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When The U.S. Banned Chinese Immigrants, This Mexican City Gave Them A Home

Omar Bárcena/flickr

For many Mexicans, Chinese New Year comes and goes with little fanfare. But there’s one city in Mexico that will be celebrating Chinese New Year in earnest. Mexicali, which is located in Baja California, MX, is home to the largest Chinatown — a.k.a. La Chinesca — in Mexico. It is estimated that nearly 5,000 citizens of Chinese descent currently live in Mexicali, though that number used to be larger. In fact, Mexicali was once a Chinese majority town. Here’s a little background on Mexicali’s Chinese community.

When the U.S. signed off on the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, Chinese immigrants were banned from entering the U.S. for a decade.

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CREDIT: Laura Perkins/Youtube

Thanks to overwhelming anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.S. at that time, the U.S. closed its borders to Chinese immigrants. Some Chinese immigrants were able to migrate to the U.S. through Mexico. However, many stayed in Mexico, usually finding work in labor-based projects.

During this time, Mexicali provided a sanctuary for Chinese citizens, who provided the workforce necessary to keep the region competitive.

By 1910, Mexican resentment of Chinese immigrants had begun to increase.

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CREDIT: RICK QUAN / YOUTUBE

The governor of the Baja region, Estaban Cantú, showed Chinese workers preferential treatment for their willingness to work on cotton plantations for low wages. Because Chinese immigrants provided cheap labor, they were favored over Mexican workers, which created a wealth gap between the two cultures. Naturally, tensions between the two groups led to the Chinese being persecuted by Mexican citizens. Some were only chased out of Mexico, while many others were slaughtered.

Chinese immigrants living Mexicali were also not used to Mexico’s summers. To cope, they began building underground tunnels and rooms to escape the heat and violence from locals.

CREDIT: VICELAND / YOUTUBE

Thanks to Mexicali’s reasonably hospitable environment and flooding that made underground living impossible, the Chinese eventually moved back above ground, creating “La Chinesca.”

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By this time, there enough Chinese immigrants living in the Mexicali area that they entered the political world, and they even formed their own union: Asociación China de Mexicali.

Today, Chinese influence in the town is easy to observe.

Credit: omaromar / flickr
CREDIT: Credit: omaromar / flickr

Tourists in Mexicali can take guided tours to explore the extensive underground network where these Chinese immigrants lived. Vice even wrote a full piece about one of these underground tours, which you can read here. There are many reminders that despite one-time persecution, the Chinese that endured have left their lasting mark on Mexico’s history.


[H/T] Notes from the Mexicali Chinese Underground


READ: The Origin of Some of Your Favorite English Words is Surprising

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A Group Of Angry Tias And Abuelas Is Doing What The Government Cannot: Helping Undocumented People

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A Group Of Angry Tias And Abuelas Is Doing What The Government Cannot: Helping Undocumented People

Angry Tias And Abuelas / Facebook

All over the country groups and nonprofits are taking it upon themselves to deal with the immigration crisis in a humane way. They are doing what the government cannot: provide help to thousands of undocumented migrants looking for refuge. However, helping people isn’t as easy as one may think. Dr. Scott Warren was just on trial this week for giving undocumented migrants water and food. Thankfully the trial ended in a hung jury, but that goes to show that in this country, people do risk prosecution for giving people the dignity they deserve. That is why the story of these women warms our heart.

A group of women received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for their advocacy of undocumented people.

Facebook/angrytiasandabuelas

The women, who call their organization the Angry Tias and Abuelas, got honored last week for helping undocumented people transition from the moment that government officials release them from detention.

Here’s their mission: To advocate for dignity and justice for individuals and families seeking asylum at our borders. As they embark on their journeys to destinations across the U.S., our aim is to assure their basic health and safety needs are met. We provide emergency assistance such as food, water, clothing, toiletries, logistical support, and cash funds when needed to those recently released from ICE custody at bus depots or shelters in Brownsville and McAllen. We inform asylum seekers of their rights as they await entry across international bridges and give direct financial support to refugee shelters in the RGV and select immigrant shelters in Matamoros and Reynosa.

While the group said the award means everything to them, they are more frustrated with how the government is treating people at the border.

“Yes, we are mad,” she told NBC News. “We’re mad at the brutality of the United States government against the same people who are the same background as our own. These are families seeking safety from repression exactly like our own forefathers.”

The group launched just last year after seeing groups of women and children sleeping outside in torturous heat.

“It was quite a shocking scene,” Joyce Hamilton told CBS News about their first encounter with undocumented people. She said that her friends gathered to do something about it and help any way they could.

“We started talking to each other and meeting, and then enough of us were seeing each other enough times that some of us met for coffee at my house just to talk about coordinating a little bit and we formed the Angry Tias, thinking it would last for a few months,” Jennifer Harbury also said to CBS News. But the issue has not been resolved, and so they’ve continued to work.

Click here if you’d like more information on how you can help the Angry Tias and Abuelas group.

READ: Trial Begins For Scott Warren, The Volunteer Arrested For Giving Undocumented People Water, Saving Lives

This Man Graduated From College At 58 Years Old After Working As A Farmworker Who Immigrated From Mexico

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This Man Graduated From College At 58 Years Old After Working As A Farmworker Who Immigrated From Mexico

csumb / Instagram

During this graduation season, we love to hear about first-time college graduates, especially from those who are children of immigrants. It’s so inspiring to read how so many of these people worked hard to make their parents proud, especially because they worked even harder to give their children a better life. In very few cases, it’s not just their children who are graduating but the parents themselves.

Fifty-eight-year-old Adolfo González, a farmworker who used to pick celery, earned his bachelor’s degree from the California State University, Monterey Bay.

Twitter/@ThinkMexican

González, an indigenous immigrant from Mexico, worked in agriculture for years in Salinas Valley, California but always dreamed about going back to school. According to The Californian, González went back to nigh school to learn English. But even while continuing his studies, he never forgot his roots.

“I think it’s very important to learn our indigenous language because it’s part of our culture,” he told the publication. “It’s part of our identity.”

González graduated early and with honors a year after his daughter got her college degree as well.

Twitter/@TUSK81

“The most important thing for me is not what I’m doing now,” he told the publication. “The most important thing to me is to inspire people to do the same thing I did, because, como dijo Cesar Chavez, ‘Si se puede.'”

His journey and story to get to that stage are inspiring everyone who is reading about him on social media.

The “Si Se Puede” motto can take us all the way to the top. Not only does it inspire us to reach for the best that we can be, it also reminds us of how far we’ve come.

His story is proof that determination is the most important part of anyone’s journey.

“I took the decision to come to the United States like everybody does, because it’s the only way we can support our family,” he said. “I always promised to my mom ‘I will buy you a house,’ and I did it.”

He pursued an education so that he could continue to help his community.

Who wouldn’t want someone this passionate as their teacher? He is going to change the lives and thoughts of so many people. He is the kind of people we need to become educators to spark that love of education in others.

Big congratulations to Adolfo and his unending determination to become the best version of himself that he could be.

He will be like another Mr. Escalante. At least we can all hope that he will be the next big teacher to change lives one class at a time.

Congratulations, Adolfo González.

Share your touching graduation stories with us on social media using #MituGraduate.

READ: She Dropped Out Of High School When She Got Pregnant And Her Farm Working Parents Gave Her All The Advice She Needed To Get A Master’s

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