There are more than 50 Chinatowns spread across the United States. On the surface, they are vibrant cities within a city like in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston, bustling with tourists and natives seeking authentic cuisines like hot pot and dim sum, herbal medicines and tchotchkes.
Their look and feel have been replicated from city to city to be what people think of as an emblematic icon of Chinese culture, but Chinatowns weren’t always the tourist hubs we know them to be today.
What most visitors see is just one side of their longstanding history as a cultural tourist attraction, but transforming an ethnic neighborhood into a destination wasn’t without its challenges.
For as long as they’ve existed, Chinatowns have always been under threat, but their resilience to overcome decades of persecution lie in the ingenuity of their residents and the support of generations that have fought for it to survive.
Today, this unique Asian American cultural hub is coming under attack again from xenophobia, the pandemic, and government inaction— sparking a wave of local activism with support spanning across several generations to preserve a legacy.
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