UNION CITY, Calif. – It was 50 years ago that Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz and countless other Filipino Americans joined Cesar Chavez and fellow Mexican American farm workers in the great strike over civil and labor rights.
Chavez received most of the recognition to the labor movement, until last Friday.
For the first time in U.S. history, these Filipino Americans and their contributions were honored through the renaming of Alvarado Middle School to the Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School in Union City, CA.
Political figures, school officials, and family members of Itliong and Vera Cruz were there to commemorate the historic event.
Assembly member Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American elected to the state legislature, said, “Who we name places after represent our community’s values as a broad diverse community. It creates role models for our young people to aspire to and it uplifts what those who we name those sites after stood for.”
Bonta also helped establish Larry Itliong Day and that the study of Filipino American contributions to the farm worker movement be required to be taught in California public schools.
Johnny Itliong, son of Larry, said, “Our history has been suppressed, has been denied. And these are our heroes. These are not only just our heroes of California, of the West Coast but all of America.”
Fil-Am students welcomed the name change and say that this can help them with cultural identity.
“I think it’s a motivation for other schools to have their students more involved with their ethnic background so they can appreciate who has worked hard for them to get recognition and why they are here,” said Jashene Tongco, an alumni of the former Alvarado Middle School.
“I think it’s a great honor for this school with a great percentage of Filipinos to be recognized,” added alumnus Marvin Aceveros. “The fight for the renaming was hard and difficult but I’m happy it happened.”
In 2013, various buildings that housed Filipino businesses and organizations were vandalized with racist graffiti after news broke of the renaming of the school; however, there were no reports of protests or hate crimes in the lead up to the re-dedication of the school.