Mapping Angel Island
Clockwise from top right: Samantha (author; middle), sister Sydney, and dad in front of the Angel Island bell; the Immigration Station from the front; the European male detainees' dormitory; the Asian male detainees' dormitory
The Google map featured here pin points some landmarks around the Island, with distinct layers for things like tourist resources, i.e. dining and transportation to and from and in and around the island as well.
This page compiles various ways of understanding Angel Island as a location in and of itself. The photos shown above were taken during my family’s and my first trip to Angel Island and the immigration station, and frame a subjective experience of the site. The brochure from the State Park includes an official map on the last page that is actually more complete than the map I've recreated based solely on landmarks I was aware of before starting my research. In addition to listing all the camp sites and throwing the island's topography into relief, the brochure also elaborates on the island's wildlife and cultural history, thus exposing the limits of my personal rendering of the island.
My family and I chose to take the ferry from the station near Pier 39, but visitors to the island can also hitch a ride from Sausalito or Tiburon. It’s about a thirty minute trip to the Angel Island Ferry Dock. From there you may maneuver your way up a steep incline, treading carefully on a series of worn wooden beams buried in the hillside meant to serve as steps. This is the path my family and I chose.
We did little research going into the trip, which explains how we missed the fact that that the Angel Island Company, an organization affiliated with the state park system, offered two alternative methods of getting to the immigration station: a tram tour and a Segway tour. Needless to say, it was quite a trek from the ferry dock on the island to the immigration station.
I initially planned to discuss on this page the concrete physical barriers to the accessibility of a site like the Angel Island Immigration, to address certain questions concerning history and geography. For instance, I wanted to raise the question of whether the absence of this dark historical moment in our collective memories had to do with its relative physical isolation? Going further, did the station’s location on an island – deliberate in that it was to serve as both processing station and detainment station for incoming immigrants – relegate it to inferior status within general conceptions of San Francisco, the city so close to it? Instead, I came to thinking about the highly personal nature of taking a visit like bumbling tourists to a place so steeped in sorrowful history like this -- a place we had meant to visit for a while, but just, never got around to. Regarding our lack of preparedness, did we ourselves take it for granted? Was this just a place we were supposed to know...
As Asian-Americans, the immigration station holds particular, if not directly personal, significance for us. For all Americans of immigrant heritage, which is to say virtually all save for Native Americans, the site should stand for why we must never forget our pasts. Turns out that just because you inherit a history, doesn't mean it's a part of you. Thus, the immersive experience the exhibit at the station provides takes on a whole new importance. Hearing, seeing, feeling the lives of the people who passed through and made their mark on those walls leaves no room for doubt: These people were real, and their heritage lives on.
By Samantha Ching
Official Park Map Credit: "Angel Island SP." California Department of Parks and Recreation. Web. 20 Mar 2014
|Previous page on path||Samantha Ching | Author Bio, page 4 of 5||Next page on path|