Asian Pacific Heritage Month

The month of May has been designated as Asian-Pacific Heritage Month — a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. The celebration of this month originated in a congressional bill introduced by Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California in June 1977. The following year, President Jimmy Carter signed the joint resolution designating a week in the month of May for the national celebration. In 1992, the week-long celebration became a month-long celebration through an extension signed by President George H.W. Bush. The month of May was chosen to mark the anniversary of the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843. May also honors the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. The theme for the 2013 Asian-Pacific Heritage Month is "I Want the Wide American Earth," in reference to the poem by Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan. The theme this year celebrates the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to American history and the challenges still faced today by this growing segment of the population of the United States. South Florida has its own history related to Asian American and Pacific Islands immigrants. The Yamato Colony was founded by Joseph Sakai in 1903, after he signed an agreement with the Florida East Coast Railway to locate a colony of Japanese farmers in the Boca Raton area. The name "Yamato" is the ancient name for the country of Japan. The colony originally produced pineapples but the competition from the Cuban pineapples caused many farmers to turn to winter vegetables. During World War I, many of the Japanese families left the colony to pursue other opportunities and by World War II, few remained. In May 1942, the U.S. government seized the remaining lands of the Yamato colony and used part of the land to complete a US Army Air Force complex. One of the early settlers of the Yamato colony was George Morikami. He came to the colony as a young man and his story is the classic immigrant story — an ambitious young man seeking to prosper and make a better life for himself. He achieved a personal wealth of hundreds of thousands of dollars but always chose to live frugally. Throughout his life, he acquired thousands of acres of land in the Boca Raton/Delray area and would eventually donate much of the land to the State of Florida, the city of Delray and Palm Beach County. His beneficence ensured a lasting memorial to the Japanese role in the settlement of the southeast coast of Florida. If you are traveling in South Florida this summer, make sure you visit the beautiful Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, www.morikami.org, which is sure to become a favorite outing for your family. The Asian American population totals 16 million (U.S Census 2009), 5.2 million of whom live in California. Asian Americans are the second fastest-growing minority group (following the Hispanic population). A few famous Asian-Pacific Americans are:

Other interesting facts about the contributions of Asian-Pacifics:

Also noteworthy are the Asian words adopted into the English language such as:

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