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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

October 22, 2012 at 2:23 PM

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Must-see park in Tacoma teaches a history lesson

tacomachinesepavillion-m.jpg

Sketched Oct. 14, 2012

Earlier this month I set foot in downtown Tacoma for the first time since moving to Seattle six years ago. I know, about time, huh? (Faithful readers of this blog may remember that I came to Tacoma to sketch the Kalakala ferry, but I spent most of my time kayaking then, not to mention plunging into the water.)

This time the main reason of my visit was to sign copies of The Art Urban Sketching at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show, but I also had time for a little exploring with my family.

A highlight of our Sunday morning excursion was stumbling upon the Chinese Garden and Reconciliation Park on our way to the much bigger and perhaps better known Point Defiance Park.

This Chinese garden isn't only a peaceful enclave with great views of Commencement Bay; it's a place created to preserve the memory of the dreadful expulsion of hundreds of Chinese people from Tacoma in 1885.

Signs throughout the park explain how economic woes and high unemployment in the 1870s fueled the anti-Chinese sentiment that eventually led to the expulsion. "Frustrated workers made Chinese immigrants scapegoats because of their race, culture, and willingness to work for lower wages."

As I read through the signs, I was horrified to learn about these events. Many Chinese, read a sign titled "Planning of the Expulsion," were forced out of the city before November 1st of 1885, the deadline established by local authorities. And more than 200 who decided to stay were rounded up by armed men and loaded onto trains bound for Portland.

I was also impressed by the effort that went into creating the beautiful park and its majestic Chinese Pavilion in the mid 1990s. It proves that, even more than one hundred years later, it's never too late to try to heal old wounds.

For more information about the park and its mission, check the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation website at tacomachinesepark.org.


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