Chinatown Los Angeles, CA a Historical reflection!
Chinatown Los Angeles, CA a historical reflection!
Most people connect “Chinatown” with the 1974 movie depicted by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Others think of New York City, San Francisco and then only after a long delay their thoughts go to Chinatown in Los Angeles, CA.
Hence most are not familiar with the history of the Chinese immigrant’s arrival to the Greater Los Angeles area. The first Chinese came to Los Angeles via Northern California during the Gold Rush. They came from the economically depressed regions of southeastern China. The land of opportunity was clearly Southern California. Sadly they were recruited by their own countrymen and were placed into servitude for years which was nothing less than “slavery”. The time period was around 1870’s and the original settlement was around what we call now Union Station. The area consisted of overcrowded tenements, shops, markets and restaurants. There were opium dens, temples, native theaters and even prostitution and gambling flourished with the cooperation of the city police department.
Around 1933 this Chinatown was demolished to make way for the new Rail road terminal. The” New Chinatown” was then created almost like a Hollywood Movie Set. Then developer Peter Soo Hoo reconstructed a street just like in China. Decorated with pieces from various movie sets the street featured ornate gates, rickshaws and it became a tourist attraction soon after it.
The mid 1990’ there were close to 14,000 people living in Chinatown, ironically these were mostly the newer immigrants, since the true center of Chinese life in Southern California has shifted from China town to Monterey Park and Alhambra.
This shift is clearly the difference between San Francisco’s as well as New York City’s Chinatowns. Here there were three phase of relocation and not a true settlement as in the other two cities. Factors that also affected the community was the voluntary relocation of the majority of the community to Monterey Park and Alhambra made a huge difference as well why the community is not as strong and flourishes like in San Francisco or New York City.
In spite of all that, the Chinese Historical Society has done a great deal in the past fifteen plus years to preserve the daily lives and historical changes that took place in Chinatown Los Angles. So if you have an opportunity to visit a part of Los Angeles that is often forgotten you will be glad you did. Also do not forget to enjoy the food as wellJ.
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