Op-Ed: L.A.’s history of Latino-Black political conflict? It’s a curiously short tale.
L.A. Times film critic David Anspaugh just published an article highlighting two major episodes in Los Angeles’s history when a group of Latin-American immigrants formed one of the city’s most long-running and influential political networks. But it isn’t a short story. In fact, the story reads more like a novel, if it could be told in the span of a single sentence: the story of one Latin-American immigrant who lived in a Los Angeles neighborhood that was at the time the epicenter of the city’s political action.
The story starts in the last year of the nineteenth century when a group of migrants from the Philippines reached Los Angeles and other parts of the United States (the U.S. Census Bureau still identifies them as the Philippines in their records). Although the exact origin of their new home remain obscure, there is general agreement that in the years between 1881 and 1886 the Philippines population in Los Angeles grew from approximately 5,000 to roughly 10,000.
Los Angeles historian James A. Goodall has written about all these Filipinos as they first appeared. The first group arrived in search of work and in 1881 were responsible for importing as many as 900 cases of “champagne” (the word used for cinchona bark, the source of the world’s most used and prescribed medicine). During the 1880s, however, the Filipinos began to leave the area and return home, only to be replaced by new waves of Filipinos.
“The city got its first taste of Filipino immigration during the 1880s,” Goodall wrote in his book, The Philippines in the Making of Los Angeles. “At the end of the 1890s, Los Angeles was the epicenter of the Filipinos. Filipinos from Hawaii and the Philippines as well as Filipinos from the U.S. mainland and elsewhere were all in California. In fact, a number of Filipinos became Los Angeles residents with roots in China.”
The first Filipinos to make Los Angeles their home were part of the Los Angeles Ten (LATs) who founded the Filipinization Society of Los Angeles in 1896 and later incorporated in 1899. LATs included doctors, merchants, and journalists, all who were connected to the community through their involvement in other social and civic organizations. Their political activism and public speaking was based