Rizal first saw America on April 28, 1888. His arrival in this great country was marred by racial prejudice, for he saw the discriminatory treatment of the Chinese and the Negroes by the white Americans. He kept notes of what he observed during his trip from San Francisco to New York, where he took a ship for England. From his notes and his letters to his friends, we get a wealth of first- hand impressions of America, some which were rather unfavorable but true.
Rizal was a man of truth, and he wrote what he had seen and experienced. Arrival in San Francisco. The steamer Belgic, with Rizal on board, docked at San Francisco on Saturday morning, April 28, 1888.All Passengers were not allowed to land. The American health authorities placed the ship under quarantine on the ground that it came from the Far East where a cholera epidemic at that time in the Far East. He joined the other passengers in protesting the unjustifiable action of the health authorities.
The American consul in Japan had given the ship a clean bill of health, and the British Governor of Hong Kong certified to the absence of cholera cases in China. He soon discovered that the placing of the placing of the ship under quarantine was motivated by politics. The ship was carrying 643 Chinese coolies. At that time public opinion on the Pacific coast was against cheap coolie labor because the coolies from China were displacing white laborers in railroad construction camps. To win the votes of the whites in California (for election was near , the administration impeded the entry of Chinese coolies. Rizal noticed that contrary to quarantine regulation 700 bales of valuables Chinese silk were landed without fumigation, that the ship doctor went ashore without protest on the part of the health officers, and the customs employees ate several times on board the supposedly cholera – infested ship. After a week of quarantine, all first – class passengers, including Rizal, were permitted to land.
But the Chinese and Japanese passengers of the second and third class accommodation were forced to remain on board for a long quarantine period. Rizal in San Francisco. On Friday afternoon, May 4,1888, the day he was permitted to go ashore, Rizal registered at the Palace Hotel, which was then considered a first class hotel in the city. On this day, he wrote on his diary: I lodged in Palace Hotel; $4 a day with bath and everything included. Stockton St., 312. I saw the Golden Gate… on Sunday the stores are closed. The best Street in San Francisco is Market Street. Rizal mentioned in his diary the name of Leland Stanford, who was a millionaire senator representing California in the U.S. senate at the time. This senator was the founder and benefactor of Stanford University at Palo Alto, California.
Also recorded in Rizal’s diary was a Street – Dupont Street – in Chinatown which is Gant Avenue today. Rizal stayed insane Francisco for two days – May 4 to 6, 1888. The president of the United States at the time was Grover Cleveland. Across the American Continent. On May 6, 1888 – Sunday, 4:30 P.M. – Rizal left San Francisco for Oakland, nine miles across San Francisco Bay, by ferry boat. In Oakland, he boarded the train for his trip across the continent. He took his supper at Sacramento for 75 and slept in his coach. Early the fallowing morning (May 7), he awoke and had a good breakfast at Reno, Nevada, now glamourized by American high- pressure propaganda as “The Biggest Little City in the World.” Rizal’s diary recounts his travel observation as follows. Monday, May 7.
I saw an Indian attired in semi- Euro- pean suit, and semi –indian suit, leaning against a wall. Wide desert without plants nor trees. Unpopulated. Lonely place. Bare mountains. Sands. A big extension of white land, like chalk. Far from ths desert can be seen some blue mountains. It was a fine day. It was warm, and there was still snow on the top of some mountains. Tuesday, May 8.
This is a beautiful morning. We stop from place to place. We are near Ogden. I believed with a good system of irrigation this place could be cultivated. We are at Utah state, the 3rd state we passed over. In approaching Ogden the fields are seen with horses, oxen, and trees. Some small houses are seen from the distance. From Ogden to Denver The clock is set one hour ahead of time. We are now beginning to see flowers with yellow color on the way. The mountains at a distance are covered with snow, The banks of Salt Lake are more beautiful than other things we saw.
The mules are very big. There are mountains in the middle of the lake like the island of Talim of Laguna de Bay. We saw three mormons boys at Farminton. There were sheep, cows, and horses in the meadows. This region is not thickly populated. A flock of ducks in the lake … Children greeted us at Salt Lake city. In Utah, the women serve at the table … we changed train at Ogden, and we will not have any change until Denver. In Provo I ate much for 75. We are passing between two mountain through a narrow channel. Wednesday, May 9.
We are passing through the mountain and rocks along a river; the river is noisy and its noise give life to the lifeless territory. We woke up at Colorado, the 5th state we crossed over. At 10:30 we climb up a certain height, and this is why snow is seen along the way. There are many pines. We passed through tunnel made of wood to protect the road against snow. Icicles in these tunnels are very bright which gave majestic effect. The porter of the Pullman car, an American, is a sort thief. Colorado gas more trees than the three states we passed over. There are many horses. Thursday, May 10.
We woke up in Nebraska. The country is a plain. We reached Omaha, a big city – the biggest since we left San Francisco. The Missouri River is twice as wide as the Pasig River in its widest part. It is marshy… the train passed over the Missouri bridge for 2 and ½ minutes ; the train goes slowly. We are now in Illinois. Friday, May 11.
We woke up near Chicago. The country is cultivated. It shows our nearness to Chicago. We left Chicago at 8:14 Friday night. What I observed in Chicago is that every cigar store has an Indian figure, and always different. (2775 Washington Street, Boston , Miss C.G Smith). Saturday, May 12.
A good Wagner car – we were proceeding in a fine day. The country is beautiful and well populated. We shall arrive at the English territory (Canada – z) in the afternoon, and we shall soon see Niagara Falls. We stop for some time to see the points that are beautiful; we went to the side below the falls. I was between two rocks and this is the greatest cascade I ever saw. It is not so beautiful nor so fine as the falls at Los Banos(sic Pagsanjan – z ); but much bigger, more imposing … the cascade gas various falls, various parts. We left the place at night. There is a mysterious sound and persistent echo. Sunday, May 13.
We woke up near Albany. This is a big city. The Hudson river which runs along carries many boats. We crossed over a bridge. The landscape is beautiful; and it is not inferior to the best in Europe. We are going along the banks of Hudson. They are very beautiful although a little more solitary than those of the Pasig… the Hudson is wide. Beautiful ships. Sliced granite rocks were paved along the railroads… there were beautiful houses between trees. Day fine. Our grand transcontinental trip ended on Sunday, May 13, at 11:10 A.M. “The train stopped for a few hours near Niagara Falls where Rizal went down to the foot of the falls. Rizal was amazed by the titanic size of the falls and the thunder that it created as more than 168,000 cubit meters of water poured down from the falls every minute.
He called the falls as “The majestic cascade” in his letter to Mariano Ponce. As they were living Niagara falls in the evening, Rizal described the mysterious sound and echo that he heard coming from the falls. Though Rizal was impressed by Niagara Falls, he noted in his diary that it is not as pretty as the falls in Los Banos. But he added that there is no comparison between the two falls. When Dr. Rizal arrived in New York, he got a room at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. From the time Rizal arrived in New York on May 13, 1888 at 11:10AM until he left for Europe on May 16th at 9AM, he did not write a lot of details about what he saw and observed in New York. In one of his letters, Rizal wrote that New York is a big city and “everything is new”. Rizal probably wrote this observation because he was used to the aged and antiquity of buildings and other material things that is a common sight in”
– Adenu1980.blogspot.com/2011/07/dr-joserizals-travel-across-united.html Rizal in New York. On Sunday morning, May 13 , Rizal reached New York, thus ending his trip across the American continent. He stayed three days in this city, which he called “Big Town “. He visited the scenic and historic places. He was awed and inspired by the memorial to George Washington. Of this great American, he wrote to Ponce: “ He is great man who, I think, has no equal in this country”. On May 16, 1888,
He left New York for Liverpool on board the City of Rome. According to Rizal, this steamer was “the second largest ship in the world, the largest being the Great Eastern”. He saw with thrilling sensation the colossal Statue of Liberty on Bedloe Island as his ship steamed out of New York Harbor. Rizal Impression of America. Rizal had good and bad impression of the United States. The Good impressions were: (1) the material progress of the country as shown in the great cities, huge farms, flourishing industries, and busy factories; (2) the drive and energy of the American people; (3) the natural beauty of the land; (4) the high standard of living; and (5) the opportunities for better life offered to poor immigrants. One bad impression Rizal had of America was the lack of racial.
There existed racial prejudice which was inconsistent with the principles of democracy and freedom of which the Americans talk so much but do not practice. Thus he wrote to Ponce: “They do not have true civil liberty. In some states the Negro cannot marry a White woman, nor a white man a Negress. Hatred against the Chinese Leads to difficulty for other Asiatic who, like the Japanese, are mistaken for Chinese by the ignorant, and therefore being disliked, too”. In 1890, two years after Rizal’s visit to the United States, Jose Alejandro, who was then studying engineering in Belgium, roomed with him on 38 Rue Philippe Champagne, Brussels. Alejandro had never been in America, so that one day he asked Rizal: “what impressions do you have of America?” “America,” answered Rizal, “is the land par excellence of freedom but only for the white.”
Bibliography / References
Zaide, Gregorio F., Zaide, Sonia M., Jose Rizal: Life, works,and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero, ALL NATIONS Publishing Co., Inc., Zaidde House, 24 Pittsburgh St., Silangan Cubao, Quezon City 1102 Philippines, 2011.