Considering the vast swathe of the globe encompassed by Asia, the term may be considered more of a multi-cultural definition than a homogenous geographical one. The first Asian immigrants to arrive in Texas were Chinese laborers employed in 1870 to build the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. Additional Chinese arrived in 1881 as they followed the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad and once the line was completed some of them stayed. A Chinese exclusion law, enacted by Congress the following year, kept any more Chinese arriving in the states for the next six decades with the exception of the “Pershing Chinese,” individuals from Mexico who assisted Pershing’s troops in their pursuit of Francisco “Pancho” Villa. These Mexican Chinese were allowed to settle in San Antonio.
Japanese immigrants began arriving in Texas at the turn of the 19th century where, like the Chinese, they were initially welcomed before suffering an increasingly hostile environment. Hostilities toward Asians culminated in the World War II internment camps for Japanese Americans despite the fact that many Asian Americans served in the U.S. military and fought in the war. Asian immigration continued, however, including groups from India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
The 1970s saw the arrival of a large Vietnamese population among others, but Anglo and Asian American relationships in Texas were strained for several more years. Today, Texas is a thriving, multi-cultural state thanks to the perseverance and the presence of Asian Americans and other ethnic influences. Asian American organizations like Plano’s Asian American Heritage Foundation and the Asian/Pacific American Heritage Association in Houston help us to celebrate and honor the state’s Asian American culture.