Monterey Park Transformed the Chinese American Experience

There are few places in the United States of greater significance to the Chinese-American community than Monterey Park, Calif.

Known as the first suburban Chinatown, the city undergoes changes at the end Chinese-American real estate developer Fred Hsiehwho promoted the community seven miles east of downtown Los Angeles as “China’s Beverly Hills.”

His vision would trigger a demographic transition that began in the 1970s when Monterey Park and the neighboring city of Alhambra welcomed more and more middle-class Chinese residents from both home and abroad. . In 1983, the city made history when it appointed its first female Chinese-American mayor, Lily Lee Chen.

Ms. Chen opposes xenophobia and leads the fight against the English-only movement in the city, fueled by residents upset about the cultural changes sweeping their communities. Tensions will last decades, and bids to impose “modern Latin script” City signs have been the source of controversial disputes as recently as 2013.

The resistance had little effect. By the 1990s, Monterey Park had completely replaced Los Angeles’ Chinatown as the metropolitan area’s main destination for authentic Chinese food. Asia’s biggest supermarkets are springing up, stocked with the freshest produce and dominated by Chinese-born entrepreneurs from Vietnam. Schools in the area also struggled with major changes to their student bodies as Chinese families demanded a greater emphasis on academics, leading to the collapse of activities such as football programs.

Delegations from China and Taiwan visited Monterey Park during trips to Los Angeles. City Council members have no background in international relations get crash courses in managing the two sides, learn to avoid mentioning the Taiwan Strait, and arrange seats for Taiwanese and Chinese delegates on par with mayors at official receptions to ensure that no party who feels disrespected.

The development of Monterey Park reflects changes taking place thousands of miles away in Asia. While many of the first Chinese residents in the city came from Hong Kong and Taiwan, it will More and more visitors are coming from mainland China dates back to around 2000 when the world’s most populous nation experienced a period of historic economic growth.

Trade between the United States and China has forced more wealthy Chinese immigrants to take root in the city, but it has also made the city a destination for undocumented immigrants, who are brought to the city. worked at many restaurants, nail salons and massage parlors in the suburbs.

Finally, Monterey Park will adopt some of the features of urban Chinatown for the working class. Employment agencies offering minimum wage jobs increasingly line up one of its main thoroughfares, Garvey Avenue. The city will also become home to an increasing number of illegal boarding houses for undocumented immigrants. At the time, many middle- and upper-class Chinese skipped Monterey Park and moved further east in the San Gabriel Valley to fill homes and mansions in communities like Arcadia and Walnut.


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