Land of Smoke and Mirrors: A Cultural History of Los Angeles

By Vincent Brook | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
LAsians

Accepting that the Paleoamerican and Amerindian migrations embarked from the Asian continent, and not counting the African origins of Homo sapiens, the Asian connection to Los Angeles is the most primordial. By the time of the European incursion in the 1500s, however, this line had become a faint trace in the genealogical palimpsest, long since absorbed into the Chumash, Tongva, and other Amerindian strains. A more recent Asian and Pacific Island imprint was etched courtesy of the Spanish conquests, which included the Philippines, and enabled the Mexican Filipino Antonio Miranda Rodriguez to qualify as a quasi pobladore. Quasi because (as noted in chapter 7), though Rodriguez and his daughter were slated to join the motley settlers who founded La Reina de Los Ángeles, his daughter fell ill and Rodriguez stayed behind to care for her, only arriving in the pueblo, after the child’s death, two years later.1 Either to honor their original intent or expecting their imminent arrival, Los Angeles listed both Miranda and his daughter, Juana Maria, in its census of December 31, 1781.2

The first modern wave of Asian migration to the city occurred in the mid1800s. A confluence of events—the Taiping Rebellion, Opium Wars, Gold Rush, and American railroad construction—drove and lured masses of Chinese immigrants to California. By the 1860s, a Chinese enclave had been established in Los Angeles along Calle de los Negros (Negro Street), so-named for its darkskinned Mexican residents and later dubbed (by racist Anglos) Nigger Alley.3 Lacking Mexican Americans’ link to the Spanish Fantasy Past and their European connection to whiteness, the Chinese found themselves even more at odds with the city’s American construction as a white Protestant mecca. Owing to their exploitation as cheap immigrant labor, Chinese also became scapegoats for the economic insecurity generated by the roller-coaster boom and bust cycles of the late 1800s.

Racially tinged violence eventually erupted all along the coast, culminating, in Los Angeles, in the infamous Chinese massacre of 1871. Denied naturalized citizenship and other legal rights similar to those denied to Indians (and, for

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Land of Smoke and Mirrors: A Cultural History of Los Angeles
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iv
  • Contents viii
  • Acknowledgments x
  • Prologue 1
  • Introduction 5
  • Part One - Original Si(G)N 23
  • Chapter 1 - The Ramona Myth 25
  • Chapter 2 - Ramona Revisited 43
  • Part Two - Si(G)N City 65
  • Chapter 3 - "City with Two Heads" 67
  • Chapter 4 - What Price Hollywood? 83
  • Part Three - L.a. Noir 103
  • Chapter 5 - Bright and Guilty Place 105
  • Chapter 6 - Neo-Noir 126
  • Part Four - Multicultural L.a 151
  • Chapter 7 - Latinos 153
  • Chapter 8 - Blacks 170
  • Chapter 9 - Lasians 189
  • Chapter 10 - Langlos and Lagbts 209
  • Conclusion 233
  • Notes 243
  • Index 281
  • About the Author 303
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