Food, General APA

Brazilian Pastéis Go Japanese

Luiza Kazuko Yokoyama Ohno and her son, Jobsom Ohno.

By Zelideth María Rivas, guest blogger

This blog is part of the Gourmet Intersections program of Intersections as American Life: the Smithsonian Asian-Latino Festival 2013.

Yoka’s “Comer e Beber” award for best pastel.

Turnovers. Empanadas. Pastelillos. Pastel. Let’s face it, we can’t have just one: pastéis. Many Latin American cultures have them. All Brazilian lanchonetes, bars, and feiras serve them. But only Yoka’s restaurant consistently appears at competitions like São Paulo’s Comer e Beber. Located on Rua dos Estudantes, 37 in the Asian neighborhood of Liberdade, shop owner Luiza Kazuko Yokoyama Ohno uses recipes handed down to her from her father, while also creating new flavors that surprise and intrigue her customers. Not only a second-generation pastel maker, she is also a second-generation Japanese Brazilian, speaking Japanese with some of her customers and innovating her most popular pastel: “o japonês.”

A bite of the pastel japonês.

Filled with tofu, shitake, kamaboko (fish cake), and chives, this pastel has been a staple at her shop for over ten years, surprising since she’s had the shop since 1996. The earthy shitake dominates each bite, making the customer appreciate the rich, moist filling that contrasts with the dry, flaky dough. This is not your typical pastel. Instead of a peppery hot sauce, this one is served with shoyu (soy sauce). Luiza specifically created this pastel to attract new customers. I sat down with Luiza on June 26 to discuss the popularity of her pastéis, a well-known Latin American treat.

Luiza, the youngest child of four, grew up watching her father make pastel. Her father, Takashi Yokoyama, arrived from Mie, Japan in 1933 to work as a contract laborer on the coffee plantations in the interior of the state of São Paulo, Brazil. After some years, he went out to the city of São Paulo to apprentice with a pastel maker. At the time, it was rare to see a Japanese pastel maker. However, after a brief return to the countryside during World War II, he innovated four pastéis: queijo (cheese), palmito (hearts of palm), carne (ground beef), and carne com ovo (ground beef with egg). This last addition to his menu made him popular, becoming the pastel that his customers remember.

The busy counter at Yoka’s restaurant.

Carrying on her father’s experimentations in creating new flavors for pastéis, Yoka currently carries thirty-three flavors, both savory and sweet. From codfish to guava paste and white cheese, you can find it at Yoka. Today, feiras pop up in every corner of São Paulo. Look carefully and you’ll probably find that the person responsible for that pastel you’re eating may just be a Japanese Brazilian.

More about our guest blogger:

Zelideth María Rivas is an Assistant Professor of Japanese at Marshall University. Her research focuses on the conception of race through literature written by Asian immigrants in the Americas, as well as the representation of race in Japan in post-World War II literature and film. She is the author of “Narrating Japaneseness through World War II: The Brazilianization, Peruvianization, and US Americanization of Immigrants” (in Expanding Latinidad: An Inter-American Perspective, WVT Wissenchaftilecher Verlag Trier, 2012) and “Projecting Mixed Race: Negotiating, Nostalgia, and the Rejection of Japanese-Brazilian Biracial Children” (in Journal of Asian American Studies 14.3, October 2011).

Event, Family, General APA

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013

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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month recognizes the history, concerns, contributions and achievements of Asian Pacific Americans and their role in the American story. While the Asian Pacific American experience reaches across borders and spans oceans, with roots in the Asian continent and archipelagos across the Pacific Ocean, the Asian Pacific American story reflects the American spirit. Like so many other communities in America, Asian Pacific Americans worked to expand frontiers, forging the iron rails that linked sea to shining sea. They shed blood to defend the nation and stood up to preserve its cherished values, in classrooms and courtrooms, in legislatures and in the streets.

This quintessentially American story—the story that the Smithsonian seeks to tell—has yet to be fully told.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has selected the title of a poem by Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan (1913–1956) as the theme for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013. Born after the end of the Philippine-American War (1899–1902), when the relationship between the Philippines and the United States remained uncertain, Bulosan came to America in search of opportunity. But, like most Asian Pacific Americans of his time, Bulosan’s life in America was defined by hardship and discrimination. In spite of this experience, however, Bulosan continued to believe in America as a powerful symbol of freedom for the world. Bulosan’s poem, I Want the Wide American Earth, captures how the Asian Pacific American experience is aspirational—in spite of the challenges that define a particular era, generations of Asian Pacific Americans have remained steadfast in their belief in America.

As Bulosan so eloquently writes:

“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.”

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is proud to open the exhibition, I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story, at the National Museum of American History on May 4, 2013. Taking Bulosan’s poem as inspiration, this exhibition tells the stories of the brave, the proud builders and workers of Asian Pacific America. The exhibition will then travel to museums and cultural institutions across the country.

The Smithsonian Institution will celebrate I Want the Wide American Earth and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with the annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Family Festival on May 4, 2013.

Please join us in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013.

I Want the Wide American Earth exhibition was made possibly by a generous grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and is a collaborative initiative with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). Click here for information about the national tour of the exhibition.

General APA, Japanese American

In memory of George Aratani

George Aratani

By Sara Schreck, Spring 2013 intern

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is greatly saddened by the recent passing of Japanese American entrepreneur and philanthropist George Aratani, who passed away at the age of 95 on February 19, 2013.

Born May 22, 1917, Aratani was an extremely generous donor to foundations and organizations that promote Japanese American culture and education.  “Aratani was a philanthropic leader in the Asian Pacific American community who supported many important projects,” says Konrad Ng, Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. One organization Aratani and his wife, Sakaye, contributed to was the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, which has regularly supported the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Aratani and his wife were interned under Executive Order 9066 during World War II due to wartime anxiety and racism toward those of Japanese ancestry.  Aratani has been quoted as saying, “It is my philosophy to help the ones hurt by the mass evacuation.  I myself lost the family business.”(Hirahara and Kwan, 277). He is survived by his wife, Sakaye, two daughters, and extended family.


  • “George Aratani.” Densho Encyclopedia, 20 Feb. 2013. Web.
  • “George Tetsuo ARATANI Obituary.” Los Angeles Times, 23 Feb. 2013. Web.
  • Hirahara, Naomi, and Shelley Kwan, eds. Fifty Years, 50 Stories: Celebrate All Things Keiro. Los Angeles, CA: Keiro Senior HealthCare, 2010.
General APA

Call for nominations of Asian American endangered sites

Terminal Island, Port of Los Angeles, California. Photo by John C. Williams.

As of today, only 0.09% of the National Register listings represent Asian American historic sites. The National Trust for Historic Preservation seeks to change this shocking statistic.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is recognizing the importance of preserving the traditions, history, and culture of Asian Americans by calling for nominations of Asian American endangered sites for its 26th annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places®.  For over a quarter century, this list has highlighted important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk for destruction or irreparable damage. The list has helped preserve the history of some of the first Asian immigrants to this country.  Last year Terminal Island made the list, which was of great significance to the Japanese-American community during the tragic period of 1942.  China Alley also made the list in 2011, which was a flourishing Chinese community in Hanford, California in 1877.

China Alley, Hanford, California. In 1877, Chinese immigrants settled in this San Joaquin Valley town and found strength and community far from home in China Alley, a vibrant rural Chinatown. Today, most of its historic buildings are suffering from deterioration and disuse.

Nominations are due on Friday, March 1, 2013. The 2013 list will be announced in June.  The places on the list need not be famous, but they must be significant within their own cultural context, illustrate important issues in preservation and have a need for immediate action to stop or reverse serious threats. The site or place must also be at least 50-years old and have some type of historic or cultural significance either locally or nationally.

All nominations are subject to an extensive, rigorous vetting process. Click here for ten tips about presenting a strong case when nominating a site to America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. If you present a strong case there is a chance your one-of-a kind treasure could be put on a larger platform to get national attention.

For additional information, e-mail or call 202.588.6141. To learn more about the program and to submit a nomination, visit:

General APA

APAC 2012 Year In Review

2012 has been a big year for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Here are a few of our major highlights. Your generosity is vital to our future success. Please give today! Make a gift online in the amount of your choice by clicking here.

February 2, 2012 – Fred Korematsu Photos Added to the National Portrait Gallery

February 23, 2012 – Indian American Heritage Project Reception at the Embassy of India in Washington, D.C.

February 18, 2012 – Annual Day of Remembrance at the Smithsonian

March 16, 2012 – BookDragon Blog Celebrates 3 Years

April 14, 2012 – Between Image & Word Symposium

April 25, 2012 – Smithsonian Symposium – (Re)Presenting America: The Evolution of Culturally Specific Museums

May 6, 2012 – Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Family Day

May 18, 2012 – Portraits After 5: Identities in Motion

May 2012 – Launching “The May Project”

Summer 2012 – Three New Staff Members

October 19, 2012 – Joe Bataan: the Afro-Filipino King of Latin Soul

November 14, 2012 – Election 2012: Asian American Politics Today

December 3, 2012 – Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings

December 11, 2012 – Director’s Circle Event

General APA, Hawaiian, Japanese American

Remembering the Life and Service of Senator Daniel Inouye

Senator Daniel Inouye is second from the right. This photo was taken at the Press Conference for the Congressional Gold Medal Tour, September 13, 2012.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center remembers the life and service of Senator Daniel Inouye.  The story of Daniel Inouye is the quintessential Asian American story.  He will be remembered as a great man who served his home state of Hawaii and the nation for more than a generation.

Related Links:

From the Office of Senator Daniel K. Inouye:

Statement on the Passing of Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Monday, December 17, 2012

Senator Inouye began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Senator Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.

Following the war he returned to Hawaii and married Margaret “Maggie” Awamura, and graduated from the University of Hawaii and the George Washington University School of Law.

After receiving his law degree, Dan Inouye, returned to Hawaii and worked as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu. He recognized the social and racial inequities of post-war Hawaii, and in 1954 was part of a Democratic revolution that took control of the Territorial Legislature.

Following statehood in 1959, Dan Inouye was privileged to serve as Hawaii’s first Congressman. He ran for the Senate in 1962 where he served for nearly nine consecutive terms.

Dan Inouye spent his career building an enduring federal presence in Hawaii to ensure that the state would receive its fair share of federal resources. He worked to expand the military’s presence on all major islands, stabilizing Pearl Harbor, building up the Pacific Missile Range and constructing a headquarters for the United States Pacific Command.

He has worked to build critical roads, expanded bus services statewide and secured the federal funds for the Honolulu Rail Transit project. He championed the indigenous rights of Native Hawaiians and the return of Kahoolawe.

He fought for the rights and benefits for veterans. Senator Inouye has left an indelible mark at the University of Hawaii, including support for major facilities and research assets. He has long supported local agriculture and alternative energy initiatives.

Dan Inouye was always among the first to speak out against injustice whether interned Japanese Americans, Filipino World War II veterans, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians.

A prominent player on the national stage, Senator Inouye served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Commerce Committee and was the first Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

After developing a reputation as a bipartisan workhorse, who always would put country above party, he was asked by the Senate leadership to chair the special committee investigating the Iran Contra Affair. This was after a successful tenure as a member of the Watergate Committee.

When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, Dan said, very simply, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”

His last words were, “Aloha.”

Event, General APA, Performance, This Month in History

This Month in History – Guam Liberation Day

Left: APA Program interns at the Guam Liberation Day ceremony on Capitol Hill. Right: Traditional Chamorro dance performance during the ceremony.

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

On July 18, 2012, the Honorable Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, hosted a Guam Liberation Day ceremony on Capitol Hill, celebrating Guam’s liberation by the U.S. during World War II.  Since being liberated, Guam was designated as an unincorporated territory of the United States by the Guam Organic Act of 1950, which, among other things, granted U.S. citizenship to individuals born in Guam and introduced Guamanian representation in the House of Representatives.

At this year’s celebration, local Chamorro families prepared traditional island cuisine such as tangy kelaguen, salty fina’denne, spicy månnok kadon pika and sweet, syrupy latiyas. While guests sampled the island’s cuisine, traditional Chamorro dancers performed on stage. Through reenactments of traditional fertility and warrior dances, the audience experienced a taste of ancient Chamorro festivals.

As the son of Guamanian parents (my father is Chamorro and my mother, while Caucasian, grew up in Guam and speaks Chamorro fluently), I relish the opportunity to connect with my cultural heritage. Cultural events hosted in the hallowed halls of the American government speak to the vibrant diversity of the American community and its willingness to welcome people from all communities in shared celebration. It reminds me of the traditional Chamorro value system known as inafa’maolek. While there is no direct translation of this value system in English, inafa’maolek privileges the collective good over individual needs and desires. These guiding principles are deeply embedded within Chamorro culture and speak to our practice of mutual respect. The Guam Liberation Day celebration was a great way to experience the diverse cultures that make up the fabric of our diverse nation.

General APA

Asian Pacific American Literature 101

APAP intern visit to the Library of Congress with librarian/curator of the Asian American Pacific Islander collection, Reme Grefalda.

During the same week that the House of Representatives joined the Senate in unanimously passing a resolution expressing regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which until its repeal in 1943, prevented the immigration and naturalization of people of Chinese origin; the same week that the Pew Research Center released a much debated study on the growing role and relevance of Asian Americans in the U.S.; the same week that Asian Pacific Americans across the country participated in nationwide town hall revisiting the 30th anniversary of the tragic death of Vincent Chin, the young man who became a victim of violence when he appeared to be “Japanese”; and the same week that America celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, a resolution named after the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress, Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink, and widely known as Title IX – the Library of Congress (LOC) released its list of “Books That Shaped America,” a list of 88 books that the LOC recommended as a starting point for a conversation about books written by Americans that shaped our lives.

With help from our BookDragon blogger, Terry Hong, we decided to join the conversation and offer a list of 53 influential authors from Asian Pacific America.  She created two lists for us—pioneers and contemporary writers—the list of pioneers is below.  Who do you think should be on the list, contemporary, pioneer or otherwise? Discuss your thoughts on our BookDragon Facebook page.  Finally, we know that our list is far from comprehensive nor is it a register of the “best” writers.   The list is a humble starting point.  It is intended to join a national conversation about books that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list, or not.

Pioneering Writers

Carlos Bulosan
Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha
Jeffery Paul Chan
Diana Chang
Iris Chang
Nien Cheng
Frank Chin
Louis Chu
Anita Desai
Momoko Iko
Suyin Han
Le Ly Hayslip
Maxine Hong Kingston
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
Younghill Kang
Richard E. Kim
Joy Kogawa
Him Mark Lai
C.Y. Lee
Li-Young Lee
Mary Paik Lee
Genny Lim
Shirley Geok-Lin Lim
Bette Bao Lord
Ruthanne Lum McCunn
Toshio Mori
Dhan Gopal Mukerji
Bharati Mukherjee
Franklin Odo
John Okada
Mine Okubo
Gary Pak
Bienvenido Santos
Monica Sone
Cathy Song
Sin Far Sui
Stephen Sumida
Ron Takaki
Amy Tan
Eleanor Wong Telemaque
Yoshiko Uchida
Jade Snow Wong
Nellie Wong
Shawn Wong
Merle Woo
Mitsuye Yamada
Hisaye Yamamoto
Wakako Yamauchi
Taro Yashima
John Yau
Connie Young Yu
Judy Yung
Helen Zia


General APA

The May Project

The May Project

May marks the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was built primarily by Chinese immigrant labor.  While Asian Pacific Americans have been central to the American story, it took members of congress, Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California, and Hawai‘i Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, to lobby their colleagues and the President to recognize what had been earned through sacrifice in military service and public service, and through the countless ways that Asian Pacific American communities have made America their love and home.

Twenty years ago, President George Bush signed Public Law 102-450 permanently designating May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Through the month of May, The May Project will post the reflections of Asian Pacific Americans who are associated with the Smithsonian, imagining, celebrating and teaching America from perspectives that are not always recognized and in a way that suggests the importance of these voices.

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the month of May being permanently designated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month we can reflect on a number of dates that have defined Asian Pacific American communities in one way or another: 2012 marks 30 years since the controversial death of Chinese American Vincent Chin; 60 years since U.S. citizenship was granted to those born on the island of Guam; 60 years since the first AAPI Member of Congress, Dalip Singh Saund, served as a judge and as a delegate to the convention of a major political party; 70 years since Executive Order 9066 authorizing the Japanese American Internment; 100 years since planting of first cherry blossoms from Japan; 130 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act; and 150 years since the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 promoting the construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Want to see your own story in the May Project? Send your submission to Molly at higginsme(at)si(dot)edu.

General APA

Franklin Odo Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Franklin Odo Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS)

Franklin Odo

Franklin Odo accepting his award at the AAAS Conference on April 14, 2012.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program congratulates its founding Director, Franklin Odo, on receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Asian American Studies.  Over the course of a professional life that spans several decades, Franklin has advanced and institutionalized Asian American scholarship at several organizations, including the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the Smithsonian Institution.  These were not easy feats.  Franklin established these programs in climates where the Asian American experience was relatively unknown and/or struggled for cultural, financial and political capital.  While Franklin fought these important battles, he continued to be an active scholar who never lost faith in the public’s capacity to embrace the concerns of Asian America and recognize our centrality to understanding America and the world.  We offer our heartfelt congratulations to Franklin Odo.