Though San Gabrielle is the main geographical centre of this region, the ‘Chinese District’ has other regions, Monterey Park, Temple City, Alhambra and Rowland Heights. Being the main geographical area of this place, it has many Chinese people. In this paper, we shall discuss more about San Gabrielle or as many know it, the Chinese District.
San Gabriele was founded by Junipero Serra and in 1852; it became the original Township of Los Angeles County. It was named after the Mission San Gabriele Arcangel, and its motto, is ‘A city with a Mission’’. In the 19th Century, the western part of San Gabrielle was occupied by the first Chinese, Filipino, Japanese and South Asian pioneers who worked in the fields picking grapes and citrus. They also constructed most of the infrastructure which is part of the present San Gabrielle valley (Ling). The first generations of the Chinese population are believed to have occupied this region in 1970’s, migrating from the original China Town in Los Angeles. These migrations were fueled by racism in the region which was termed as the ‘White fight’. Their move to San Gabrielle was not much better, especially for the first migrants, as the discrimination rate was high. The locals saw them as invaders and referred to them as locusts for using most of their resources. They spent most of their time indoors and mingled with only the few Chinese people in the region. A third generation Chinese of this place, Li Fei narrates the settlement of his father in the region, Monterey, when they first migrated from China Town. The locals treated them as outcasts since none of the family members could speak in English without the help of their grandfather. They only mingled with the few Chinese people that were present; the locals mistreated them as some even deposited their trash at their doors.
When they went to buy things from the shops, the shopkeepers shouted at them. This made them alienate themselves from the locals in the area, and they barely participated in any social events in the area. With the increased rates of migration to this area, many businesses were set up to support the growing population. More Chinese people moved into the area and the discrimination rates reduced by the day. They could mingle with the locals and this helped them learn the English language. For Liu Nan a second generation born American Chinese, his father moved from China to California in 1960’s, though he was smuggled. Due to the Cultural Revolution that was being experienced at that time, a lot of people were moved to America illegally. He later on moved to the San Gabrielle region where they settled up to date. Being new in the vicinity at that time, he had no understanding of English and the locals being so unfriendly, the environment as not so conducive for him. His boss at that time did not even pay him the required amount; he overworked him and paid him less. Times were hard but with the progression of time, and more Chinese settlers, things improved, though he cannot understand English yet, but he feels that things have improved.
Monterey Park had already been built up and this led many Asian developers to divert their revenue investments to San Gabrielle. The city had of course started hiring many Chinese people from main land China and other Southeast Asian nations. As most were working- class immigrants, they soon started working in the many upcoming restaurants and shops. All these led to a high development rate in the area (Pierson 2).
When they visit, most of them end up staying here, or even visiting here often since they feel at home; the retained Chinese culture and the Chinese foods that they cannot get in other cities, makes them feel most comfortable here (Shyong). I love going here especially when I’m visiting Los Angeles because it is the only place I can good Chinese food and a chance to buy more traditional stuff. My friend Alex is always looking forward to my visit over here so that I can get him some hotpot. Many developments in this area can be seen like Hing Wa Lee Group opened up a jewelry shop next to Hilton hotel, which is the most occupied hotel by Chinese tourists. More development projects are on the rise and more are even ongoing. The California High Speed Rail Project is set to pass through Los Angeles/Anaheim, being the first of the Rail program that will run from San Francisco to San Diego, and is scheduled to be completed in 2029. The impact of this development to San Gabrielle is that there will be a lot of ease on transport sector. This can even boost the income of the locals since the number of visitors and tourists might go up (San).
The City has proposed the construction of a community park, Narshall Community Park. It will be first of its kind in this part and is a joint venture between the City and Garvy District. The $4.6 million grant that San Gabriel won will be used for the construction of this project (Fong 34).
Being a place of mostly Asian ethnic people, San Gabrielle’s streets are filled with many Chinese faces. When you move within the city, most of the people you are likely to encounter in the streets are Chinese; whether tourists or American Born Chinese. The American Born Chinese people attend schools in this area where they are taught about America and they get to mingle with Americans. Some of them are even taking subjects they could not take in the past as majors, like political science, medicine and even law. The Chinese people in this place have made it look like a small China within America. Some of their people have also been in the leadership, with the first Chinese mayor, Chi Mui, being elected in office in 2006. He passed three months later, and was replaced by another Chinese guy, Albert Y. M. Huang. The ease at which Chinese feel comfortable here when it has something to do with social circles and other factors is very pleasing. Through this, a number of Chinese millionaires (60%) in China consider migrating from their homeland, and America is one of the places where they wish to settle (Shyong). This can mostly be narrowed down to San Gabrielle since it is one of the most Chinese populated regions in the whole of America. They will be much comfortable here, and fit in mush easily in the community compared to other regions (Demographics).
There has not been much of identity change in this region especially when it comes to the Chinese people who occupy it. The American Born Chinese people in this region consider themselves as Americans, even though they have retained their Chinese heritage. We can therefore say that, they have integrated the most of the two cultures in their world. They have mostly retained their culture and traditions. You can find Chinese restaurants in most of the streets all over. During Christmas, they will always conduct their businesses as usual, though you can find most of the things you need for Christmas celebrations from their shops. A lot of Chinese based shops, that specialize mostly in Chinese products have been brought up, which makes the area look like it is a town in China. The San Gabrielle mall, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘Chinese Disneyland’, has many Chinese shops, but, has also integrated a very unique model in its architecture, which includes some Spanish style in its roofing and tiles. This shows that the hold the best of the two worlds in their lives, and none can be said to define them more than the other. These shops in the mall contain the most and the best of the two worlds. Anyone can shop here; from department stores, health services, Asian video stores and salons among others. This is an all stop for everybody, regardless of their background.
This identity change can also be narrowed to the fact that some of these American Born Chinese people in San Gabriele consider themselves to be more of Americans. They are playing actively in the American politics where we can see some are even serving in the local government for example mayor Chi Mui. They are participating in social events that are carried out so as to make the City a better place.
This shows that being an all rounded place; the Chinese people in this place treat it as home and are comfortable living here, whether they are American Born Chinese or Chinese tourists. Their participation in social events done towards the alleviation of the town, and also being involved in the city’s politics shows that they are comfortable being Americans. We can also deduce that the place is set towards more developments economically and socially due to the increased numbers of tourists and the improvement of the transportation industry.
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