Watsonville Chinatown

Location of 1870-1888 Chinatown circled in red.

Location of 1870-1888 Chinatown circled in red.

More local history, this time completely unrelated to traditional Chinese religion. From about 1870 to 1888, Watsonville had a Chinatown at Maple and Union on the corner where the Gene Hoularis and Waldo Rodriguez Youth Center stands today, a mere block away from the downtown plaza.

Apparently, trash pickup was a major problem in Chinatown. A September 3rd, 1874 editorial in the Watsonville Pajaronian described the problem:

This delectable sink hole of barbarism and multitudinous stinks . . . poisons the balmy breeze for twice its area around with opium, hog flesh, dead fowls, (the smell being) only second to the howling, and wrangling, and fighting of Chinamen and the lowest greasers and Indians . . . (qtd. in Lydon 184-5)

On October 1st, 1874, the Pajaronian reported on the Chinese response, which took the form of a massive trash fire in the middle of Maple Street:

. . . when the green, and black, and oily smoke rolled up toward the starry vault of heaven and the evening zephyrs gently wafted it to all part of our beautiful town, people gasped and clawed at their handkerchiefs, and remarked ‘whew’ and thought of suicide. The stench was fearful, and in less than four minutes the streets were deserted even by the dogs, and a few belated buzzards, flying but a short distance over town, caught a breath of it and with dispairing [sic] squawks fell dead upon the earth. (qtd. in Lydon 185).

While perhaps a little hyperbolic, the style of writing was at least interesting back then. Newspapers these days? Best used as mulch for gardens, in conjunction with manure to provide nutrition.


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