Filipinos in Maricopa County

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The Filipino American Historical Society of Arizona has launched a book project, “Filipinos in Maricopa County”. The group is collecting historical information about early Filipinos who settled in Maricopa County starting in the early 1930s documenting contributions of Filipinos to Arizona.
Author Leonardo Aromin, publisher of the Filipino American Journal and Deborah Gomez, with the Filipino Historical Society of Arizona talk about the project.

JOSE: THE FILIPINO AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF ARIZONA HAS LAUNCHED A BOOK PROJECT. "FILIPINOS IN MARICOPA COUNTY" TELLS THE STORY OF MIGRANT PEOPLE WHO CAME WILLINGLY TO AMERICA LOOKING FOR A BETTER LIFE FOR THEIR FAMILIES. THE GROUP IS COLLECTING HISTORICAL INFORMATION ABOUT FILIPINOS WHO SETTLED IN MARICOPA COUNTY STARTING IN THE EARLY 1930S. WITH ME TO TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK IS DEBORAH GOMEZ, ARIZONA FILIPINO HISTORY PROJECT MANAGER. AND, LEONARDO AROMIN, AUTHOR OF "FILIPINOS IN MARICOPA COUNTY". LEONARDO IS ALSO PUBLISHER OF THE FILIPINO AMERICAN JOURNAL, THE ONLY FILIPINO NEWSPAPER IN ARIZONA. WELCOME BOTH OF YOU TO "HORIZONTE". YOU ARE TELLING A STORY THAT I THINK MANY PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA THAT THERE IS A STRONG FILIPINO PRESENCE IN MARICOPA COUNTY. GIVE US A THUMBNAIL SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF FILIPINOS IN ARIZONA.

DEBORAH GOMEZ: RECORDED HISTORY SHOWS THE EARLY FILIPINOS WERE HERE AS FAR BACK AS 1920 RECORDED. IN A WAY, I THINK, THAT THEY WERE HERE BEFORE THAT. BUT WHEN THEY FIRST CAME THEY WERE MIGRANT WORKERS. MOST CAME BY WAY OF HAWAII AND THEY WORKED THERE AND WHEN THE CONTRACT WAS OVER TRAVELED TO WESTERN UNITED STATES AND FINALLY MADE THEIR WAY HERE TO ARIZONA. IN THE BEGINNING, THEY WORKED AS MIGRANT WORKERS WORKING IN AGRICULTURAL FIELDS. THEY WERE WITH A LOT OF THE MEXICAN AMERICANS. SO AT THAT TIME THEY INTERMARRIED WITH THE MEXICAN AMERICANS. THERE IS NO REAL HISTORY ON WHAT THEY DID OR WHERE THEY WORKED AND WE ARE LEARNING THAT THEY WORKED AS SERVICE EMPLOYEES IN THE RESTAURANTS AND THE HOTELS AND EVENTUALLY THEY BECAME BUSINESS OWNERS.

JOSE: WE WILL TALK ABOUT THAT BUT BEFORE WE GET TO THAT YOUR BOOK IS TAKING CARE OF THE GAP SHE IS TALKING ABOUT. THERE ARE COUPLE PICTURES, A LOT IN THE BOOK, BUT A COUPLE WE HAVE WE WANT TO PUT ON THE SCREEN THAT GIVE US A SENSE OF THE EARLY FILIPINO PRESENCE HERE. THE FIRST ONE HERE, SAM CARBAJAL IS THE PERSON WHO PROVIDED THIS, AND THIS IS FELIX CARBAJAL AND SAYS CIRCA 1918. TELL US ABOUT THAT ONE.

DEBORAH GOMEZ: FELIX WAS ONE OF THE FIRST TO WORK HERE. WHEN HE CAME IN FROM HAWAII, HE WAS BORN IN THE PHILIPPINES AND WENT TO HAWAII. HE FOUND HIS WAY HERE AND MARRIED THE DAUGHTER OF EUGENE PERSEPI AND THAT IS THE FIRST PERSON RECORDED BEING HERE IN ARIZONA.

JOSE: HE HAS A MILITARY UNIFORM ON IT LOOKS LIKE.

DEBORAH GOMEZ: YES, WHEN WE WAS IN HAWAII HE JOINED THE ARMY. HE WAS IN THE U.S. ARMY. AFTER HE WAS DISCHARGED INSTEAD OF GOING BACK TO THE PHILIPPINES HE MADE HIS WAY TO SEATTLE AND WORKED THROUGH THE AGRICULTURAL FIELDS THERE AND FOUND HIS WAY TO ARIZONA.

JOSE: WE HAVE ANOTHER PICTURE. I ASSUME I SHOULD ASK ABOUT IT. THIS IS GOING TO BE IN YOUR BOOK, LEONARDO BUT THIS IS A GROUP PICTURE AND THIS IS A BUILDING IN ARIZONA; IS THAT RIGHT?

DEBORAH GOMEZ: YES, IT IS. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THEY HAD A FILIPINO HALL WHERE THEY GATHERED. THE FILIPINOS ARE SOCIAL PEOPLE AND THEY GATHERED TOGETHER AND HAD THEIR THEY CELEBRATED EVERY LITTLE THING. EVERY WEEKEND SOMEONE WAS EITHER KILLING A PIG OR GOAT AND THEY ALL GATHERED TOGETHER. THIS IS A CELEBRATION. AS A MATTER OF FACT, LEO CAN TELL YOU THE NAME OF THE CLUB THAT IS GATHERED HERE AND THEY ARE STILL PRESENT TODAY.

JOSE: AND LEO, WE WERE TALKING IN THE GREEN ROOM, THERE ARE 17 FILIPINO CLUBS IN MARICOPA COUNTY OR IN THE STATE?

LEONARDO AROMIN: IN MARICOPA COUNTY THERE IS ABOUT 17 FILIPINO ORGANIZATIONS. THE WAY TO EXPLAIN THAT IS FILIPINOS COME FROM DIFFERENT REGIONS AND PROVINCES IN THE PHILIPPINES. WHEN THEY COME HERE, THEY ALIGN THEMSELVES THOSE WITHIN THE SAME DIALECT AND THEN THEY STARTED TO FORM AN ORGANIZATION OF THEMSELVES. SO WE HAVE A LOT OF THEM HERE. AND SOMETIMES THEY DO DUPLICATE THINGS. GOLF CLUBS FOR INSTANCE, WE HAD TWO. WHY TWO? SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS.

JOSE: TWO GOLF CLUBS FOCUSED ON PHILIPPINES FROM DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE PHILIPPINES?

LEONARDO AROMIN: YES. IT EXPLAINS WHY THERE IS A LOT OF FILIPINO ORGANIZATIONS. WE SAY THE MORE THE MERRIER.

JOSE: AND HOW MANY FILIPINOS IN ARIZONA AND MARICOPA COUNTY?

LEONARDO AROMIN: THERE ARE NOW ABOUT 53,000 FILIPINOS MAKING US THE LARGEST ASIAN GROUP IN ARIZONA. AND YOU SAY WHERE ARE THEY? WE ARE NOT LIKE CALIFORNIA WHERE WE HAVE THE FILIPINO TOWN AND THIS AND THAT. IF YOU GO TO THE EAST VALLEY, YOU SAY YOU ARE IN THE WEST VALLEY. IN THE WEST VALLEY WE ARE MORE HERE. BUT I THINK THE CONCENTRATION OF BUSINESSES TELL US WHERE ARE THEY. THERE ARE MORE BUSINESSES SITUATED IN THE WEST VALLEY. WE HAVE ONE, TWO, THREE, USED TO BE FOUR RESTAURANTS AND NOW WE HAVE TWO RESTAURANTS IN THE WEST VALLEY.

JOSE: SO AS LEONARDO INDICATED PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED AT THE NUMBER OF FILIPINOS IN MARICOPA COUNTY. WHAT ELSE WOULD THEY FIND SURPRISING ABOUT THE FILIPINO POPULATION HERE?

DEBORAH GOMEZ: I THINK WHEN THEY READ THE BOOK, AND WHAT WE WANT TO IMPRINT ON PEOPLE'S MINDS, IS FILIPINOS HAVE BEEN HERE A LONG TIME AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE AND ARE PART OF THE HISTORICAL FABRIC OF ARIZONA. NOT ONLY WORKING IN THE MIGRANT FIELDS AS MIGRANT WORKERS BUT THEY ALWAYS WORKED AND STARTED THEIR OWN BUSINESSES AND PROFESSIONS. LATER, AFTERNOON WORLD WAR II, THE PROFESSIONALS CAME IN FILLING VACANCIES IN THE HOSPITAL. ST. JOSEPH HOSPITAL, A LOT OF DIFFERENT HOSPITALS.

JOSE: THERE IS A LOT TO LEARN IN THE BOOK. LAST QUESTION, WHEN IT IS COMING OUT LEONARDO?

LEONARDO AROMIN: WE ARE TALKING ABOUT JUNE NEXT YEAR IN TIME FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE FILIPINO INDEPENDENCE DAY. THE LAUNCHING OF THE BOOK, RIGHT.

JOSE: SOUNDS GREAT. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON "HORIZONTE" TO TALK ABOUT IT.

Leonardo Aromin: Publisher of the Filipino American Journal, Deborah Gomez: Filipino Historical Society of Arizona

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