BLANCA SADAKO (MAOKI) KATSURA
Blanca Sadako (Maoki) Katsura was born in 1931 at Hacienda Tumán in northern Peru. She recalls having a fun, loving, and carefree childhood and feeling very secure in Peru, as her father was a successful businessman and a respected community leader.
Overnight, her life changed dramatically. On a late evening in January 1943, Blanca’s father was taken away to a jail in Chiclayo without any charges and then shipped to the U.S. against his will and without any notification to the family about his whereabouts. Six months later, Blanca (at the age of 12) and her mother and younger siblings were deported and reunited with her father at an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas. The family remained imprisoned there for four years.
In 1947, Blanca’s family was “paroled” from the internment camp when they received sponsorship from a relative. After their release, they had no money and no place to live. To start off, they lived in two rooms in a church basement. Unable to speak English, Blanca’s father worked as a janitor while her mother took housecleaning jobs to help the family survive. Blanca recollects, “In Peru, we were on top of the world and here we were at the bottom.”
At the age of 86 years old, Blanca traveled with the delegation to the IACHR hearing in Washington, D.C. She explains why she continues to support Campaign for Justice:
“As a former Peruvian, I want to support all of the Japanese Peruvian families who were interned in the United States. I feel that everybody who was incarcerated deserves a full apology and reparations from the U.S. government. Nobody can pay for the amount of time that our fathers and mothers spent working hard on their businesses. They lost everything when they were forcibly removed from Peru and imprisoned at Crystal City, Texas.
The Founding Fathers of the United States knew what kind of problems they could encounter in the future. The Constitution was written so that officials in the government would follow it. The U.S. government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, for the people.
I went to the IACHR hearing in Washington D.C. with Campaign for Justice to support Art Shibayama and all of the Latin American people. Peru was not involved in the war against Japan. In Latin America, we were Peruvians. We didn’t think something like this could happen to us.
There are many people who don’t know our story and are shocked to find out what the U.S. government did to us. There are some people who do not even believe that the U.S. government would do such things. The Japanese Peruvians who were taken from Peru suffered a lot. And the U.S. government just wanted us for the exchange of American prisoners in Japan.
There is a chance of this reoccurring. Justice is what we are fighting for. Justice should be a concern for everyone so this mistake will not happen again.”