The Other Internment: Teaching the Hidden Story of Japanese Latin Americans During WWII

Teaching Activity. By Moé Yonamine. 18 pages.
Poetry, photography, and text are used in this role play to teach about the seldom told history of Japanese Latin American internment during WWII.

  • Time Periods: Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944, 20th Century | Themes: Asian American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Immigration, Laws & Citizen Rights, Racism & Racial Identity, US Foreign Policy, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements, World History/Global Studies | Reading Levels: High School | Resource Types: Teaching Activities (Free)

The Other Internment: Teaching the Hidden Story of Japanese Latin Americans During WWII (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's HistoryMy unit on the largely unknown history of the internment of Japanese Latin Americans began 12 years ago. I was on a bus from Portland, Ore., to Tule Lake, Calif., site of one of the largest Japanese American incarceration camps during World War II. “I am from Japan,” the elder sitting next to me said in Japanese. “But I am originally from Peru.” For me, it was an honorable coincidence to find myself next to this elder.

An elder sitting in front of us turned around and said in English, “He looks very familiar.” As I translated their conversation, it came out that they were both young boys interned at Tule Lake. “I know him!” said the Japanese American elder. “He was my friend!” Grabbing the Peruvian man’s hand and shaking it firmly, he explained that they played baseball together often but that one day his friend just disappeared. His friend had only spoken Spanish, so he could never ask him what he was doing in the camp. He had wondered all of these years what had happened to him. The Peruvian Japanese elder’s face beamed with joy as the two continued to shake hands, not letting go. “I am so glad you are safe,” he said. They had reunited after more than 50 years.

Grace Shimizu holds a portrait of her father Susumu Shimizu. Susumu was a Japanese-Peruvian sent to World War II internment camps in the United States. (c) Tyler Sipe, PRI’s The World.

This lesson was published by Rethinking Schools in an edition of Rethinking Schools magazine, “Fighting For Our Schools,” (Fall 2010; Vol. 25, #1). For more articles and lessons like “The Other Internment: Teaching the Hidden Story of Japanese Latin Americans During WWII,” order Rethinking Schools magazineFighting For Our Schools.” See Table of Contents.

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There is one comment:

  • I wonder if my mother’s family was sent to the concentration camp and my mother had changed her last name for protection. I was born in 1949. I discovered that my DNA is 49% Japanese. They were living in Bellavista Callao Peru. Thank you very much.

    Response shared by Maria Iris Silva "Lopez" — February 13, 2016 @ 9:47 am

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