Pan-Asian Metropolis — East of the Eastside, the Far Eastside

Pan-Asian Metropolis

All around the world large, multicultural cities often contain recognized, small, distinct ethnic enclaves. Los Angeles, by some measures the most diverse city in the universe, is no exception. These neighborhoods are often more ephemeral than others — coming and going in a reflection of changing patterns of immigration, marginalization, assimilation and development. In the past, for example, Los Angeles had areas widely known as French TownGreek Town, Little Italy, Little Mexico, Old ChinatownFurusato, and Sonoratown — to name a few. All are now gone with few physical reminders of their ever having existed.

Last vestiges of Old Chinatown
Last vestiges of Old Chinatown (image: Los Angeles Times)
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Runners in front of the Italian Hall in Los Angeles’s old Little Italy

In the Southland, where Asian-Americans are currently both the largest and fastest growing racial minority, most of the existing enclaves are predictably Asian. There’s Cambodia Town, Chinatown, Koreatown, Historic Filipinotown, Little Bangladesh, Little India, Little Osaka, Little Saigon, Little Seoul, Little Tokyo, and Thai Town. Officially-recognized non-Asian enclaves include only Little ArabiaLittle Armenia and Little Ethiopia. Unofficial but widely-recognized non-Asian enclaves include Little Brazil, Little BritainLittle Central America, Little Russia, and Tehrangeles. Are there others?

Los Angeles Chinatown
Chinatown
Los Angeles Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo
Little India
Little India
Thai Town
Thai Town
Cambodia Town
Cambodia Town
Historic Filipinotown
Historic Filipinotown

Interestingly, in most of these commercial districts, the titular Asian-American population doesn’t constitute the majority of the population (which is non-Asian Latino in most communities and overall). In all cases, however, they make up a sizable minority with a long-established presence and numerous corresponding services and businesses. The proposed “Peru Village” of South Vine in Hollywood boasts a whole two Peruvian restaurants – separated by a mile – which seems completely absurd to me. Imagine the head scratching that will understandably occur if one business fails or moves away at a restaurant getting its own neighborhood designation. Maybe one of our KFCs can get a Little Lexington or Hillbilly Village neighborhood designation.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the Far Eastside
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s map of the Far Eastside

Anyway, far from these commercial districts is a collection of communities where Asian-Americans make up the plurality of the population and many cases, the majority. They’re all located in the San Gabriel Valley which overall has a non-Asian Latino plurality and followed by an Asian-American population of about 30%. The SGV communities with Asian pluralities and/or majorities include Alhambra, Arcadia, Diamond Bar, East San Gabriel, Hacienda Heights, Monterey Park, North El Monte, RamonaRosemead, Rowland Heights (nicknamed by some “Little Taipei”), San Gabriel, San Marino, South San Gabriel, Temple City, and Walnut. I’ve explored and blogged about a few — to vote for any others, click here. Tongue firmly in cheek (and in reference to The Eastside) I refer to this region as The Far Eastside*.

A crowded night market in Pasadena
A crowded night market in Pasadena

Monterey Park was the first city in the world with an ethnically Chinese-American majority. Though all the communities of The Far East Side are dominated by ethnically-Chinese populations, this population includes Cantonese, mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, overseas Chinese and others. There are also large numbers of Filipinos, Indians, Indonesians, Koreans, Vietnamese as well as non-Asian Mexican-Americans, blacks, English-Americans, and people of other ethnicities and countries of ancestral origin.

Click here to check out the Far Eastside Facebook Page

*I’m aware of and sensitive to the loaded implications of the concept of the “Far East” and the “wonton typeface.” My intention is to acknowledge and play with stereotypes, not to reinforce them or offend anyone. 

*****

Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities; however, job offers must pay more than slave wages and involve neither listicles nor television personalities. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, theArchitecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured as subject in theLos Angeles TimesHuffington Post, and Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker onKCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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