Filipinx American History: A Celebration of Community, Activism, and Persistence

Postwar Era, Neocolonialism, Martial Law

The period of 1946 to the 1990s marks a new phase of Philippine dependency on the United States. While the Philippines was granted its independence by the U.S. in 1946, the two countries remained inextricably tied through various treaties, foreign and domestic policies, and migration policies. When looking at Filipinx American history, one must analyze the Philippines’ changing place in the world, its changing relationship with the United States, and how that impacted the diaspora. This almost fifty-year period is largely within the Cold War, which is often taught as a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. While the U.S. painted itself as the leader of the free world, a critical lens must take U.S. Cold War propaganda with a grain of salt. How did the U.S. reap advantages from its close relationship with the Philippines? What types of Filipino immigrants were allowed into the U.S.? How did the Philippine government propagate its own anti-communist discourse, and how did that affect grassroots movements domestically and overseas? This era begs us to look at Filipinx American history from a transnational lens and understand the effects of U.S. neocolonialism.

Mutual Defense Treaty (1952)
During the Cold War, military ties became increasingly important as the United States established itself as a global hegemon and the Philippines became a willing partner in assisting its former colonizer with “protecting” the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific writ large from communist insurgencies. While the U.S. already had military bases in the Philippines, the Mutual Defense Treaty, which was signed in 1952 and is still in effect today, established military relations that extended beyond the bases. The treaty reads as if this military partnership is mutually beneficial, so when analyzing this document, one must thoroughly understand the historical context. Are the two countries truly equals? Does one benefit more than the other? How has U.S. militarism changed in the Philippines? To read the Mutual Defense Treaty, please click this link.


Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 
While not specifically about the Philippines, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (also called the Hart-Cellar Act) made mass migration from Asia to the U.S. possible. As the third, but also least known, act of the civil rights era after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, this law replaced the restrictive quotas from the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 with a preference system that gave two pathways for immigration: employment-based migration and family reunification. When looking at this document, consider the U.S.’s history of anti-Asian exclusion and think about how this act, though an important reform, reveals the types of immigrants that the United States wants—which begs the question, what types of immigrants does the U.S. not want? To read the entirety of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, please click this link


Proclamation No. 1081 (1972)
On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos proclaimed martial law in the Philippines, thereby putting the country under military rule and extending his time in office beyond the two term limits. Marcos remains a divisive figure in both the Philippines and the diaspora, given that many support his political dynasty while others actively opposed Marcos and participated in the anti-martial law movement, including Filipinos in the U.S. When looking at this document, think about the biases and motivations of the author. Look at the language and how it characterizes “lawless elements,” especially because the Philippines worked with the U.S. to defend against communism (see Mutual Defense Treaty). Though martial law was lifted in 1981, most people argue that it ended when Marcos was ousted in the EDSA Revolution in 1986.


This page has paths: