June 26's Fact of the Week: Taxi Dance Halls

During the height of Filipino migration to the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s as agricultural laborers, service workers, and students, taxi dance halls flourished. An escape from their rigorous lives, whether it was “stoop labor,” unfair working conditions, or loneliness, many Filipino men visited taxi dance halls in their leisure time to exchange dimes for dance tickets. The tickets were then exchanged for dances with women and each ticket was worth a dance for the full length of a song. In order to ease their troubles and stress, Filipino men used their wages and earnings from work to find companionship and acceptance. Outside, however, they faced animosity and discrimination from the community that labeled them as moral and sexual threats after news spread that Filipino men had danced with white women. Hostility fueled by the ethnic antagonism escalated into violence. One instance happened in Watsonville, California and became known as the Watsonville Riots. In 1930, a mob of five hundred white men attacked a taxi dance hall and pulled and beat Filipino men. As the riots escalated and increased, the mob would also attack and burn homes owned by Filipinos in the neighborhood and form “hunting parties.”