May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, in the United States, made official in 1992. Asian-Pacific covers all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands (Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia).
In June 1977, Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Mineta of California introduced a resolution proclaiming the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week; Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga later introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed.
On Oct. 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the yearly celebration, later extended into a month-long observance by President George H.W. Bush. May was chosen to commemorate the first Japanese immigration to the U.S. (May 7, 1843), and the completion of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869), majority of those who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
But Asians came to North America early on. In 1587, "Luzonians" (of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippine archipelago) arrived in Morro Bay, Calif., on a Manila-built galleon ship Nuestra Senora de Esperanza under Spanish Capt. Pedro de Unamuno. The galleon trade was between Filipinas and Mexico. In 1595, Filipino sailors aboard another Spanish galleon San Agustin under Capt.Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno, on route to Acapulco, arrived in Point Reyes in the Bay area. It was later shipwrecked.
By 1763, St. Malo deep in the bayou of Louisiana became the first Filipino settlement in the U.S. The Filipino hired hands jumped the galleon ships where they were mistreated by the Spaniards. Deep into the marshes and without their women, the “Manilamen” as they were known, were lonely and began to marry the local Cajuns and native Americans.
In 1778, Chinese sailors first came to Hawaii, the same year that Capt. James Cook did. Many settled and married Hawaiian women.
“Oriental” or “Asiatic” were used before the term “Asian American” was coined by historian Yuji Ichioka, an adjunct UCLA professor and scholar of Japanese American history. Previously also, politicians mainly rallied the larger groups of Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos among their constituencies. Later, they extended to the Koreans, Vietnamese, Thai, etc.
Meanwhile, the newly organized Santa Barbara-based socio-cultural group California Central Coast Society of Asian Americans continues to recruit members. CCCSAA, which covers the area from Thousand Oaks to San Luis Obispo, began its charter membership meetings in May last year. It held one in TO early this year and will soon go to SLO this summer.
Its most recent event was on April 23 at EF International Language Centers, which discussed important health issues. Guests Jeanne West, R.N. M.H.A, one of the local experts on geriatric care and management, talked about advance health-care directives and physician orders for life-sustaining treatment, and Dr. Wonuk Lee, a prominent local acupuncturist and rheumatologist, explained the basics in his field.
A sensible, dynamic instructor and sensitive educator, Jeanne West stressed the importance of advance health care planning for anyone 18 years of age or older. A very intuitive physician, Dr. Wonuk Lee drew from his early childhood memories of ying and yang of his Korean familyʼs eastern healing for his medical practice today.
The next CCCSAA will be a dinner celebration of the Asian Pacific Heritage Month at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 21 at Szechuan Restaurant on the Mesa. On May 31, CCCSAA will support the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation in its event "Good Fortune," an evening celebrating Santa Barbaraʼs Asian American Heritage at Casa de la Guerra. For more information, click here or call 805.965.0095.