Yellow Peril in a Globalized Tijuana: The Dog-Meat Incident, NAFTA, and Chinese Immigrant Labor

Lo Yen City

In October 2015, while in Tijuana’s Moustache Bar listening to anarcho punk from Mexico City, Pomona, and Riverside, I ran into a familiar Chinese woman in the bar’s patio. This Chinese woman who did not identify herself by name to me, can be seen frequently throughout Tijuana in her daily vending routes, especially in El Centro (downtown) and the Pasaje Rodriguez. Pushing her cart and shouting, “Chun-kuuuun! Chun-kuuun!”[1] she sells chicken, vegetable, and shrimp egg rolls for twenty and thirty pesos each, the equivalent of a dollar-fifty and two dollars. She has even caught the eye of the San Diego Reader, who identified the 31-year-old vendor as Liang Yanfen.[2] Many people coming from … [Read more...]

Congressional Conflicts: 50 Years since Hart Celler, the Long Arc of Legislative Immigration Politics


In a recent New York Times editorial, Nicolas Kristof returned to an old saw, one he visited in 2006: the Asian American Model Minority paradigm/stereotype/myth (the latter part all depends on your individual inclination). Needless to say, a white guy wading into such waters elicited some reactions, both in 2006 and over the weekend. Anyone following prominent Asian American academics – Ellen Wu, Erika Lee, Arissa Oh, among others on Twitter could gauge that reactions were less than favorable: Lee even appeared on NPR to discuss the matter of immigration and “Model Minority” tropes over the weekend. During the roughly three and half minute discussion, the University of … [Read more...]

A Law of Unintended Consequences: The Ironies, the Tragedies, and the Triumphs of the 1965 Immigration Act

American Committee on Italian Migration Records, IHRC159, File 62, University of Minnesota

On October 3, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed what became, in retrospect, one of the most influential pieces of legislation not only from his own administration, but in the post-1945 history of the nation. “This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives, or really add importantly to either our wealth or our power,” the President told an audience of dignitaries, politicians, and other on lookers at New York’s Liberty Island. “Yet it is still one of the most important acts of this Congress and of this administration.” Indeed, over the past decade or two, it has become … [Read more...]

Donald Trump’s (and America’s?) Latino Problem: Oranges, Immigration, and Labor in Southern California

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 11: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters during a political rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump spoke about illegal immigration and other topics in front of an estimated crowd of 4,200. (Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty Images)

When Donald Trump bellowed his now-famous screed against immigration, accusing Mexican migrants of crime, disease, and more or less undermining America, howls could be heard across the nation in response to what many saw as racist, cynical demagoguery. For California and Los Angeles, his comments hit home particularly hard. After all, this past June it was announced that in July 2014, at nearly 15 million, Latinos surpassed whites as the state's largest ethnic group. Of the 55 million plus Latinos nationally, California's share of Hispanics ranked first among all other states, with Los Angeles County tops within the Golden state.1 From piñatas to the unmentionable, Mexicans and Mexican … [Read more...]

Innocents Abroad: Reimagining the Immigrant Frontier in “Slow West”


“He was an officer.” “Wearing a dress don’t make her a lady. He ain’t soldier least no more … injun slayers.” “Wearing a dress don’t make her a lady,” Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) tells his new mentee, Scottish 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Indeed, the first dialogue exchanged between the two in the new western, Slow West could serve as the film’s coda. Things are rarely what they seem, expectations do not often meet reality, and the stories we tell ourselves, whether about love, identity, or history, frequently obscure unpleasant truths. Cavendish had travelled from “the cold shoulder of Scotland to the hot baking heart of America,” Selleck tells viewers in the … [Read more...]

Indiana GOP Rep. Decries Creeping “Ving Rhames-ification” of America


Mark Lawson, a Republican lawmaker from Evansville, spoke out on Tuesday against a trend that he sees as threatening the future of the United States.  President Obama's executive order allowing some 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country was a gross violation of the separation of powers under the Constitution, Lawson said on the floor of the State House.  He also referred to the recent announcement of Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential bid, saying that it did not matter whether a Democrat or Republican won in 2016. "If America keeps allowing thieves and criminals to run rampant over our laws and Constitution," Lawson said, "there won't be much of a Constitution left when the … [Read more...]

Courting Division: How Three Southern California Court Cases Bolstered and Hindered Multiracial Civil Rights Movements


With Barack Obama's second term inauguration in January and the multiracial coalition assembled for his 2012 victory, observers everywhere hailed America's new demographics and electoral shifts: increasing numbers of Asian and Latino American voters exerting a national influence. But for Southern Californians, and Californians more broadly, this sort of diversity is old hat. Granted, in the early twentieth century, white Midwestern and Southern migration drove population growth in Los Angeles and Orange County. Reyner Banham acknowledged these early waves: "They brought with them ... the prejudices, motivations, and ambitions of the central heartland of the USA."1 While it remains true … [Read more...]

Only Some May Follow: Southern California, Asian Americans, and Housing during the Cold War

Japanese Internment - Not America's greatest moment

“Years of media abetted conditioning to the possibility of war, invasion, and conquest by waves and waves of fanatic emperor worshiping yellow men,” the late writer Michi Nishiura Weglyn pointed out, “invariably aided by harmless seeming Japanese gardeners and fisherfolk who were really spies and saboteurs in disguise – had invoked latent paranoia as the news from the Pacific in the early weeks of the war brought only reports of cataclysmic Allied defeats.”[1]  Indeed, even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and internment, the U.S. government questioned the loyalty of its Japanese citizens. The F.B.I. and Naval intelligence had performed exhaustive surveillance of the Japanese minority and … [Read more...]

Trying to Be Someone in Irish, Working-Class Brooklyn: Alice McDermott’s Someone

bruce davidson 1959 brooklyn gang photo

At the end of Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil, we see Tanya, a jaded gypsy, reflecting on the death of her ex, Hank Quinlan, a corrupt detective who had just been shot by his partner.  “He was a lousy cop,” she says matter-of-factly. “Is that all you have to say for him?” asks Schwarz, another cop.  Tanya brushes aside the question.  “He was some kind of man,” she says.  “What does it matter what you say about people?” What indeed.  If Breaking Bad recently reminded us of the futility even the most powerful and dynamic people face when they attempt to preserve a legacy (linking Walter White to Shelley’s "Ozymandias"), we might wonder what the everyman and everywoman may hope to expect … [Read more...]

Making Place: Mapping South El Monte and El Monte

PowerPoint Presentation

South El Monte Arts Posse’s upcoming project “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte” will use interdisciplinary workshops to create a digital archive. Our hope is that our archive will be accessible to community members, journalists, and scholars and thus produce more written and other forms of cultural production about El Monte and South El Monte. Ultimately, we hope this will produce a better sense of place. Over a four-week period (Jan to Feb 2014) we will be bringing a range of professionals from Mexico City to work in South El Monte and El Monte with community members. Together, we will create a range of primary sources--oral histories, creative … [Read more...]


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