By Abner Galino
THE National Federation of Filipino American Associations, several Southern California-based organizations, and elected Filipino officials led by Cerritos Mayor Mark Pulido and Carson Councilmember Lito Santarina, have endorsed the proposal to have a portion of the Temple Street in Los Angeles be renamed Larry Itliong Avenue.
The proposal has been submitted to the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell of the 13th District, which covers Historic Filipinotown; Gil Cedillo of the First District, which covers Echo Park and other areas to be passed by the proposed renaming; and Jose Huizar of the 14th District which covers downtown Los Angeles where the east end of the proposed renaming starts.
“While we are grateful for the official designation of the Historic Filipinotown in August 2002 in recognition of the important role of Filipino migrants in the history of Los Angeles, it would be fitting and proper that the major street that traverses the area be named after one of the greatest Filipino immigrants in the United States, who fought for justice and equal rights for migrant workers in the country,” said businessman Fernandico Q. Gonong Jr., president of the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) and the Media and Business Club of Los Angeles County (MBC), the leading proponents of the renaming.
Gonong also noted that while Cesar Chavez, another great labor leader who was Itliong’s co-leader in organizing farm workers following the Delano strike, has been honored by the City of Los Angeles with the renaming of a portion of Sunset Street to Cesar Chavez Avenue in 1993, the Filipino leader has yet to be bestowed with the same honor.
Itliong, who was born in Pangasinan in the Philippines, led the Great Delano Grape Strike in 1965 together with fellow Filipinos Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines and Pete Velasco, demanding wages for agricultural workers to equal that of the federal minimum wage.
Known as the “father of West Coast Labor Movement,” Itliong’s group was later joined by Mexican workers under the National Farm Workers Association, led by Chavez in the grape strike that eventually led to the unity of Filipino and Mexican farm workers and the formation of the United Farm Workers.
Gonong said Itliong, who fought for workers’rights as early as the 1930s, actually preceded both Chavez and the great Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for civil rights in the United States.
The proposed Larry Itliong Avenue will start on Figueroa St. in downtown Los Angeles and go westward up to Silver Lake Boulevard and Virgil Avenue.
“With the eastern portion of Sunset Avenue from Figueroa Street renamed Cesar Chavez Avenue and the western side of Temple Street from Figueroa Street renamed Larry Itliong Avenue, the two great labor leaders would be side by side again as they were during the formative years of the farm workers unions in the 1960s and in the early fight for justice and workers rights,” Gonong said.
Gonong will lead a group of community leaders who will sit down on December 20 with Mayor Garcetti, who authored the bill renaming a portion of the Temple-Beverly Corridor as Historic Filipinotown on August 2, 2002.
It is also being supported by the Fil-Am chambersof commerce, various Filipino organizations all over Southern California and most especially by Filipino groups in the Historic Filipinotown, including the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Association, Rotary Club of Historic Filipinotown, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), Filipino American Service Groups Inc.(FASGI), the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), the Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), Philippine Women’s Club and the Knights of Rizal.
A joint petition signed by the presidents of the various Filipino organizations is being prepared as of this writing.
“It will be great source of pride and a feeling of recognition and belonging for tens of thousands of Filipinos who live in Los Angeles County, especially the more than 10,000 who actually reside and do business in Historic Filipinotown, to have the main artery traversing the district to be named after a distinguished fellow Filipino,” Gonong added.