By Elisabeth Parra, CVCF Intern
For as long as I can remember I have been told not to go the Chinatown alone. As someone who grew up going to church in the downtown area, I have never been one to shy away from the homeless people or to be afraid of the “rough” exterior. Chinatown however, I did stay away from.
When it came time for me to write this blog for Chinatown, I didn’t know what I would write. At first, I did the research and found that the past to Chinatown is quite interesting. In 1860, Chinese immigrants stopped along the railroad tracks and built a city. In 1872, the city they built was established as Fresno. Those same builders, due to segregation, were forced to move to the east side of the same tracks. Thus, Chinatown was born.
Chinatown was often the first stop for many immigrants in the Central Valley. They were given access to affordable housing and a place where someone spoke the same language. Immigrants were able to find jobs where they weren’t discriminated against. Chinatown was the cultural hub of the Central Valley. It was alive with people and business.
I went to Chinatown on a Thursday morning, with my mom of course, and at first, I understood why people were afraid to come. At first glance, there are vacant buildings and a few homeless people on the streets. But if you look past that and you look at the buildings, you see the culture. As I walked through Chinatown, I wondered the stories the buildings could tell you. The vacant buildings and the broken signs show just how long they had been around and the life they must have seen.
I heard the stories and I wanted to know, what did Chinatown look like when there were businesses and people and it made me hopeful and excited. The Chinatown Fresno Foundation can see what others can’t. The culture, the potential business, the people, and the vision for Chinatown.
After visiting, I have not only found the best Chicken Teriyaki bowl in town, but I have found the past, present, and future of Fresno. The past, the bustle of the different people making America their home. The present, where Chinatown has seen its fair share of hardships and neglect. Last, but most certainly not least, the future. The high-speed rail, the housing, and the potential for growth. I can’t wait to see what Chinatown will turn into in the next couple of years.
Chinatown Fresno Foundation is a member of the Communities Organized for Resident Engagement (CORE) Initiative with the Central Valley Community Foundation and is featured in the docuseries This Day Fresno. Learn more at www.ThisDayFresno.org.
Elisabeth Parra is a Central Valley native and a Senior at Fresno State pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Media, Communications, and Journalism with an option in Advertising. She is Lead Guide at DISCOVERe and has worked as an Account Executive for The Collegian (Fresno State). After Graduation, she plans to work in the nonprofit sector or for an advertising firm. She then wants to go back to school to pursue her Master’s in Business Administration.
Growing up in the valley, Elisabeth sees all the potential and good people who want to make a difference. She one day wants to open a firm of her own. With her firm, she wants to help nonprofits with free advertising. She also plans to buy her mom a house to thank her for all she’s done for her.