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The MuralThe 360 Degree View

Chinese Railroad Workers

The need to tie the East Coast to the West Coast with a transcontinental railroad system led labor shortage of capable men. A large Chinese work force was drafted to build the railroads in extremely dangerous conditions. They were expected to work seven days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day for wages of $1.00 per day, 50 cents less than Anglo workers.

Nearly 3,000 Chinese came to El Paso from Southern California in 1881 to build the Southern Pacific Railroad project brought many Chinese workers to El Paso in 1881. Later that year the Southern Pacific Railroad became the second transcontinental railroad joining in Deming, New Mexico. After the completion of the railroad to New Orleans in 1883, many Chinese returned to their homeland, while others remained and helped build our Southwestern communities.

After 1883, Anti-Chinese sentiment created exclusion laws and Chinese emigration to the United States was virtually halted. However, during the Mexican Revolution, General Pancho Villa invaded New Mexico, and the U.S. Army sent General Pershing in an unsuccessful pursuit of Villa in Mexico. The Chinese that had settled in the Chihuahuan desert helped Pershing’s men by providing food and supplies, and they were granted entrance into the United States.

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critical thinking
What are the positives and negatives of the transcontinental railroad system?

Related Links:

Southern Pacific Railroad

Institute of Texas Cultures

Read More, Learn More:

Ambrose, Stephen E. 2000. Nothing Like It in the World : The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869. Simon and Schuster Trade: New York.