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The struggle to save the International Hotel and prevent the eviction of its elderly residents became a focal point in the creation of the contemporary Asian American movement, especially among Filipinos. Like other minorities who were looking for positive models in their past to build an identity movement, Filipino youth found their roots in the stories and lives of the manongs (respected elders), and the anti-eviction movement became a key site for the formation of a distinct Filipino American consciousness. Estella Habal, a student activist during the anti-eviction protests, relates this history within the context of the broader left politics of the era, the urban housing movement, and San Francisco city politics. Ultimately, the hotel was razed, but a new one now occupies the site and commemorates the residents and activists who fought for low-income housing for the elderly and their right to remain in their own community.
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The struggle to save the International Hotel, in the San Francisco neighborhood known as Manilatown, culminated in 1977 with the eviction of elderly tenant activists. Many of them were Filipino bachelors who had emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s for menial labor. Each evicted tenant was accompanied by at least one young activist who had come to find their roots in the lives of the "manongs" (respected elders).
San Francisco's International Hotel is part history and part memoir. In telling this compelling story, Estella Habal features her own memories of the Anti-Eviction Movement, focusing on the roles of Filipino Americans and their participation in both the anti-eviction protests and the nascent Asian American movement. She rounds out the narrative with a variety of sources, including interviews with other participants, the notes of insiders, and official reports.
A new International Hotel was finally built on the site. It commemorates the residents and activists who fought for low-income housing for the elderly and their right to remain in their own community.About the Author:
Estella Habal is Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies, San Jose State University, and a member of the Board of Directors, Manilatown Heritage Foundation.
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