Filipino Farmworkers


(BANC PIC 1945.010.64/Courtesy of The Bancroft Library/ University of California, Berkeley)

A white mob of more than 500 people attacked Filipino farmworkers and their property on January 19, 1930, after Filipino men were seen dancing with white women at a dance hall in Watsonville, California.

The riots were precipitated by local leaders calling for deportation and decrying the farmworker as a “menace” who is “mixing with young white girls” and “gives them silk underwear and makes them pregnant and crowds whites out of jobs in the bargain.”

The mob attacked the dance hall and rampaged through the community for five days. On January 22, a mob ransacked and shot into farmworkers’ houses, killing Fermin Tobera. No one was charged with the murder. Seven men were convicted of rioting but received
only probation or 30 days in jail.

The anti-Filipino frenzy continued in California after the Watsonville riots, with violence breaking out in Stockton, Salinas, San Francisco, and San Jose. In 1933, California amended state law to prohibit marriages between Filipinos and whites. And in 1934, in response to a long-standing request from California’s government, Congress restricted Filipino immigration to the United States to just 50 people per year.