A Timeline of Filipino American Art History
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1899-1945: The American Era

Sleight of Hand, Fair Games, and Side Shows - Step right up folks to the second era of Worlds in Collision.  The Spanish-American War in 1898 was a great collision of geo-political interests.  The United States fought Spain for control of Spanish territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific under the banner of Manifest Destiny.  After the war, the Treaty of Paris in 1898 recognized Cuba’s independence, and ceded the islands of Puerto Rico, Guam, and other Spanish territories in the South Pacific.  The Spanish government, which did not recognize Philippine Independence, with a sleight of hand, included the Philippines in the Treaty.  The Filipinos asserted their independence and the Philippine-American War followed.  The US firmly planted its imperial footing on the islands after the bloody war and the Filipinos eventually welcomed the democratizing Yanks and the following do-gooders, the Thomasites, a group of educators who volunteered to help civilize their “little brown brothers.”  By 1904, Filipinos were in the mind of Americans as the St. Louis Worlds Fair exhibited more than 3,000 live Filipinos.  The Philippine Pavilion housed people representing almost every province and sub-ethnic group in the Philippines and became one of the biggest and most popular pavilions at the Fair.

The continuing development of technology and industrialization, along with the sideshow of modernization that the Americans brought to the Philippines, catalyzed the paradigm shift from the religious outpost of the Spaniards to the poor, orphaned ward of the Americans.  It is also in this period, “from 1906-1934, when more than 100,000 Filipinos, mostly single men (though about ten percent were women), migrate to Hawaii and the West Coast to work in the agricultural fields, in the service sector, indelibly changing the face of the labor force in Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.”(Prof. Dawn Mabalon)

This period sees the first wave of Filipino visual artists working in the United States.  The earliest arrivals came as students under the auspices of the American government or American corporations.  In 1927, Dr. Robert Vallangca came to California to study with renowned artists Diego Rivera and Maynard Dixon.  In the same era, Alfonso Ossorio came to study Fine Arts at Harvard in Massachusetts.  After the 1934 Tyding-McDuffy Act, American-sponsored immigration from the Philippines waned and those who came were recruited to work in the agriculture and service sectors.  These men, known as Manongs, persisted and many gave life to a new generation of Americans.  Artists, Leo Valledor and Carlos Villa are descendants of Manongs and their life and art broke through many barriers in traditional American artistic production.  It is with their pioneering spirit and the persistence of their vision that marks the Filipino presence in American art history.