History of Filipino Americans

Anti-Filipino riots
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1930 Jan 19 - Jan 23

Anti-Filipino riots

Watsonville, California, USA

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. 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.[15] Unable to meet Filipino women, Filipino farm workers sought the companionship of women outside their own ethnic community, which further aggravated mounting racial discord.[16]


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.[17]


The Watsonville riots was a period of racial violence that took place in Watsonville, California, from January 19 to 23, 1930. Involving violent assaults on Filipino American farm workers by local residents opposed to immigration, the riots highlighted the racial and socioeconomic tensions in California's agricultural communities.[14] The violence spread to Stockton, San Francisco, San Jose, and other cities.


The five days of the Watsonville riots had a profound impact on California's attitude toward imported Asian labor. California's legislature explicitly outlawed Filipino-white intermarriage following 1933's Roldan v. Los Angeles County decision. By 1934, the federal Tydings–McDuffie Act restricted Filipino immigration to fifty people per year. 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]

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Last Updated: Sat Mar 25 2023