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Check Out These Classic Photos Of Chinatown In The 1980s

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The 1980s saw a big migration of L.A.'s Asian population. Once centralized in the Chinatown area, families were branching out east to neighborhoods like San Gabriel and Monterey Park. In 1980, a third of Monterey Park's households were owned by Asian families. By 1990, 53% of households were Asian-owned. There were similar trends in neighborhoods like Alhambra (9.4% to 31.9%), South Pasadena (8% to 15.7%) and Arcadia (2.7% to 16.5%). For the most part, families were enticed by the idea of moving into the suburbs, where you had a spacious front yard and a parking garage.

As this exodus went on, there was an also added sense of frisson in the air in Chinatown. For one thing, it would be celebrating its 50th birthday in 1988. Also, the political turmoil in China was on the minds of residents. The atmosphere was so tense that, after Tiananmen Square, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce shelved a New Year's float depicting the Goddess of Democracy in fear that it would provoke violence in Chinatown.

This sense of metamorphosis is depicted in a group of photos we found at the L.A. Public Library. The images are all from the 1980s. Some of them portray the passing of time (the 50th anniversary celebrations, the protests, etc) and others depict a neighborhood that's living life on the day-to-day, seemingly frozen in time.