Carlos Bulosan poem inspires US exhibit


Director of Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Konrad Ng: Bulosan’s poem captures that aspiration and vision of America

WASHINGTON, DC—A traveling exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum, whose theme is based on one of renowned Filipino-American writer Carlos Bulosan’s poems, will make its next stop in Los Angeles next month.

The exhibit, titled “I Want the Wide American Earth,” will end its run at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on Aug. 25. It will open next at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles on Sept. 14 and run until Dec. 1.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, said Bulosan’s poem was selected because “it captured that aspiration and that vision of America” being home for Asian Pacific American immigrants.

Ng is a brother-in-law of US President Barack Obama, who is pushing for an immigration bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, one million of them Filipinos.

Bulosan’s poems and stories deal mostly with the racism and discrimination he experienced as an Asian immigrant in America.

“You have someone who was born in the Philippines and, soon after the US-Philippine war, lived in the United States in pursuit of better opportunities. Like most immigrant communities, the life in the land of opportunity became an experience of hardship. And Bulosan wrote these great poems and stories [about the experience],” said Ng.

“‘I Want the Wide American Earth’ for us captured that aspiration and that vision of America being the home for everybody, specifically for Asian Pacific Americans.”

Chicken skin

Ng said he was a fan of Bulosan.

“I love [Bulosan’s] work. His work… as they say in Hawaii, [gives you] chicken skin… when you think about something that inspires you and makes you feel something deeply. I think Carlos Bulosan has got some terrific poems,” Ng said.

An excerpt from Bulosan’s poem reads: “Before the brave, before the proud builders and workers/ I say I want the wide American earth/ For all the free./ I want the wide American earth for my people./ I want my beautiful land./ I want it with my rippling strength and tenderness/ Of love and light and truth/ For all the free.”

The exhibition—the first of its kind undertaken by the Smithsonian—celebrates Asian Pacific American history across a multitude of cultures and explores how Asian Pacific Americans have shaped and been shaped by the course of American history.

Images on 30 panels tell the story of the first Asian immigrants’ participation in the gold rush, the transcontinental railroad, on both sides of the American Civil War and the building of the nation’s agriculture.

The Asian Pacific American population now stands at more than 17 million and growing. Filipinos, numbering 3.4 million, make up the second-largest Asian group in the US according to the latest census. The number is believed to be much higher than the census count. There are an estimated one million undocumented Filipinos in the US.

Chinese-Americans make up the largest Asian group, with more than 4 million. Indians from the subcontinent are the third-largest, with 3.2 million. Other large Asian groups include the Vietnamese, with 1.7 million; Koreans, with 1.7 million; and Japanese, with 1.3 million.

“I Want the Wide American Earth” is a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The exhibit is on the third floor of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

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  • Anonymous

    Before former President Erap mentioned yesterday of why US are interested in the peace agreement of the Philippines and the MILF, I posted in my comment my analysis which are proven to be true. PNoy’s hands are both tied up by the US who most likely advise him not to wage an All-Out-War against the MILF. The selective air strike is only used to calm down the call for justice of the Filipino people, and to stop the military from demoralizing. The truth is those operation will soon be stopped when the public opinion die down. I heard from the locals that out in General Santos open sea there is already a highly secretive huge naval base. In addition, Mindanao is considered as the food granary of the country; rich both in petroleum and gas fields which GB and US big corporations are very much interested in exploiting. That’s also why US and Australia (proxy of Great Britain) get involve recently in the Spratly island dispute with China.

  • Fan

    2-3 sorties/day using ov-10, thats the best we can give, back to the past pilipinas

  • Anonymous

    All out war and all out justice against whoever is responsible for the traitorous killings of soldiers and civilians.  Never negotiate with the devil. You will look ridiculous and stupid. All you need is to humor the devil for  3 to 6 months to get to know the devil. Erap’s occasional street wisdom are sometimes golden nuggets.

  • marcos_hitler_diktador_tuta

    Bulosan’s “America is in the Heart” is one of the best I’ve read. It touches the heart and challenges the mind. Poor, he died a pauper but his works are treasures we must not squander by ignoring. Anyone who has read the book will probably say the same.

    For general info: Carlos Bulosan was burried in a pauper’s grave with no headstone or marker until his works began to be recognized. With some donations, a marker on his honor was installed bearing his name, etc and the epitaph: HERE HERE THE TOMB OF CARLOS BULOSAN IS, HERE HERE DRY AS THE GRASS IS. Epitaph by Carlos Bulosan.

    He died in Seattle, Washington in 1956 at he age of 42.

    • walaywalay


      Because “it captured that aspiration and that vision of America” being home for Asian Pacific American immigrants


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