Learning Seattle’s Immigrant History
Guest blogger: Mercedes Santiago
One of the first thing I observe in visiting a new city are the people particularly the diversity of people. Seattle largest immigrant population is Asian-Pacific American so I was most interested in visiting Wing Luke Asian Museum in Chinatown. I had originally planned a visit there because it had an exhibition of Bruce Lee and thought my son would enjoy this aspect of the tour. But to my surprise the history and culture of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino settlement captured our full attention (Bruce Lee became a side note).
The docent gave us insights on how the migration affected each cultural group here and abroad as they left their loved ones to work in this fast growing region that needed laborers. We went into one of the original building (next door to the museum opened only for tours) Yick Fung Mercantile store where the immigrants bought supplies and more importantly were mentored by store keeper and got to hear news from back home. The owner kept the store well into his later years and donated it to the museum.
Afterwards, we were able to visit the boarding house, the Freeman SRO Hotel, where the men lived in cramp quarters with only enough space for a small bed. When docent said that the building held over 100 rooms; I was in disbelieve. We walked through the building the dining room/meeting space, kitchen with it’s limited facility, and viewed the surrounding area from the windows. The docent shared their stories of sacrifice, building a new life with all the prejudice and discrimination so common in immigrant history. We left with a greater understanding, compassion and appreciation for the contribution made by this community.
May I note at the entrance is an exhibit of the first Asian American elected to public office who is Wing Luke…. his history is well displayed. It was an honor to experience this museum. I thank Wing Luke for having the strength of character and vision to keep the history of immigrants in front of us; hopefully we gain more knowledge and tolerance that is so needed in our present political climate.
Click here to Reply or Forward