The Commonwealth Cafe explores 20th c. (and occasional 19th c.) Filipino, Filipino American, and AAPI print culture (newspapers, booklets, magazines, and ephemera such as broadsides, posters, manifestos, etc.), ethnic newspaper history, and (current) news about archives and print culture in general.

When I first started The Commonwealth Cafe (website), having just completed a PhD, I approached it like an academic. A decade later, I was no longer in academia, but involved in central California community as co-chair, and now staff writer, for a nonprofit that promotes the culture and history of Salinas Chinatown. Filipinos have played a prominent role in the community, including producing the longest running Filipino newspaper in the U.S. (Philippines Mail, early 1930s-1980s).

This newsletter is now my way of sharing community and personal historical resources and knowledge, and satisfying my curiosity about print media.

Universities are not always the best caretakers of our historical resources, especially in terms of accessibility. One incident (among others) in grad school highlighted this for me. After a two-week wait, the librarian at a major public university brought me the newspapers I requested, and apologized profusely for the condition they were in. She had found them carelessly rubber-banded, rolled-up, and stuck in the back corner of a shelf. As I attempted to copy the old, fragile pages, they crumbled onto the glass of the copier. The Filipino press in the U.S. (and elsewhere) has functioned for decades, not just to communicate news, but also as archives of our history and writing; these periodicals must be archived online and by any means for future reading and research before they disappear altogether.

The term “commonwealth” has many complicated meanings for me. Taken on its own, it suggests something positive; but viewed through the lens of (for one example) Philippine history, one is reminded of the fraught relationships between colonizer and colonized. I first took it from the name of the Commonwealth Cafe, a hangout for Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan and his friends in Los Angeles. The term also refers to the colonial “commonwealth” status of the Philippines prior to its “independence” from the US in 1948. Then there is the commons, or “common wealth,” that ideal of resources shared equitably among people for the common good.

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U. S. Filipino print culture & newspaper history


Filipinx American writer and artist with a documentarian urge and an interest in early 20th century U.S. Filipino print culture and newspaper history.