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Notes from the Mexicali Chinese Underground

Excavating the subterranean history of the city’s Chinese immigrants

La Chinesca, Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico

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MEXICALI, B.C. – The Chinese shop owner stepped out from behind the 1970’s era cash register. She raised the trapdoor behind her glass display counter, revealing a set of wooden stairs covered with ancient, flaking green paint. The musty smell wafted up from the red-lit basement below, as our group descended into the subterranean world of Mexicali’s early 20th century Chinese population.

It’s a little known fact of Mexico’s history that Mexicali’s first Chinese immigrants chose to settle beneath the city’s streets. And that they built a complex system of basements and tunnels to form an autonomous subterranean community…

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