laborers, including Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, began the Delano grape strike. That same year the 100-person per year quota of Filipino immigrants was lifted, which began the current immigration wave; many of these immigrants were nurses. Filipino Americans began to become better integrated into American society, achieving many firsts. In 1992, the enlistment of Filipinos in the Philippines into the United States ended. By the early 21st century, Filipino American History Month was recognized.


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