I come from a Filipino American family, but growing up, I never exactly knew my place.
I have always considered myself a part of Asian America because of shared cultural and sociopolitical experiences with other Asian communities. But, being Filipino in Asian America, sometimes feels like an anomaly. It doesn’t help that there is often an erasure of Southeast Asian narratives in mainstream Asian American representation either.
Although it makes sense that Filipino Americans align themselves with the Pan-Asian ethnic movement, there are aspects of our culture and experiences that stick out.
The Philippines were colonized by the Spanish for almost 300 years, and then subsequently colonized by the United States for another 48 years. From religious practices and motifs of Virgin Mary to our food, language, architectural structures, and even our last names, colonization has left deep marks on Filipino diaspora. These effects run so deep that I didn’t exclusively feel camaraderie with just Filipino Americans growing up, I felt an innate connection to Latino Americans as well.I come from a Filipino American family, but I never exactly knew my place. Click To Tweet
I was born and raised in Florida, where the Latino American community is pretty expansive, making up almost 25 percent of the state’s population. I wasn’t raised in a Filipino enclave or a “Little Manila.”
Instead, my neighborhood had a substantial Latino presence.
The grade schools I attended always had a sizable Latino American population, and some of my best friends from my hometown are Latina. We’ve bonded over shared traditions centered around our Catholic faith, or even deep conversations about our extended families. There are also words in Tagalog and Ilokano that are extremely similar to Spanish words or phrases.
For example, asking “how are you?” in Tagalog is “kumusta ka,” which is similar to “cómo estás” in Spanish.
I have distinct memories of neighborhood parties where the crowd felt so different and yet so familiar at the same time. The food we had were almost mirror images of Filipino cuisine, like Lechon and Chicharrón. These gatherings reminded me of how Filipinos are when they get together to have a good time, where it’s all about warmth, openness, and of course, good music and dance.The strong sense of camaraderie I felt was from our heritage. Click To Tweet
I’ve always felt a strong sense of kinship with Latino Americans, and it wasn’t until I fully grew into my identity as a Filipino American that I realized the affinity was there because of the deep connection of heritage.
It’s no secret that Spanish colonization was also a reality for Latin America for centuries.
Indigenous people were viewed as savages that needed to be “civilized,” being forced to adopt the culture of their colonizers. The “colonial mentality” fostered feelings of inferiority to whiteness that has been passed down and internalized through generations for both Filipinos and Latinos.
Colonization is no joke, and it’s hard to reconcile the different facets of our heritage since so much of Filipino and Latino culture is rooted in it. But Filipinos and Latinos have been working together for years to uplift each other, and there is solace in knowing that there is solidarity between these communities that are seemingly different at face value.
Larry Itliong co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, for example. Filipino farm workers were also responsible for initiating the boycott that led to the creation of UFW. More recently, many Filipino Americans have been joining the Undocumented Youth Movement with Latino Americans to protest against the deportation of youth and the separation of immigrant families.
This movement has helped change the national conversation about immigration reform.I never realized I could feel camaraderie with another community outside of Asian America. Click To Tweet
My Filipino heritage reminds me that racial and ethnic identities are not black and white.
Although Filipino Americans typically identify as Asian American, our shared culture with Latino Americans allows us to not only build solidarity between our two communities and struggles, but it also provides an important opportunity for coalition building.
As our communities both work to decolonize our minds and bodies, we have to remember that the bond between Filipinos and Latinos is powerful. Filipinos and Latinos are facing similar socio-political struggles, with undocumented immigration to the United States from both the Philippines and Latin American countries, and the fight for fair wages.
Let’s not forget that Filipinos and Latinos also both have a rich history of revolutionary resistance against imperialism and colonialism. Our communities are already strong, but together we’re formidable.