Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mexican Imports

Mexican Imports on Brown Avenue in Old Town Scottsdale. J. Chew was the original owner of the store (photo by Susan Haslett, April 2011).

Brown Avenue and Main Street, Scottsdale

In Old Town Scottsdale, a famous corner store called Mexican Imports stands on Brown Avenue and Main Street, just off of the main drag on Scottsdale Road. The building is bright red, and in between the words “Mexican Imports” is the picture of a Mexican man in a sombrero with a long mustache and a cigar in his mouth, an old stereotypical portrait that in the past depicted a Mexican man as potentially violent and prone to criminal behavior.  In the window front on the right statues of saints were displayed. On the left were smaller knick-knacks, some of which were guitars, maracas and small figurines that looked to be made from terra cotta and painted with bright colors.

Interesting about this site, is how it stood out from its surrounding shops that seemed to employ more muted appearances, using more pastel shades. Also, there was a map on the sidewalk across the street from the store, where it was labeled as a historic site, though no plaque describing its history could be found on the store, whereas two other sites facing Mexican Imports had plaques.  Due to a lack for research done on the store, it may mean that the store while interesting, has had little historical impact on the city other than its longevity. What was displayed, however, were various newspaper cutouts describing the origins of the store. Striking was discovering the owners -- they are Chinese and the store has been passed down generations by the Song family since it opened in the 1920, first as a grocery store until the 1950s when they transformed the store as a Mexican Imports store.  Chinese immigrants have been present in much of Arizona’s history, much like many minorities, Chinese were forced to cope with discrimination amongst whites and seen as outsiders. Through the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese immigrants would fight deportation proceedings and anti-Chinese groups within Arizona.  The highest concentration of Chinese was located in Prescott, Arizona up until the early 1900s, as many Chinese owned businesses in Yavapai County. Throughout the state Chinese Americans and Chinese immigrants owned diners, laundry stores and grocery stores.  The Mexican Import store is an example of the business impact Chinese people has had in Arizona.

- Susie Haslett, Elenia Sotelo, and Tomas Robles
Society, Scottsdale Historical. "Historic Walking Tour." n.d. (accessed April 25th, 2011).
Tintle, Rhonda. "A History of Chinese Immigration into Arizona Territory." California State University Los Angeles, 2004: 99.

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