Sunday, November 9, 2014

Austin's Chinatown

By the middle 2020s, Austin will have more Asians than African-Americans.  Austin already is a town without an ethnic majority. Moreover, the texture of the Asian groups is changing.  In the middle 1980s, most Asians here were Chinese and connected to the University of Texas.  Granted that the demographers differentiate Taiwanese (7.9%) from Chinese (12.2%), nearly a fifth (18.1%) of the Asians are Vietnamese, giving them substantial visibility. (City of Austin data PDF here.)  The city even tracks their family names, mapping the Trans, Nguyens, and Phams (PDF here).   

Fu, Lu, and Shou,
the three gods of traditional folk religion
representing Happiness, Prosperity, and Longevity
stand under the welcoming gate.

The City of Austin notes: "This highly entrepreneurial population has opened new businesses, purchased restaurants, made loans available to its network and acquired real estate." In fact, in her essays and book on "Bourgeois Virtue" Deirdre McCloskey goes into some detail on how co-ethnics within a wider culture create these community networks. They exemplify many of the fundamental virtues of commercial culture, including the importance of reputation and the willingness to trust.

Southwest National Bank. The doors are in
Chinese characters, Romanized Chinese
and Vietnamese: Ngân hàng quốc gia

Across the street from the Southwest National Bank
The first character means da "big" (a man with arms out).
The second character may be "auspicious".
The last two compounds are yin hang "bank" 
= silver (metal under mountain) 
+ capable, to do.
 "Amazingly, by the middle of the next decade, the number of Asians in Austin will more than likely exceed the number of African Americans.  While the general population of Austin doubles every 20 to 25 years, the number of Asians in Austin is doubling every ten years." (City of Austin "Top Ten Demographic Trends" report here.) 

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