California and Changes — The North Star Reports – by Joshua Chanin. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

California and Changes — The North Star Reports – by Joshua Chanin. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Golden Gate Bridge

I recently traveled to California as part of my college’s choir trip, and viewed the wonders of the so-called “Golden State.” I went to the lavish cities of Santa Barbara and Los Angles, but my eyes were set upon the city of San Francisco. Not only was I fascinated by the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, or the high hills and trams, but I became more interested in the different kinds of people I saw in this great city. As a history scholar, I know that California has been home to many Asian-Americans since the late nineteenth century, as the indigenous peoples hired this particular group at cheap prices to help build the transcontinental railroads. But I was partially unaware at the extent of growth the Mexican-American community has had in recent years. These immigrants have settled themselves down and found home in California, enriching the state with their Hispanic culture and traditions. Like most of the Southern states in the United States, California is now home to thousands of Mexicans, wanting to start a better life, contributing to the national growing economy, and bringing in all signs of cultural flourish. According to the Public Policy Institute of California in May 2013, the state has more immigrants than any other state (and most of these recorded were from Mexico). The state has thrived with this immigration boast, as displayed in the new California culture; in the streets of San Francisco (which were predominantly Anglo-American thirty years prior) I saw numerous Latino street vendors and carts; the bay had several restaurants serving Hispanic foods and providing Mexican entertainments; and the faces of the people of Latin America were scattered in to the many other faces of San Francisco. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip, not just in the views and wonders of this great state, but also seeing how California is gradually changing and developing its own culture over time. The state has reached out and accepted the Latin American communities, adding to the increasing diversity which will definitely be redefined in the future.

San Francisco Hills

Joshua Chanin is a senior at Austin College in Sherman, TX. He is studying history, and specializes in early American, modern Latin America, and film histories.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Colombia, Norway, northeastern China, Nicaragua, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, El Salvador, England, Finland, Russia, Cyprus, and Haiti. We also publish student reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

22 responses to “California and Changes — The North Star Reports – by Joshua Chanin. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

  1. Carley Nadeau

    I liked your perspective of California. Many people forget when traveling that there isn’t just the places to see and learn about, there are also the people that live in the area. This is especially seen in the last sentence, about how California’s new immigrants from Latin America was described, “The state has reached out and accepted the Latin American communities, adding to the increasing diversity which will definitely be redefined in the future” . I felt like this was a really nice way to explain the change. Nice job!

  2. Roman Schnobrich

    I think within our generation particularly, California has become a state of dreams. After all, that’s home to hundreds of our idols, especially musicians, actors, and actresses. Did you see anyone famous while out in about in the legendary cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles? Also, how did the weather compare to the weather of Texas? I hope you were able to talk to some random people on the streets to experience some Californian culture on a local, personal level.

  3. James Fuerniss

    Cool story! San Francisco is definitely on my list of places to visit. I definitely agree that it is cool to know who’s living there, I don’t feel like I’m educated enough on demographics like that.

  4. I’m curious as to whether you mean European descendants or Native Americans when you say the Indigenous peoples hired Chinese workers. I think these culturally diverse cities are such an amazing example of America’s legacy of immigration. I love doing touristy things in cities and I feel that San Fran would have a lot of museums and cultural sites to explore. Thanks for writing such an interesting piece on a topic that is often over looked!

  5. Lindsey Bushnell

    Great observations! It is too often that some travelers forget that people live, work, and call places like San Francisco home and disrespect or ignore the life happening around them. Did you happen to visit any of these Latino restaurants or vendors during your stay? It would be interesting to see how many of those restaurants were family owned and operated, and for how long they had been there.

  6. This was a very interesting read! California is a very popular area within the U.S. as Roman stated in the previous comment it “has become a state of dreams”. One of the street vendors I spoke to when I traveled to London asked me where I was from and when I responded with “The States” she assumed I was from one of the more popular states on the list (she had never heard of Minnesota). Why did you find yourself very drawn to San Francisco in particular? Was it because of San Francisco’s rich history or it’s new increase in cultural diversity?

  7. Emily Hanson

    That’s such an interesting observation! I think one of the most fun aspects about visiting a different place is having it change your view, or what you would expect. I know personally I always go into a new destination with a picture drawn of what I think it will be like, but when I get to experience something completely different it becomes exciting and another adventure on top of the one I was expecting! I’m glad you enjoyed your trip!

  8. Thomas Landgren

    I feel like whenever we talk about California it feels like we are talking about a totally different country, with its extensive immigrant background providing further evidence. I have never been out west and someday i wish to go visit, because i feel like California is just full of history. For example you listed many sites that you visited and to think those are all in one city is very surprising. I also feel like California, New York and Washington D.C. are the places that most immigrants hear and see about which then comes into account when deciding where they want to start their new life. Great Article!

  9. Meghan Lozinski

    I love the way in which you write about this. Everything was portrayed so positively and as though it is truly enriching the culture to have such diversity. This is a growing concern in some demographics that changing cultural expectations will be a negative and will only hurt us. I think cities like San Francisco and states like California show us how much diversity can help and others should strive to see the positives like you did.

  10. Deng Dimayuga

    The differences between cities, and even more so states, in the US is amazing to me. Immigrant communities may come from a somewhat similar background, but they are also shaped by their new environment. What fascinates me the most about the Bay area is the interactions between immigrant communities as characterized by food. Never in my life had I fathomed the idea of a Korean taco, but there is certainly an abundance of food trucks that sell them.

  11. Rebecca Smith

    Interesting insight! I’ve never been able to travel to California, but it sounds fascinating. I hear about the illegal immigrant “problem” a lot in the news, but you stated that California has reached out and accepted the community; do you mean the citizens accepting the culture or the state accepting people who immigrate to the state, regardless of their status. It would be interesting to compare how different states act towards these immigrants, whether they are legal or not.

  12. Cassidy

    Thanks for writing! You have provided a great perspective beyond the typical “Cali-life” description of surfers and fame, wine country, and traffic. (Seriously, I think that’s all I hear about in California besides the drought). I’m curious if you got a sense of how (supposedly) expensive SF is? the integration of other cultures in the city makes me want to visit, too.

  13. Jimmy Lovrien

    Great to see a writer from another college here! I keep hearing about the skyrocketing rent prices in San Francisco and many attribute it to the growing tech industry. In what ways has the price of rent affected the growing immigrant population? I’d imagine that it pushes them further away from some parts of town while forcing them into other areas. Although you note there seems to be acceptance, I’m wondering if there is tensions between these two very different groups.

  14. Kyle Hellmann

    Its interesting to read that San Francisco has a massive immigration population. As Jimmy stated in a previous comment, rent is really high there! I have a friend that lives there and was lucky enough to live with a relative. Did you get a chance to see those neighborhoods where they live? If so, how nice are they? It would be be intriguing to see what the living conditions are throughout the city and be able to compare.

  15. Matt Breeze

    I like that you talk about the people of a place and not just the place itself. Often when we go to other places we get caught up in all the amazing sights and sounds and smells and forget that there are people who live in that place. The multiple waves of immigrants into California are fascinating historical processes to look at. Especially when talking about Mexican immigrants I think it is important to remember that California was a part of Mexico until the 1840’s when the U.S. took over. Each invasion or immigration or change of governing body has brought new people into the region and made California a rich place in people and diversity.

  16. Delaney Babich

    Your perspective on California is fantastic! It is nice to hear the appreciation of people trying to find a better life for themselves and their families, and that San Fransisco has accepted all type of people with open arms. Most people forget that there is more to California than the tourist attractions, but not you. Thank you for the insight, great job!

  17. Jenna Algoo

    You’ve definitely given me more to think about than the “fast-paced” life of a Californian. The perspective you share is one of a people who are so often over-looked, and that’s so awesome! We discount the people working to make a better living for their families and themselves all too often. The facts you share about California is interesting, too. I did not realize it had the largest population of immigrants Although, after thinking about it it truly makes sense, in my mind my initial thought is NYC or Texas. Thanks for the insight!

  18. Logan Davey

    San Francisco is a place on my places to go list that I haven’t been able to go to yet. Immigration is playing a big role all over the world at this time. It’s could to read that San Francisco is accepting and allowing Mexican culture to plant its roots. I’m curious to why San Francisco is a hot immigration location.

  19. Bella Williams

    I really liked this post! It’s amazing how many awesome things we can find within our own country. I do have a question: when you said that California has the most immigrants in the entire US, did you specifically mean those crossing the Mexican border, or immigrants from all places as a whole? Just a clarification question 🙂 It’s lovely how enriched our culture becomes when we introduce those of other countries. We really are a great melting pot! It’s a beautiful thing.

  20. This post was great! There are many great things out in the world and in our country to see. Myself, personally have never been to California before, this post all I thought about were the many celebs that live out there and not the place itself. It’s great to hear the how interesting the people were for a change and how great it is when our culture is enriched by the southern countries. Great post!

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