Mexicali, known as the city that captured the sun, in part because of its hot temperatures, is located just across the Mexican border from California. It has one of the largest Chinese communities in Mexico.
CCTV America’s Martin Markovits reports.
Less than a century ago, La Chinesca, Mexicali’s Chinatown was made up of a series of underground tunnels and basements under Chinese storefront shops. The Chinese built these underground tunnels to escape Mexicali’s oppressive heat and also to hide from Mexico’s immigration authorities. Historians say because of Mexicali’s proximity to the border, bootleggers also used the tunnels to smuggle alcohol to the U.S. during prohibition. Now, tours are given to commemorate this lost community.
The Chinese first came to Mexicali from the U.S. after the completion of the railroads in the early 1900s. They were hired to build an irrigation system in the Mexicali valley. Soon, the Chinese outnumbered the Mexicans.
Anti-immigrant sentiment engulfed Mexico after the Mexican revolution, and as a result, many of Mexicali’s Chinese population had to live in hiding.
Immigrants survived in these tunnels well into the latter part of the 20th century, until earthquakes and floods forced them to evacuate. But La Chinesca still remains a symbol of the humble beginnings of the Chinese community — one of the most vibrant ex-pat groups in all of Mexico.
It is important that their history and contributions are remembered.