When Alex Tizon's family moved to the US from the Philippines in 1964, they were seen as "model immigrants." It's unclear whether their new neighbors would have felt that way had they known Tizon's family was keeping a slave. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist's final story—he died in March—was published Tuesday in the Atlantic and tells the story of Eudocia Tomas Pulido, known to the family as Lola. An 18-year-old Lola was given to Tizon's mother as a gift by her father when she was a child in the Philippines. For the next 56 years, Lola would be a slave in the Tizon household. When the family moved to the US, they told friends and neighbors Lola was a relative from back home.
Lola cooked, cleaned, and cared for five children, working from morning to night. She wasn't paid or even given her own room, often sleeping next to the laundry. Lola was constantly berated and often brought to tears by Tizon's parents. They shamed Lola when she asked for money to send to her sick mother and refused to let her travel to the Philippines when her parents died. Tizon—with the help of John Wayne's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance—began to realize the truth about Lola's relationship to his family when he was 11 or 12. "Having a slave gave me grave doubts about what kind of people we were, what kind of place we came from," he writes. Tizon tried to help Lola but became her owner in 1999 after the death of his mother. Read the full, complex story here.