The opinions of the writer do not reflect the opinions of the Alhambra Source as a publication.
Alhambra’s strip malls and Chinese restaurants on Valley Boulevard were packed with people celebrating on Saturday. Lunar New Year was supposed be a joyous occasion, but all I could feel was dread this past weekend.
Before leaving home for a family lunch on January 28, I read the news about how President Donald Trump’s executive order barred people with visas and green cards from entering the country that same day because they hailed from one of seven listed Muslim-majority countries that Trump’s administration claims will pose a risk to national security. Dual citizens of a country on the list and another non-US country were also affected by the travel ban.
I feel privileged that I do not have to worry about my immigration status, that I can walk around my neighborhood in Alhambra, celebrating my ancestors’ culture without feeling like an outsider.
But my Muslim brothers and sisters have become targets of Trump’s administration, whose actions have been fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment. How could I enjoy my lunch, knowing that similar policies have been enacted to discriminate against my ancestors, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the National Origins Act of 1924?
I believe we should oppose every anti-immigration policy because it affects all immigrant communities. Exclusionary policies embolden individuals to commit other discriminatory acts against people of color.
“In the ten days immediately following the election, nearly 900 incidents of hate were reported around the country, including reports that were clearly anti-Muslim, anti-Asian, and anti-immigrant,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Advancing Justice – AAJC, in a Jan. 18 statement.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice launched a hate-crime tracking site, #StandAgainstHatred, to encourage people to report on hate-based incidents within the AAPI community and allow the organization to “identify incidents that have legal or policy responses,” the civil rights group wrote in a statement.
After wrestling with my conflicted thoughts for most of the day, I concluded that one way to resist these efforts to suppress our civil liberties and rights is to stay unapologetic about our celebration of Lunar New Year and our heritage cultures in the face of xenophobia.
My identity as a Chinese American is grounded in my exposure to the language, traditions, and for many who were born in the United States, the food, which many people flock to Alhambra for a taste, including LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold. I also have fond memories of attending Alhambra’s Lunar New Year Festival, now in its 26th year, in which I felt proud to celebrate my culture in public.
The city felt the need to create an opportunity for residents to visibly celebrate their Chinese heritage and promote interethnic understanding, which led to the festival's debut in 1991. Paul Talbot, three-term city councilman, realized there was a growing population of Asians since 1980 in Alhambra, Pinki Chen, lead organizer of the festival, told me over the phone. Alhambra, with Talbot's direction, hosted the second parade and festival in the area, following Los Angeles Chinatown’s Golden Dragon Parade, Chen said.
Adjacent cities, including Monterey Park, have held similar festivals that attract thousands of people. Alhambra’s festival on February 11 will feature a live rooster on display to honor the year of the rooster.
Multiple generations of Chinese immigrants have made Alhambra and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley their home, and they plan to keep their roots here.
Alhambra resident and Chinese American Emily Quach, who was born in New York but grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, said that she learned about Chinese traditions in the U.S., and did not experience Lunar New Year anywhere else. She felt it was important to pass down her knowledge to her daughter and nephews, and planned to use the tradition of red envelopes to teach them about the importance of saving money.
“We’re trying to let [the kids] learn that there is a celebration for Lunar New Year, because my parents passed away less than two years ago. They were usually the ones that did a lot of the celebrating and keeping the tradition, but we’re trying to incorporate what we can, so the next generation can enjoy [Lunar New Year] as well,” said Quach.
San Marino resident Frank Guo drove to Alhambra’s 99 Ranch Market on Main Street, a pan-Asian grocery store that replaced Ralph’s, to buy fresh fish for a party with his friends because all of his relatives are still in China. “The tradition of the new year is the reunion of your family, but here, for immigrants in many cases, my brothers and sisters cannot come here to the states. Sometimes it’s very hard to get a visa,” Guo said.
Guo, a small business owner, was able to find a welcoming community in the San Gabriel Valley through personal networking despite moving to the U.S. only four years ago. “When I first came here, I nearly had no friends. Fortunately, I met some very nice people and they helped me a lot,” Guo said.
Update: The article was edited to clarify which dual citizens were affected by the travel ban.