The theme of immigration captures the essence of John Reinhard Dizon’s Generations II as we follow the progress of Teodulfo Dizon from his native Bical in the Philippine Islands to his adopted country of the USA. In the opening chapter, we find that he is the son of immigrants as his parents were native Spaniards who remained on the island after the Spanish-American War. His family’s daily struggle to prosper in an underdeveloped society prompts Teodulfo to follow his American Dream. We find it to be the primary reason throughout history for immigrants to leave their homeland in search of a brighter future, and this novel proves no exception.
Upon his arrival in San Francisco, the omniscient narrative discusses the arbitrary and prejudicial immigration restrictions being enacted in America during that time. The Government is seeking to curtail the flow of Asian immigrants on the West Coast and Eastern Europeans on the East Coast. Teodulfo arrives just before the laws go into effect, and the novel demonstrates not only what his descendants would contribute to American society, but what it would have lost if he had not succeeded. These are issues to be considered when nations decide to restrict or prohibit foreigners from seeking residence in their lands.
The status of the Filipino community in America is discussed as Teodulfo happens across a fellow immigrant in his travels. He finds them to be deferential to a fault, marginalizing themselves so as to not attract undue attention from the powers-that-be. He joins with his new friends to create a Filipino-American Society in order for the community to discover their unique identity and build a foundation for their children’s lives as American citizens. It reminds us how immigrants are just a generation apart from planting their roots and finding their place in their adopted country.
He next discovers the Chinese community in San Antonio to be just as self-effacing, engaging in service industries such as laundries and restaurants. He also finds that they are being monitored due to their ethnic connections to the Chinese Tong, a criminal enterprise. We see similar prejudices developed among the Italian and Jewish communities of that time. Law enforcement agencies theorized that they were the genesis of the Mafia gangs that were emerging throughout the East Coast. It becomes apparent that such generalizations can inhibit and even prevent the growth of ethnic populations within their new environment.
The Mexican community is seen as being more readily accepted. This is partially due to the fact that much of the Southwest were originally Mexican lands. There was a long history of cooperation and interdependence between Americans and Mexicans in Texas and other states along the border. As a result. the Immigration Act of 1924 had little impact on the status of Mexicans migrating in and out of the United States. The dependence of farm owners on migrant workers also played a major factor as it does to this day. Teodulfo marries a fellow immigrant, Estella Munoz, whose parents also migrated from Spain to Mexico after the Spanish-American War. It results in their children being born as American citizens, able to claim their birthright and realize their parents’ hopes and dreams.
In light of the global controversy surrounding immigration, we see that national security is first and foremost in the minds of governments in protecting their citizens from hostile influences. Yet we must also consider the potential of immigrants seeking citizenship and how they might be able to contribute to their adopted country. Generations II provides us with a number of topics to discuss about an issue that continues to affect us all.