Love Notes


Letters and songs can create a sense of intimacy when loved ones are separated by space. These notes tell us about those feelings that bring individuals together, but they also suggest the circumstances that divide lovers in the first place. For Filipino migrants of the 1920s and 1930s, the intervening spaces were due to migration or social taboos—both consequences of American and Spanish imperialisms.

Closing the gap and the conditions for intimacy are always constrained by social and historical conditions and by the medium of expression. But within these constraints, we witness a bit of human ingenuity. “The object of my affection Can change my complexion From white to a rosy red Anytime he holds my hand and tells me that he’s mine.” “Object of My Affection” (1935)

In the 1920s, Santiago Salutan, or “Jimmy,” hopped on a U.S.-bound ship because he had fought for, and lost, the hand of a woman to his brother— but also because this transpacific route was already carved out by U.S. interests in the Philippines. In 1935, U.S. imperialism and California agribusiness brought together Jimmy, a Filipino migrant, and Mary Olvera, a Mexican American. The couple met working in the fields in Lompoc, California, a small agricultural town north of Santa Barbara.

Neither Mary’s family nor the state of California, however, sanctioned this mixing of the “blood.” Jimmy and Mary courted each other through letters since they were not able to do so publicly. In a culture influenced by Spanish Catholicism and Victorian-era gender expectations brought by Americans, chastity was a prized virtue and physical contact was prohibited. Moreover, letter writing was among the many rituals of courtship, like serenading, brought over by Filipino migrants. They used letters passed through friends to plan their elopement in Yuma, Arizona. .

Petition letter to Edward J. Ennis, director of the Alien Enemy Control Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice from Gila Relocation Center, Arizona.
An example signature

An example

Description

signature

Letters were xyz and said xyz1. 

Petition letter to Edward J. Ennis, director of the Alien Enemy Control Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice from Gila Relocation Center, Arizona.
An example signature

An example

Description

signature

Letters were xyz and said xyz1. 

Archival letter. Petition letter to Edward J. Ennis, director of the Alien Enemy Control Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice from Gila Relocation Center from the Makino family requesting reunification with their husband and father, Hiroshi Makino. From the Exhibit “Objects of Affection, Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Calif.” + filename [6B_Letters_ARCPHOTO4.jpg]