The contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American culture and society have been significant, especially in science and medicine, literature and art, sports and recreation, as well as activism and law.
One of the first documented Asian American communities in North America was established in 1763 when a group of Filipinos jumped ship near New Orleans amid forced labor and imprisonment during the Spanish galleon trade.
Born in the Philippines, Larry Itliong immigrated to the United States in 1929 at the age of 15 and immediately began working as a laborer, up and down America’s West Coast, as well as in Alaska. By 1930, he joined striking lettuce pickers in Washington, and spent the next several decades working as a labor organizer and, eventually, a union leader—including forming the Filipino Farm Labor Union in 1956.
However, the effort to officially recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to the United States didn’t begin until the late 1970s and took about 20 years to make it a permanent month-long celebration.
In 1992, the month of May was designated by President George H. W. Bush as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Each year the President of the United States releases a proclamation recognizing these cultures and their contributions to the country.
During Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, our Nation celebrates the diversity of cultures, breadth of achievement, and remarkable contributions of these communities; of brave immigrants who, motivated by the promise of possibilities, picked up their lives and found new homes here; of native peoples who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial; and of community leaders shaping a brighter future for us all. Throughout our history, they have represented the bigger story of who we are as Americans and embodied the truth that our diversity is our strength as a Nation.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
Meet Leonardo Aguila
Born in the Philippines, Leonardo Aguila immigrated to Guam – a United States territory – as a young man and enlisted into the U.S. Navy. After his service, he dedicated another 17 years as a civilian employee for the U.S. Department of the Navy. Leonardo is now a farmer who grows avocados, dragon fruit, and cherimoyas on his six-acre orchard in Fallbrook, California.
Leonardo has also worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to address gully erosion with an underground outlet pipeline, install a new, efficient irrigation system, and begin an irrigation water management regimen across his operation.
Learn more about Leonardo’s dragon fruit farm by watching the video below:
Check back soon to learn more about other month-long May celebrations, including:
- Mental Health Awareness Month
- Jewish American Heritage Month