Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Yellow Peril in a Globalized Tijuana:

Yellow Peril in a Globalized Tijuana: The Dog-Meat Incident, NAFTA, and Chinese Immigrant Labor

Lo Yen City

In October 2015, while in Tijuana’s Moustache Bar listening to anarcho punk from Mexico City, Pomona, and Riverside, I ran into a familiar Chinese woman in the bar’s patio. This Chinese woman who did not identify herself by name to me, can be seen frequently throughout Tijuana in her daily vending routes, especially in El Centro (downtown) and the Pasaje Rodriguez. Pushing her cart and shouting, “Chun-kuuuun! Chun-kuuun!” she sells chicken, vegetable, and shrimp egg rolls for twenty and thirty pesos each, the equivalent of a dollar-fifty and two dollars. She has even caught the eye of the San Diego Reader, who identified the 31-year-old vendor as Liang Yanfen. Many people coming from the US at the punk show only had dollars and she accepted them as well. The profit the Chinese woman made at the show from receiving dollars that night was surely higher than what she makes in her usual weekday sales. During a brief conversation she told me that her income decreased significantly since April 2015. In her seven-hour walking shifts she sells about thirty chun-kuns a day, a drop from the hundred she would sell daily before April. Aside from sharing with me that her street-vending became increasingly slow, she also presented a few pictures of her baby girl, whom her husband and mother care for while she works Tijuana’s downtown.

Why business was down and the dog meat story

But, what happened in April, and why did the woman tell my friend and I about the turn of events since? On 7 April 2015, Lo Yen City, a Chinese restaurant located in Tijuana’s Boulevard Fundadores, was shut down due to an anonymous tip provided to local police claiming that the restaurant was selling dog meat. This old trope about Chinese restaurants serving dog or cat meat to patrons is widely known and circulated in Tijuana, as in other places. This time the tip was taken seriously and police raided Lo Yen City because the anonymous tipper also told of a haphazard slaughter of dogs they had witnessed in the restaurants’ backyard. The tip was revealed to be sadly true in the days to come and a dog corpse was found in Lo Yen City’s kitchen. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Chinese-Mexican Cuisine You’ll Find Only Along the Border

California Foodways: The Chinese-Mexican Cuisine You’ll Find Only Along the Border

If you ask people in the city of Mexicali, Mexico, about their most notable regional cuisine, they won’t say street tacos or mole. They’ll say Chinese food. There are as many as 200 Chinese restaurants in the city. North of the border, in Imperial County, the population is mostly Latino, but Chinese restaurants are packed. There are dishes in this region you won’t find anywhere else, and a history behind them that goes back more than 130 years.

The Salcedo family sits in a coveted booth at the Fortune Garden restaurant in the city of El Centro. The mother and three adult sisters are almost drooling, waiting for their food to show up. They come from Yuma, Arizona — over an hour away — twice a month just to eat here.

A huge side order arrives, light-yellow deep-fried chilies, a dish I’ve never seen. Then a salt-and-pepper fish, which the Salcedos describe as “Baja-style,” with lots of bell peppers, chilies and onions. But have you ever heard of “Baja-style” dishes in a Chinese restaurant?

Mayra Salcedo explains, “It’s like a fusion, Mexican ingredients with the Chinese. It’s very different than if you go to any other Chinese restaurant, Americanized Chinese restaurant.”

Her sister, Marta, carefully mixes Chinese mustard, a little spicy Sriracha and ketchup into a special only-in-Imperial-Valley dipping sauce for barbecue pork.

“When they order, they don’t say barbecue pork,” says Fortune Garden co-owner Jenissa Zhou. “They say carnitas, carnitas colorada.” That’s “red pork” in Spanish.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chinese influence growing in Mexico

It was an unexpected sight in a desert city on the northern border of Mexico. One recent Sunday, children were pouring out of a school classroom into a hall hung with fringed lanterns and calling out to one another in Mandarin and Cantonese. Others were preparing decorations in another room for this month’s Chinese New Year celebrations.

Outside, restaurants lining the dusty streets displayed signs in Spanish, English and Chinese.

This is Mexicali, home to the largest Chinese community in Mexico and one of the largest in Latin America. It is the face of a new era in Mexico’s relationship with the emerging superpower across the Pacific Ocean.

“People say that Mexicali was founded by Chinese about a hundred years ago,” said Anna Yu, 39, a language teacher at the school.

Yu came to Mexicali from China about 10 years ago to join family who had settled there. “I heard Mexicali was famous for a community like this,” she said.

Since then, she has married a Mexican, learned Spanish and taught her husband Mandarin.

Yu is one of an estimated 20,000 people of Chinese descent living in Mexicali. The school where she teaches is housed in the AsociaciĆ³n China de Mexicali and exists to teach language, writing and history to younger generations in an effort to keep Chinese culture alive.

Chinese immigration to Mexico is rising rapidly. The 4,743 Chinese who arrived in 2013 made up the second-largest group of immigrants after the 12,000-odd Americans who were granted permanent residency.

Mexico is also seen as a prime destination for Chinese foreign investment, thanks to its abundance of natural resources and proximity to the U.S.

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This blog is a continuation of one started by the proprietor of The Mex Files. With not enough time he offered to pass it along and here we are. If anyone has info to contribute, please leave it in the form of a comment

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