Monday, April 23, 2012

Chinese Cemetery in El Paso

El Paso’s Concordia Cemetery is chock full of history—there’s a section for Buffalo Soldiers, a “Boot Hill” for gunfighters and a unique Chinese Cemetery.
Concordia’s website says this:
“Chinese Immigrants first arrived in El Paso shortly before the Southern Union Pacific Railroad completed its line here in 1881.  The earliest immigrants opened a rooming house and a grocery store.  Soon afterwards, the U.S. Government passed the “Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), which restricted Chinese immigration.  However, enough Chinese immigrants remained to create a vibrant community throughout El Paso into the early 1920s. 

At one time downtown El Paso’s Chinese community was the largest in the state of Texas.  Chinese contributed to the area’s economy largely by growning and selling fruits and vegetables for the local market and by opening businesses, including laundries and restaurants frequented by male sojourners.  Expatriates send earnings to familes in China, wit the intention of returning to China someday.  Others stayed and married and raised families both in El Paso and Juarez.  The El Paso Chinese community retained their native culture through language (most spoke in Taishanese dialect) food, community associations, and tradition.

During the 20th century, Chinese continued to migrate to El Paso.  During the Mexican Revolution, General John “Black Jack” Pershing brought hundreds of Chinese into the United States from Mexico for their protection from racial violence.  They were allowed to immigrate following General Pershings’ petitioning of Congress.  The Chinese continued to migrate to El Paso during the Great Depression of the 1930s, prompted by the Communist takeover of China.  Today, the Chinese El Pasoan’s continue to maintain a sense of community in the city they helped build."

A truly wonderful place to step back into history, Concordia Cemetery has earned recognition including True West magazine's "Best Preserved Gravesite in the West," and from the Texas Historical Commission a RIP Guardian designationThe Concordia Heritage Association also won the Clara Driscoll Award for Preservation.

If you would like to help the Concordia Heritage Association, you can donate here.

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