Business / Chicago Chinatown

Chicago Chinatown

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Autor:  anton  26 November 2010
Tags:  Chicago,  Chinatown
Words: 1744   |   Pages: 7
Views: 543

The motivations for the Chinese to come to the United States are similar to most immigrants. These motivations are what most people call “The American Dream.” These could be looking for a better life, having a better job, running away from political issues. However, for Chinese these American dreams were not too easy to achieve at first compared to other immigrants. Chinese suffered a lot more obstacles and discriminations because they are relatively small and easy to be targeted on. Even more the legal system passed a law in 1963 forbidding Chinese to testify against white men in court. This anti-Chinese action was most critical in the Pacific Coast; as a result, it caused the dispersion of Chinese that had settled in California to the mid-western and eastern states.(Chicago-Chinatown, 1996)1

Many Chinese migrated eastward to some major cities, and some of them chose Chicago. In the 1870s, the first Chinese immigrants arrived in Chicago. Although Chinese in Chicago endured the same restrictions and discrimination that happened in other cities of America, the population of Chinese increased progressively. In 1890, the first Chinese community was built along Clark Street, which is between Van Buren and Harrison Street. Thirty years after, because of the unreasonable increase of housing rent cost, most Chinese moved to the south near Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue, which was Italian and Croatian neighborhood.(Chicago-Chinatown, 1996)1

Soon after the Chinese had settled in the neighborhood, they tried to expand the Cermak Road due to the increasing demand for housing. However, half of the housing plan was cut because some major city projects needed to use this area. Due to many restrictions on the growth of Chinese community, it significantly affected the demography. The gender ratio was unbalanced because family’s life style had changed. In 1910 there were only 65 Chinese women and 1,713 men in Chicago, and by 1926 women were still less than 6 percent of the population. This disproportion ratio of Chinese gender made their family life difficult; that is, the growth of a second generation of Chinese Americans were slowly decreasing, and gave an impression to Americans that Chinese were “alien.” (Steffes, 2000)5

As time passed by, the issue of discrimination declined with the effort of Chinese community development. Despite many obstacles, the Chinese continued to expand their community and boundaries. And therefore, many businesses and residents were gradually increasing. It was until after World War II, the Chinese population doubled from 3,000 to 6,000, and in the 1950s it doubled again. That is because a large influx of Chinese immigrants came after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Most of these Chinese were professionals who tried to escape from the political issues and entered the United States to pursuit a more liberal policy. By the year of 1970, Chicago ranked fourth in Chinese population in American cities. (Steffes, 2000)5

The large influx of Chinese also caused a major housing problem. The shortage of housing had forced many Chinese move to other areas, where the Bridgeport and the Brighton Park neighborhood. It is located at the south and south west of Chinatown, where a large number of Chinese are living there now. Most of those who fought for the limited housing were new immigrants and elderly. According to the Chinese American Service League (CASL), 70 percent of the residents in Chinatown were new immigrants in 1990. In addition, 40.6 percent of Chinatown households were having elderly over 65 years old and 90 percent of the elderly population was economically disadvantaged. (Chicago-Chinatown, 1996)1 Another expansion was during the late 1980s; a group of Chinatown business leaders bought 32 acres of Archer Avenue property from the railroad and eventually built Chinatown Square, a two-level mall full of restaurants, beauty salons and law offices, etc. That covered the way for additional residential construction, most notably Santa Fe Gardens, a 600-unit village of townhouses, condominiums and single-family homes, which was just finished constructing early in this year.(Olivo and others, 2004)4

At the beginning, the progress of the Chinatown Square development was devastatingly slow. There were a couple of reasons. One of the reasons was the city development and extension of the McCormick Place impacted on the planning design of the square as well as the transportation service availability. The other reason was because of environmental issue. The Chinatown Square was detected with toxins, which cost $400,000 and a long period of time to cleanup. Even though the Chinatown Square went through a lot of difficulties, the city of Chicago showed their support of the project by contributing $7.2 million and offered to build needed streets, sewers and sidewalks. (Chicago-Chinatown, 1996)1

As soon as the project of Chinatown Square started, another issue arose. That is, the lack of coordination of the present business restaurants owners. Chinatown had been heavily depended on restaurants business, which the owners competed by offering lower prices to attract customers. As a result, it was hard to convince these businessmen to compromise and coordinated with the project of Chinatown Square. Therefore, the construction of the Chinatown Parking Lot was an instructive procedure to unite these businessmen to cooperate. The result turned out to be very successful, and it accomplished the goal of Chinatown community which joined restaurants together to work for a common goal. (Chicago-Chinatown, 1996)1

In addition to the expansion of Chinatown Square, some Chinese moved to the north of Chicago where in the so-called “New Chinatown.” This new Chinatown is located along Argyle Street between Sheridan Road and Broadway. However, this community soon was dominated by most Vietnamese. Therefore, when mentioned about Chinatown, people still consider the one that is located in Wentworth Avenue and Cermak Road.

Lately when I visited Chinatown, I realized that restaurants were still the most popular and frequent business. Another standard business in Chinatown are the Chinese Supermarkets. Chinese Supermarkets play a major role in Chinatown, which bring most present Chinese Americans, new immigrants as well as tourist to visit Chinatown. To most Chinese, they prefer to buy groceries and daily food in these supermarkets because they prefer eating their own type of cuisine. Also, the markets sell products that are actually from China, which are priced lower and sometimes even fresher than in Jewel’s or Dominicks’ supermarkets. The third major and attractive businesses in Chinatown are stores that sells ceramics and china figurines. These stores targeted towards tourist of other ethnicity or culture who have interest in buying traditional Chinese designed decorations. There are more other small yet successful businesses in Chinatown such as cleaners, bakeries, travel agencies, etc.

Surprisingly, the Chinatown in Chicago does not have much architecture that was built with traditional Chinese inspirations compared to Chinatown in other cities such as San Francisco or New York City. It is because this community is built on what had been an Italian and Croatian neighborhood. The most visible Chinese architecture you can see is the Chinatown Gate at the entrance of Wentworth Avenue, which is decorate with colorful Chinese characters declaring “The World Is For All.”(Kiang, 1992)3. On the other side of the Wentworth Avenue, where the Chinatown Square is located, there is a big mural that shows the history of Chinese immigrants in America. There are also some sculptures with animals showing the Chinese Zodiac, which describes people’s personality according to the year they were born.

Today, Chinatown is a unique place for tourist in Chicago. It has become part of the typical community in Chicago and yet maintains its Chinese culture and heritage. A range of new Chinese professional, business, cultural and social organizations have developed in the community. There are some Sunday Schools that offer Chinese classes for the new generation who are born in the States. Many Chinese parents would like to send their children to these schools in order to maintain their original culture and languages. In addition, Chinese media has also built up their technology knowledge, offering a variety of Chinese dramas and television shows to the Chinese community. Major Chinese holidays and festivals like Chinese New Year and Moon Festival unites the community as a whole. These events not only tightens the community among Chinese, but also brings together other Asian communities with Chinese heritage, including Vietnamese, Malaysians, Singaporeans, and other Southeast Asians.(Steffs, 2000)5

Moreover, the Chicago Park District required a 12-acre of old rail yards, which was located on West 19th Street to create a park called Ping Tom Memorial Park around Chinatown in 1991. The District decided to build this park because of lacking green space in this community. In 2002, the Chicago Park District obtained another 5-acre on the north side of the park.(Chicago Park District, 2002)2 Besides environmental issues, housing conflicts has declined in the late 20th century. Even though there are still a lot of new immigrants who came to America every year, they are usually professionals who have higher incomes. Therefore, they would like to move to the suburbs because of a higher living standard, spacious property and nicer environment.

In the past century, Chinese have been fighting for their rights and raising their voice in the community. Cooperation and unity in the community has brought success and prosperity to the business in Chinatown. Meanwhile, the expansion of Chinatown has also made Chinese proud on their culture without letting their new generation down.

Notes:

1. Chicago-Chinatown, “History,” Chicago-Chinatown Online; available from

http://www.chicago-chinatown.com/cgi-bin/view.cgi?li=26; Internet; accessed on 23, Nov. 2005

2. Chicago Park District, “Park and Facilities: Ping Tom Memorial Park,” Chicago Park District Online; available from http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/

index.cfm/fuseaction/parks.detail/object_id/312b8327-51fb-4d79-984d-b8bd3eb3af32.cfm; Internet; accessed on 23, Nov. 2005

3. Ying-cheng (Harry) Kiang, “Chicago’s Chinatown,” in Encyclopedia of Chicago, 1992; Internet; accessed on 23, Nov. 2005

4. Tracy Steffes, “Chicago Chinese,” in Encyclopedia of Chicago, 2000; Internet; accessed on 23, Nov. 2005

5. Antonio Olivo and Oscar Avila, “Chinatown’s new reach expands its old borders,” Chicago Tribune (2004). [e-Journal] http://metromix.chicagotribune.com /localguide/neighborhoods/mmx-040718-neighborhoods-chinatown,0,6697674.story?coll=mmx-ng_heds (accessed on18 July, 2004).

Bibliography

Chicago-Chinatown, “History,” Chicago-Chinatown Online; available from

http://www.chicago-chinatown.com/cgi-bin/view.cgi?li=26; Internet; accessed on 23, Nov. 2005

Chicago Park District, “Park and Facilities: Ping Tom Memorial Park,” Chicago Park District Online; available from http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/

index.cfm/fuseaction/parks.detail/object_id/312b8327-51fb-4d79-984d-b8bd3eb3af32.cfm; Internet; accessed on 23, Nov. 2005

Kiang, Ying-cheng (Harry), “Chicago’s Chinatown,” in Encyclopedia of Chicago, 1992; Internet; accessed on 23, Nov. 2005

Steffes, Tracy, “Chicago Chinese,” in Encyclopedia of Chicago, 2000; Internet; accessed on 23, Nov. 2005

Olivo, Antonio, Avila, Oscar, “Chinatown’s new reach expands its old borders,” Chicago Tribune (2004). [e-Journal] http://metromix.chicagotribune.com /localguide/neighborhoods/mmx-040718-neighborhoods-chinatown,0,6697674.story?coll=mmx-ng_heds (accessed on18 July, 2004).



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