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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Frank Barba, Filipino Labor Contractor, Watsonville, California, 1927-1977


Frank Barba, a Filipino resident of Aromas, California, was interviewed in 1977 by Meri Knaster, an editor at the Regional History Project, as part of a series of oral histories documenting local agricultural and ethnic history.

Frank Barba was born in 1898 in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, northwest of Manila, on the largest of the Philippine islands. His family owned some land on which rice was cultivated by sharecroppers; another portion was reserved for home use. Barba received a high school education during the period when the Philippines were a U.S. possession. He learned English and some American history in a school with an American principal.Barba came to California in 1924 via a short stay in Hawaii, where he joined his aunt and uncle working in the sugar cane fields. After working briefly as a busboy in San Francisco, and as a night clerk in a Stockton hotel, Barba arrived in Watsonville in 1927 to take over the management of a Filipino labor camp that had already been established by his aunt Apolonia Dangzalan. Dangzalan's oral history is also published by the Regional History Project as part of this Agricultural History Project series.

Barba worked as a labor contractor from 1927, at first independently, and then for the Birbeck Company of Aromas, which grew lettuce, string beans, broccoli, and sugar beets. When the company went out of business in 1967, Barba purchased from them the property he lived on, the original site of the labor camp. At the time of this interview in 1977 Barba was 78 years old, and semi-retired, supervising school children in the fields for various growers in the area.

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