Asian NYC has many flavors. Asia is very big and diverse. Everybody is in New York. We have very big Chinese and Indian communities. The Jewish community is one of the communities that defines New York City.
West Asian NYC
South Asian NYC
SouthEast Asian NYC
East Asian NYC
When you think of Asian, you don’t usually think of Latin, but we have many connections. The First Nations of the Americas originated in Asia.
Flamenco is part of the Spanish cultural infusion that became Latin music. Flamenco originates with the Romani of Northern India and absorbed a many influences on the long journey to Andalusía, Spain.
Andalusía was the Atlantic end of the Spanish galleon route. Manila was the Pacific end.
The Filipino community is important in health care. The Jewish community is one of the communities that defines New York City. The West Indian community has Chinese and Indian peoples and culture in it.
Venice, Italy was the main European port for the Asian trade in silk and spices. Arab traders brought what we call Arabic numerals from India. Sultan Mehmed II’s conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453 caused Portuguese sailors to start exploring for a way to the Orient around Africa.
Jewish culture is an important part of Spanish culture and the culture of the Americas. Sephardic Jewish poets in Iberia wrote in Arabic for Muslim sultans and then in Spanish for Christian kingdoms. The Sephardi recovered the lost legacy of Greco-Roman culture from Greek and Latin books in the great Islamic libraries. Without this Western Civilization would not exist as we know it. When we work together, there are no limits.
Romani culture comes through the flamenco of Andalusia. By the way, the Romani people are originally from northern India. They absorbed bits of every culture between India and Spain. The fiery hands of flamenco are obviously related to Indian temple dancing.
Magellan brought Hispanic culture (mostly Christianity) to the Philippines in 1521 on the first voyage around the world (1519-1522). The day is still celebrated in the Philippines.
The Chinese island of Macao was a Portuguese trading port. After building the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad in the United States, Chinese workers built the railroads in the Caribbean. They were the first outsiders to really understand what had been done to Africans because after the legal end of human enslavement Chinese were the next workforce. The Spanish-Chinese restaurants of old New York were a legacy of Chinese in Cuba. The Puerto Rican Jíbaro (mountain farmers) have Chinese blended-in.
Indian culture also arrived in the West Indies after the end of legal human enslavement. The Caribbean culture of Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana has strong East Indian influences, even demographic pluralities. The Indian city of Goa was a Portuguese trading port. People continued speaking Portuguese there until the last generation.
[From the Editor: I was raised in Los Angeles and Bangkok, Thailand. As a child, I noticed that Mexican grandmothers and Chinese grandmothers often look like sisters. We now know that Indigenous Americans came from Siberia, and maybe across the sea from Oceania. When I see Indigenous peoples of Colombia and Brazil, I get the strongest feeling that they are part of my family from Thailand. The farther south you go, the more Indigenous people look like my Southeast Asian family. DNA studies have now confirmed the long-suspected link between Polynesians and South Americans.]
The First Americans, the First Nations of Indigenous Americans came from Asia. DNA studies of Indigenous Americans have to account for our Asian DNA.
Don’t confuse us with a disgraced president’s attempt to blame his own mistakes on China. We are not all Chinese and even Chinese Americans have been Americans since the 1500s with a large migration as railroad workers and indentured servants when legal slavery ended.
Chinese and East Indians in the Caribbean were the first outsiders to understand what had been done to the Africans, because we basically received the same treatment.
We have an Asian heritage through the Philippines, California, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. We are Jewish, Arab, Turk and Romani. We are Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi. We are Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Filipino. We are Americans.
Most of all we are all humans with families, just like you.
Asian Culture in NYC
Europeans were first exposed to Asian culture through silk and spices, but our relationship is much deeper than that.
For example, our number system is called “Arabic numerals.” They are actually a Hindu concept from South Asian. It was brought to Europe, probably through Venice, Italy, by Arab traders who followed the monsoon from ancient Ethiopia in East Africa to what are now India and Pakistan in South Asia and back. We are part of each other.
Anna May Wong was the First Chinese American Hollywood Movie Star
Wong Liu Tsong (1905-1961) was a silent film era actress. She acted in one of the first color movies, “The Toll of the Sea” in 1922. She is also remembered for “The Thief of Bagdad” by Douglas Fairbanks in 1924. This made her an international star.