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Stand up for Stockton

AROUND TOWN

By Rey Andres

The residents of Stockton City in San Joaquin Valley did not like that for the second year, the city has been named by Forbes magazine again as “America’s most miserable” and they are mad as hell and are fighting back.

The city of 292,000 joins seven other cities in California for being nastily branded: Merced (3), Modesto (4), Sacramento (5), Vallejo (9), Fresno (17), Salinas (18) and Bakersfield (20).

California wins the dubious honor of landing 8 cities on Forbes’ “Most Miserable” list. The list is only 20-cities long.

There are 478 incorporated cities in California.

Stockton is also where Little Manila is. It was a place that magnetized Filipino American agricultural workers in the 1930s and had not been through the effort of a dedicated nonprofit foundation, Little Manila would have been history with work underway to preserve the historical site.

Many young Filipino men attracted to the prospects of the American dream made their homes in Stockton. Because of racism and discriminatory laws that lasted until the 60’s many dreams of U.S. education, a family and higher place in the economic ladder simply did not materialize. They were even barred them from crossing Main Street into the exclusive white northern section of the city. In response, the pioneers established their own community south of Main Street where they set up restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, barber shops and others. That part of town became Stockton’s Little Manila which by 1946 became home to the largest Filipino community in the US.

It was in Stockton also where the respected elder brothers fondly called “Manong” fought for issues like better working conditions, fair wages and equal rights the laid the ground work for the next generations of Filipino Americans. Filipino labor leaders were at the forefront of the struggles to improve the lot of the agricultural workers and were behind the successful asparagus strike in 1939. The Filipino farm workers who were organized into labor unions became the unsung heroes behind the success of the United Farm Workers and its leader Cesar Chavez.

Few women from the Philippines came to the U.S. because of Depression when racially-motivated violence was at its peak. The “Manongs” were also barred from marrying white women because of anti-miscegenation laws and many of them remained single. The more daring married white or Mexican women by eloping to neighboring Colorado and Texas.
Whatever became of the semblance of Little Manila is being reclaimed and restored through the efforts of the Little Manila Foundation. In 2003, the Little Manila was named one of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

We hope the preservation effort is not stymied by the recent Forbes Magazine branding of California’s Sunrise Seaport which has for its motto “Stockton-All America City”.
Forbes Magazine’s naming Stockton as “America’s Most miserable City,” for the second time in as many years had made the people reach their limit and is not taking it sitting down.

A “Stand up for Stockton” rally is being planned for April 23rd by business groups where streets will be closed and a photographer on a craned will capture a crowd of residents wearing green and yellow shirts emblazoned with “Stockton is Magnificent”. The image will be reduced to poster size and a copy will be on display at the city hall and another sent to Forbes’ HQ in New York.

The local officials lament the city being designated “Most Miserable City” and considers the label as akin to “bayoneting the wounded”.

The whole city is rising up to show that the farm town which boasts of the biggest annual event is its Asparagus Festival has a lot of positive things going on with their marinas dot the waterfront, the finely kept Victorian homes that remind of a more prosperous past, the business opportunities, the golf courses and the world-class recreation just two hours away at Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

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