The 626: Chinatown Outside of Chinatown
In Monterey Park and the rest of the 626, there are many ethnic enclaves that make it so that whether you are a new immigrant that just arrived from Asia or you are an Asian American, you will find your place. My father immigrated from South Korea to Ohio and my mom immigrated from Argentina to California. The entire reason they settled in Monterey Park after getting married was because they had heard of the large Asian population. They wanted to integrate their family into the Asian community while also learning to be American.
Many Asians gather in the 626 as there are many different Asian supermarkets, restaurants and boba places to hangout at. With over 60% of the city being Asian, there are many opportunities for people to gather. To show our sense of community, we also have the 626 night market which shows representation of multiple Asian groups. There are Chinese/Lunar New Year Festivals, Cherry Blossom Festivals, and Mooncake Festivals that celebrate different Asian ethnic groups and their holidays. Even in schools, although we did not have the day off, teachers would give away dollar bills in red envelopes to honor our culture. A popular area in the 626 is the Santa Anita mall which is a part of Westfield. It features restaurants like Din Tai Fung (a popular Taiwanese dumpling place) and Papa’s Cheesecake (a Japanese dessert bakery). This shows that even a chain mall can be influenced by the culture around.
Growing up in my neighborhood, kids ran around everywhere and my neighbors and I all knew each other. My best friend growing up would never lock the doors in her house, because the area we lived in, we didn’t need to. It was very suburban, middle class, and most of my neighbors were White or Asian. Compared to a typical Monterey Park home, my neighborhood was very suburban. I lived higher up in the hills with easy access to parks and hiking trails. I lived close enough to all the stores and schools, but far enough where I didn’t hear honking and cars passing by every ten minutes. The typical income of a household in Monterey Park was about $55,000 and although my parents were of the working class, collectively my parents made above the average.
In Monterey Park, the largest ethnic group of Asians in Chinese. In 2011, an issue was brought to city council because an all-Chinese council was close to being elected. Over the years, Monterey Park has elected politicians of Asian descent so it’s not uncommon to have an all-Asian council. However, according to Stephen Lai, a political science professor at Santa Clara University, “to govern effectively, Asian American politicians have to maintain broad, multiracial appeal even as they enjoy the support of Asian American majorities.”
It’s really interesting to me how Asian-centered Monterey Park is. With neighboring cities like East LA or Montebello with such a large hispanic population, I would expect that there would be more diversity in the community. I wonder how other races would integrate into this so-called “Chinatown” and call this their home.