Chinese and Japanese Immigrants and the California Dream Essay

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In the 1850’s, Chinese immigrants began entering California in search of gold and the California dream. They had heard that California was the new frontier, a frontier that would provide them with the opportunity for economic riches. Young and ambitious, many of these Chinese immigrants quickly married in their homeland and set out for the gold rush, promising to return (with wealth). Likewise, in the 1880s, when the state of California was undergoing rapid economic transformation, Japanese immigrants — just as young and ambitious as their Chinese counterparts — set out for America where they had heard the streets were “paved with gold.” But little did these Chinese and Japanese immigrants know that what they would discover in California …show more content…
Often, these store owners provided rice, noodles, and vegetables not available in Euro-American stores and supplemented the workers’ diet with vegetables grown by local Chinese truck gardeners and meat from pigs, ducks, and chickens raised by Chinese farmers (Chan 1991). While such an association between early store owners and the Chinese laborers can hardly be called a community, their relationship filled a vital social and economic niche that was often lacking for most early non-white immigrants.

Japanese immigration into California followed quite a different pattern. Needing cheap labor in order to maximize their profits, Hawaiian sugar plantation owners sent agents abroad to recruit workers. Consequently, some 39,000 Japanese went to work in sugar plantations on three-year contracts only to later discover the strains and hazards of working in what historians of Hawaii have labeled “industrial plantations” — an efficient, large-scale system that enabled the yield per acre to increase from just under 6,600 pounds in 1895 to almost 8,700 pounds in 1900 (Cole 1973). But in 1900, the Organic Law made Hawaii a formal U.S. territory, ending the entry of contract laborers while declaring all contracts null and void in Hawaii. As a result, labor recruiters from the mainland descended on Hawaii to lure the Japanese workers away with the prospect…

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