Philip Vera Cruz and Mr. Kwon’s Paths
Immigration always leaves an imprint on the lives of various people, although their experiences might differ. Literature about the paths of immigrants has a long tradition. As such, Margaret Pai’s “The Dreams of Two Yi-min” provides a personal narrative of the Korean refugees. It is a depiction of two brave and strong-willed individuals, one of which is the father of the author, Mr. Kwon. The other exceptional work on a similar topic but with a different experience is Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement. Written by C. Scharlin and L. Villanueva, it contains precious information about the fate of a Filipino man who became an American labor activist and Asian American community chairman. Both individuals have interesting social class backgrounds, which could be explored and compared. It could be argued that Cruz and Mr. Kwon were both raised in rural settings and began in impoverished conditions, but this social background only led them to perseverance in achieving their different life goals.
It is important, to begin with, the social origins of Mr. Kwon and Philip Vera Cruz. Mr. Kwon came from Korea, where he “had received only a high school education in a country school… [and] certainly lacked the sophistication that a college education might have afforded” (Pai, xi). Moreover, he “lacked the English skills to deal with these people, many of whom had money and power” (Pai, xi). Philip Vera Cruz was raised in a rural area of the Philippines, where he was promised better education under the U.S. Pensionado Act of 1903 (Villanueva and Scharlin, xx). He was unbridged with the belief that better life awaited him after entering American society (Villanueva and Scharlin, 163). Hence, both men had only some education in their homeland and little experience working in an industrialized society, although Cruz might have better English skills.
It is also essential to review the social aspirations and dreams of the two men. For Mr. Kwon, the persistent wish was to patent his ideas; the desire was so ubiquitous that other people even considered him strange. The father of Margaret Pai believed that business and education could guarantee a better life for him and especially his family in Hawaii, where he immigrated (Pai, 41). He worked as a salesman and shop owner but was often adversely affected by injury and other health crises. Philip Vera Cruz “believed in the American dream of success through better education … [as well as] advantages of an American lifestyle” (Villanueva and Scharlin, xxi). Thus, Cruz and Mr. Kwon had high hopes of upward mobility, although the first one relied on education more, and the latter valued business and technical inventions.
The immigrants found different jobs in the United States and its territories that helped them survive in the new environment. Mr. Kwon “had come to the Hawaiian Islands as a very young contract sugar plantation worker;” he was also employed as a yard boy (Pai, x). Following this, he applied for a job in furniture manufacturing and tried to become an entrepreneur in the sector of upholstery, constantly inventing technical devices (such as chimney plates) and attempting to get a patent. He managed to open his store, which turned into a factory (Pai, 86). As for Cruz, he started in mainland America as a farmworker, where he entered the National Farm Labor Union. He became the vice president of the Union and guided several vital strikes (Villanueva and Scharlin, 31). Thus, the first man strived to attain wealth through entrepreneurship, during the second preferred social activity.
The income from these jobs differed for the immigrants, although both began with small wages. Namely, Mr. Kwon earned virtually nothing at his first positions in Hawaii; nevertheless, he could somehow save money to buy little land to grow vegetables and try to sell them. However, it did not bring much revenue; the new shop he managed to open with minimum costs was more successful. However, there had been constant economic problems, as well as vicious competitors that disrupted the business. Yet, finally, Mr. Kwon’s factory guaranteed a good life for him, his wife, and their children (Pai, 75). Cruz also started with a small salary, from which some money had been taken out; hence, Cruz organized the strikes for better wages. However, these revolts became the central struggle of Cruz’s life, with little success over each protest and the payments for farmers still low (Villanueva and Scharlin, 110). Therefore, Cruz’s efforts to enhance the lives of other immigrants mattered but did not immediately affect the quality of living of the man. In contrast, Mr. Kwon’s income has been gradually increasing due to his affectionate labor.
Finally, the homes of Cruz and Mr. Kwon could be compared so as to demonstrate the conditions that supported their endeavors. As such, Mr. Kwon initially lived in an inferior room, which he was ashamed to show to his future wife. After his job position improved, he still had an uncomfortable house for a family and did not want to spare money for a better living. Yet, his relatives convinced him to move to a better place (Pai, 65). Cruz described his initial living conditions as follows: “The rooms were extremely small with cracked walls …; the shower stalls, toilets, and cooking facilities were open to the outside elements” (Villanueva and Scharlin, xxii). Moreover, an average Filipino worker often could not afford such a room due to low wages. These descriptions signify that both men entered the US and met poverty, although they were not afraid to live in such conditions after their rural lives in their homelands.
Both men had achieved their goals: a better life for immigrants in the case of Kruz and the happiness of the close ones for Mr. Kwon. Their social class in America had placed them in a difficult position to start but did not prevent them from success. Moreover, it can be stated that the initial poverty and lack of well-being urged them to work harder for their aspirations regardless of problems on the way. Their paths were different: Mr. Kwon’s project was rather individual and, as a result, providing more profit to him and his family. In contrast, their social activity of Kruz did not bring him wealth but was attributed to his self-actualization as a person fighting for workers’ rights. Thus, the low start of the mentioned immigrants ignited their desire to make their and other people’s lives better.
To conclude, the lives of Philip Vera Cruz and Mr. Kwon began quite similar but turned out to be different. The men persuaded various goals they managed to achieve through their efforts and belief in a better life through education and change. These stories instill hope that even the most impoverished people can attain success and, at the same time, demonstrate how difficult it is to overcome the obstacles on the way to well-being for immigrants.
Pai, Margaret. The Dreams of Two Yi-Min. The University of Hawaii Press, 1989.
Villanueva, Lilia, and Craig Scharlin. Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement, Third Edition. 3rd ed., University of Washington Press, 2000.