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As portrayed in the excellent PBS documentary Becoming American - The Chinese Experience, the Chinese also worked as small time merchants, gardeners, domestics, laundry workers, farmers, and starting in 1865, as railroad workers on the famous Transcontinental Railroad project.
, the first Asians to come to the western hemisphere were Chinese Filipinos who settled in Mexico. Later around 1840, to make up for the shortage of slaves from Africa, the British and Spanish brought over slaves or "coolies" from China, India, and the Philippines to islands in the Caribbean, Peru, Ecuador, and other countries in South America. Around that time and as you may remember from your history classes, gold was discovered in America.
Eventually, Filipino sailors were the first to settle in the U. However, the first large-scale immigration of Asians into the U. Lured by tales and dreams of making it rich on "Gold Mountain" (which became the Chinese nickname for California), The Gold Rush was one of the pull factors that led many Chinese to come to the U. to find their fortune and return home rich and wealthy.
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Although a handful of Chinese workers were allowed to participate in the final ceremony and a small group were personally congratulated by Stanford Leland and his partners who financed the project, perhaps not too shocking, the Chinese workers were forbidden from appearing in the famous photograph of the ceremony, even though without their work and their lives, the project may never have been completed. history, a specific ethnic group was singled out and forbidden to enter the U. Because they were forbidden from owning land, intermarrying with Whites, owning homes, working in many occupations, getting an education, and living in certain parts of the city or entire cities, the Chinese basically had no other choice but to retreat into their own isolated communities as a matter of survival.
Further, as Helen Zia points out in her excellent book The speeches congratulated European immigrant workers for their labor but never mentioned the Chinese. These first Chinatowns at least allowed them to make a living among themselves.Even though much of their efforts would be unsuccessful, the actions demonstrated that above all else, they wanted to become Americans and be treated just like any other American.Rather than accepting the demeaning stereotype of them as perpetual foreigners, Chinese Americans showed that they wanted to assimilate into American society and contribute to its growth, prosperity, and culture.Most of these early Chinese workers were from the Guangdong (also called Canton) province in China.However, there were also push factors that drove many to want to leave China.The Chinese workers actually went on strike for a few days and demanded that they get paid the same amount as the other ethnic groups.