Saturday, February 1, 2020

Dogeaters In Coney Island

NOT ABOUT MANGYANS, but recently discovered book The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by journalist Claire Prentice is a welcome addition to the imperial Gothic shelf, especially because its story took place on nearby ground. The event was an offshoot of the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, not out of government initiative but private enterprise this time, when Truman K. Hunt, doctor and conman in charge of the Igorot village in the Midwest, returned to the Philippines after the exposition closed and recruited his own band of Igorots comprising 51 men, women and children who were eventually exhibited in Coney Island and became a hit at its old Luna Park (nothing to do with the new Luna Park with the Cyclone roller coaster) in the summer of 1905. Their exploitation, deception and degradation in the big city is told and documented by Prentice in this amazing book. "Americans gone rogue, as Prentice puts it, have long been a part of the Philippines’ landscape, but Truman Hunt, an inveterate liar, a bigamist and a slave driver, seems nearly unparalleled as far as scoundrels go. In some sense, this slick-talking charlatan becomes a stand-in for America itself, or a certain version of America in its more opportunistic historical moments, blind to its own faults and willing to do anything to turn a buck. As Antoinette Funk, Hunt’s lawyer, declared at one of his trials: 'The government set the example of exhibiting the people. The government was the first to bring them to this country for show purposes.' She had a good point, if not a defense."--Robin Hemley in The New York Times 

A young Igorot girl at Coney Island in 1905 (via Claire Prentice)

Seeing $$$: Truman K. Hunt with some Igorots at the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904 (via Claire Prentice) 

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