The Dreams of Two Yi-Min and Philip Vera Cruz are two books that reveal the lives of people who came to the USA from other countries looking for a better life but faced a range of obstacles before they managed to reach success. Mr. Kwon, Margaret Pai’s father, and Philip Vera Cruz were immigrants whose lives had much in common, even though their passes had never crossed and differed greatly. All in all, it cannot be denied that the characters’ social class backgrounds affected them significantly, especially in the framework of injustice and discrimination.
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Kwon Do In lived in Japan and looked for different opportunities to change his life as he was tired of the contemporary situation. He even thought of a possibility to move back to his country of origin, Korea, but that was not easy to do as well. When he was 17 years old, Mr. Kwon got to know that the farmers on the sugar plantations in Hawaii were looking for Korean workers (Pai 4). Similarly, Philip Vera Cruz was one of the Filipino men who left the Philippines for the USA. He was born in a poor neighborhood and lived on a plot of land that his father gained from his parents. Unfortunately, the family lost everything and had to move to Pangasinan.
Initially, Mr. Kwon lived behind his employee’s mansion but then rented a one-room apartment so that he looked better in the eyes of his wife, as he met her when he was 24 years old. Their home was poorly furnished and contained a room whether they cooked, entertained, and slept in. From the very beginning, Mr. Kwon was not willing to tell his wife that he had worked for several years at a farm where he earned a little money, but he confessed eventually. The man “worked as a yard boy in the Manoa Valley for H. Hackfeld, a prominent businessman” (Pai 3). The wages he received were extremely low, so when he decided to get some extra money, he approached his boss asking an opportunity to rent a part of a farm to grow vegetables and sell them. However, Hackfeld consented. Philip was born in Saoang but started to work on farms in Delano. He was not ready for such an occupation because of his previous experience that differed greatly. Philip worked at restaurants in big cities, so it was not easy for him to get used to a new job (Scharlin and Villanueva 30). Being only 14 years old, the boy had to start working. Of course, his family was not rich, considering this situation. However, they lived in a better condition than other people from the neighborhood. Unlike Mr. Kwon, he lived in camps for workers. The overall conditions of this place seemed to be even worse than of a room owned by another character. The camps were full of single males and could hardly be called a good place for living. These apartments were very poor and had a lot of holes that would let mosquitoes and other creatures get in. There was no toilet in the house, and the workers had to dig holes themselves.
Rather often, both characters dealt with ignorance and discrimination because of the low position in society. Philip’s experience was peculiar to the Filipino men in the USA (Scharlin and Villanueva 48). The same can be said about Mr. Kwon’s family and Korean immigrants. For instance, his wife was not treated as an American citizen even though she lived in this country for several years. When the woman received an official opportunity to obtain a passport, she wanted to streamline this process but faced rejection. The staff of the Immigration Office claimed that they could not ensure that she would ever be issued the passport. Both Mr. Kwon and Philip realized that their employers were not willing to give them the money they deserved for their hard work.
Facing difficulties, the Kwon’s resorted to the church, as it “offered all the social, political, and religious life” the family was looking for (Pai 4). However, with time, Mr. Kwon stopped attending it, which made his wife rather frustrated. Still, the man was not going to alter his decision because he was focused on the idea of earning more money. Philip did not use the same solution. He became highly concerned with the observed injustices and decided that he could alter the situation. Thus, the man used his voice and ideas to stand for minorities and their rights.
Thus, it can be claimed that both characters moved to the USA, as they and their families wanted to have better lives. However, their dreams failed to come true because of disrespect and discrimination. From the very beginning, they worked in the fields where they were poorly paid just like other migrants. However, as time passed, the characters’ passes started to differ. While Mr. Kwon focused on hard work, Philip started acting against injustices to protect his peers. On their way to success, Mr. Kwon opened his shop that turned into a factory while Philip founded the Agriculture Workers Organizing Committee and continued developing in this area. In Delano, California, he was “the second vice-president of the United Farm Workers” (Scharlin and Villanueva 24). His duties included the necessity to be a supervisor of the volunteer work. Holding this position, he was the highest-ranking Filipino officer in the organization. He wanted to improve the living and working conditions of farmworkers and deprived populations, migrants in particular (Scharlin and Villanueva 24).
Mr. Kwon’s life started to change as his family moved to a bigger house when they expected another child. Kwon liked it very much, as he wanted to make a workshop in a room under it (Pai 49). There, he invented his first creations with which he wanted to make innovation and obtain rewards. He was awarded a patent for the first item already but it resulted in no sales, and no money was made (Pai 52). However, the man had a good career at Coyne Furniture Company. He soon reached the apprentice stage of upholsterer but continued developing innovations as a hobby. Later, he created a chimney plate that regardless of the slow manufacturing was steadily sold. As Mr. Kwon became the first-rate upholsterer, he worked in Bailey Furniture Company but went to its competitors because they offered more benefits and better wages. He also worked for Calistro, a flamboyant entrepreneur, but lost his job. His former employers offered him to return, but he refused, claiming that there was only one thing left for him to do – he had to start his own upholstery business” (Pai 59). From the very beginning, he worked in a small shop and had only one employee, but then he managed to get a better building and turn his business into a factory with a lot of workers. Finally, a successful intervention was created, and Mr. Kwon became a businessman who opened shops in different cities under D. Kwon & Co.
Thus, it can be seen that Mr. Kwon and Philip had similar families ‘ social status as they moved to the USA. The characters wanted to improve their living conditions but faced injustice and discrimination. They were occupied in similar jobs initially but then their ways altered greatly. Mr. Kwon endured the issues he experienced being a migrant while Philip started actions against them. Anyway, both men were greatly affected by their poor social class, as it was extremely difficult for them to start earning more and move to a good house. Their social class hindered their aspirations in life because it prevented the characters from obtaining better working positions. However, their social status in the homeland played a great role as it affected their education and determined a range of activities they can be occupied in. For instance, unlike Mr. Kwon who had a decent education before migration and faced issues, as it was not recognized, Philip was initially educated by his self-taught mother and continued studying officially only when he moved to the USA. To get a better life, Mr. Kwon and Philip had to work hard while his kids required American education to become the members of the society who have an opportunity to live in good conditions.
Pai, Margaret K. The Dreams of Two Yi-Min, University of Hawai’i Press, 1989.
Scharlin, Craig, and Lilia Villanueva. Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement, University of Washington Press, 2000.