The Role of Chinatown in 21st Century Los Angeles

When you look back at the first 50 years of Chinese migration to Los Angeles, you see the evolution of two distinct "Chinatowns." Each with distinct meanings, uses and mythos - not just for greater Los Angeles, but for the Chinese community itself.

With every subsequent migratory waves to Los Angeles, and with the changing structure of immigration laws in the Unites States, the way Chinatown was identified as a cultural, economic, and symbolic center began to shift and change.


Migrants from South East Asia and Taiwan (to name a few) brought with them a new set of cultural values that re-defined a Chinese American experience most often associated with initial waves of Cantonese arrivals. These new migrants created multiple contexts from which to view and understand the Chinese American experience, and also created new geographic centers in the San Gabriel Valley that have rendered historica Chinatown almost obsolete.

The question we need to ask now, this after more than a century of Chinese migration to America is: What's the role of Chinatown in 21st Century Los Angeles? What does it represent? And to whom?

Throughout the following posts I'd like to help answer that question by breaking down the 5 or 6 waves of migration that have defined the Chinese American experience in Los Angeles.

These waves, along with the culture, ideas and points of view they brought to our shore, will provide the backbone to our explorations in Departures: Chinatown. First up: From Kwantung to Alameda - 1850 to 1930.



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