Holding two identities in Juneau’s Filipino and Lingít community

When Filipino men migrated to Juneau in the early 20th Century, they came as bachelors to work in canneries alongside Alaska Natives. Because they were segregated together, the Filipino and Alaska Native communities intermixed. Many Alaskeros married and built families with Alaska Native women.

The word “mestizo” means “mixed” in Spanish. In Alaska, it refers to someone who has both Alaska Native and Filipino heritage, since the Philippines were colonized by Spain. Not everyone who shares these identities chooses to use this word, but many in Juneau do. 

Marcelo Quinto points to his father in an old photograph during an event at the Filipino Community Hall in October 2023. (Photo courtesy of Agnes Elizarde)

“When we were born half Filipino and half Lingít, it was difficult for us to decide — where do we belong? Because we knew we didn’t belong in a white society,” says Marcelo Quinto, who grew up in Juneau in the 40s and 50s. 

After the 1965 Immigration Act, it became possible for Filipinos to migrate with a partner, and intermarrying between the two communities slowed. Eventually, Juneau’s Filipino Community Hall became less welcoming to the Alaska Native women who had helped fundraise to purchase it, leaving their children and grandchildren to find their own place in the greater Filipino community.

“I really feel my Lingít connection to Áaní, to the land here and in our home, but I haven’t experienced that with the Filipino part of me,” says Kai Monture, an artist in Juneau. 

In the fourth episode of Mga Kuwento, Yvonne Krumrey tells the story of a community with historic roots in Juneau and how some mestizos are trying to reconnect with their Filipino side. 

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