Thursday, March 4, 2010

Changes in our Little Chinatown in Sunset Park

Not being Chinese I did not notice changes in the Chinese side of the nabe. It took a visit to the Wikipedia article on the nabe to inform me of changes occurring right under my nose. I had not realized that the population makeup had shifted from Cantonese to Fujianese. From the article;

Brooklyn's Chinatown is now very quickly becoming the New Little Fuzhou(小福州) or Brooklyn's East Broadway(布鲁克東百老匯) and is now surpassing the one within Manhattan's Chinatown as the largest Fuzhou population/community in NYC unlike the Little Fuzhou within Manhattan's Chinatown remains surrounded by areas that are mostly Cantonese populated and in some parts moderately Cantonese populated. The Fuzhou ratio out of total Chinese population in Brooklyn's Chinatown however has already surpassed the Fuzhou ratio out of total Chinese population in Manhattan's Chinatown and it is rather becoming Fuzhou Town(福州埠) because it is also emerging beyond the current borderlines of the Chinese community on 7th and 9th Avenues and north onto 50th-42nd streets. Even though the Chinese community is starting to become a Chinese Fuzhou community and there are now hardly Cantonese residents residing there, there are still many Cantonese people living in ethnic-integrated areas near the Chinese community, there are still many Cantonese shops between 50th-62nd streets on 8th Avenue, however it is slowly on the decline in replacements to Fuzhou shops emerging and many Cantonese people coming from other parts of Brooklyn and other areas come into the Chinese community to go shopping and to eat in restaurants to meet up with family members and friends for socialization on the weekends. The Cantonese community identity is fading away very quickly unlike Manhattan's Chinatown still successfully continues to carry a large Cantonese population and successfully continues to retain the large stable Cantonese community/business district where the Cantonese residents still have a place of gathering for shopping and going to work that was established in the western portion/main section of Manhattan's Chinatown decades ago. By 2009 many Mandarin-speaking people moved to Sunset Park.

I frankly had not noticed the change and all this came as news to me. I did notice a change in some of the businesses opening and closing, but I took that to be the result of the ebb and flow of the business cycle. I suppose a part of me would have preferred that the neighborhood would have become a mix, rather than one group driving another one out. When I moved here back in 1970 the neighborhood was an eclectic mix of ethnic groups. 8th Avenue had a fair number of Italian, Irish and Scandinavian shops sprinkled with many Dominican and Puerto Rican bodegas. All of that is gone. The neighborhood once the home to large Puerto Rican and Dominican population is far less so with Puerto Ricans moving out of the neighborhood in what could only be called droves. Dominicans still remain, but even they are moving out, being replaced by Hondurans, Ecuadorians, Salvadorans and especially Mexicans.

The only thing it seems that is remaining constant it appears is me. I have been here 40 years, but I wonder sometimes if I won't be swept out of here by circumstance. So what do we do when the last Cantonese restaurant closes? Will there still be Mexicans in the neighborhood in ten years? Will I still be alive by then and will I even care?

One thing that is constant about this neighborhood is the constant change. Sometimes though, I let my memory wonder to the past. To shops that used to be, neighbors and friends no longer here. And while some buildings do remain the change is constant. Will I even recognize the neighborhood in ten years?

Heck, I would not have noticed the change along 8th Avenue if I had not read the Wikipedia piece, Chinese all sounds the same to my ear. Being of Latin American origin Spanish is my venue and those changes I have noticed. But I ask myself, are there other changes I haven't noticed? Is this the way it is all across this land? Is the America I emigrated to in the 60's a vanishing place? I suspect it is, and while English is still a predominant language I wonder how much longer the mythical America called the United States will exist. It is metastasizing to something else, and I suspect the old America will vanish in a generation or two into something else that none of us who are alive today will even recognize.

Maybe I am wrong, I may have to revisit this post in a few months and have a totally different perspective. Then again maybe not. One thing is certain, the old neighborhood and the old America only lives in our fading memories and when we die it will perish with us.

[where: 11232]
[where: 11220]
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1 comment:

SF in BK said...

Did you mean to use the term 'metastasizing/" It is a rather negative term, and insinuates that you don't like the changes happening in your neighborhood or in America. Perhaps the way America is changing is for the better, did you ever think of that? Also, it is suprising that you identify yourself as Latino and then shake your head at the way America has changed, since the Hispanic population has probably been the larges, if not one of the largest population explosions right here in the goold old US of A.