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Looking Like the Enemy

Japanese Mexicans, the Mexican State, and US Hegemony, 1897-1945

Jerry García

Publication Year: 2014

At the beginning of the twentieth century, thousands of Japanese citizens sought new opportunities abroad. By 1910, nearly ten thousand had settled in Mexico. Over time, they found work, put down roots, and raised families. But until now, very little has been written about their lives. Looking Like the Enemy is the first English-language history of the Japanese experience in Mexico.
Japanese citizens were initially lured to Mexico with promises of cheap and productive land in Chiapas. Many of the promises were false, and the immigrants were forced to fan out across the country, especially to the lands along the US border. As Jerry García reveals, they were victims of discrimination based on “difference,” but they also displayed “markers of whiteness” that linked them positively to Europeans and Americans, who were perceived as powerful and socially advanced. And, García reports, many Mexicans looked favorably on the Japanese as hardworking and family-centered.
The book delves deeply into the experiences of the Japanese on both sides of the border during World War II, illuminating the similarities and differences in their treatment. Although some Japanese Mexicans were eventually interned (at the urging of the US government), in general the fear and vitriol that Japanese Americans encountered never reached the same levels in Mexico.
Looking Like the Enemy is an ambitious study of a tumultuous half-century in Mexico. It is a significant contribution to our understanding of the immigrant experience in the Western Hemisphere and to the burgeoning field of borderlands studies.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii


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pp. xiii-2

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Introduction: The Japanese Experiment in Mexico

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pp. 3-13

On the morning of August 18, 1897, Mexican police awakened the Japanese consul general in Mexico City, Murota Toshibumi. Murota was informed that eight Japanese from the Enomoto Colony in Chiapas journeyed nearly thirty days through mountains and were in the capital waiting...

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Chapter One: Japanese Mexicans, Immigration, and the Public Imagination, 1897–1910

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pp. 14-41

The state of Chiapas invokes images of indigenous groups, the Zapatista uprising that began in January 1994, the ancient ruins of Palenque, or perhaps even the lush coffee plantations along the region of Soconusco, but one does not associate the state with the origins of the Japanese diaspora...

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Chapter Two: Japanese Orientalism and the Mexican Revolution, 1910–1920

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pp. 42-73

Described above is the alleged infiltration of Pancho Villa’s camp by three Japanese Mexicans hired by the US Military Intelligence Service to hunt down and assassinate the revolutionary leader. The three Japanese Mexicans are Tsutomu Dyo from Rancho San Geronimo, who entered...

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Chapter Three: The Japanese and Post-revolutionary Mexico, 1920s and 1930s

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pp. 74-105

By the 1920s it had been over a decade since the Japanese government created a self-imposed restriction of labor to the United States, which in turn developed a diplomatic entanglement between Mexico, Japan, and the United States. Newspaper articles and the general sentiment continued...

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Chapter Four: The Long Reach of the American Empire: Japanese Mexicans, US Hegemony, and Mexican Propaganda, 1941–1945

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pp. 106-138

In October 1942 a poster could be seen throughout Mexico depicting three individuals hanged by the neck, and with the following text, “Así es el nuevo orden nazi” [This is the New Nazi Order]. The poster, titled “Nazi New Order,” by Taller de Gráfica Popular (Popular Graphic Art...

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Chapter Five: Prisoners without Chains: The Forced Relocation of Japanese Mexicans, 1942–1945

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pp. 139-160

On December 26, 1941, the United States intercepted a message from Japanese minister Yoshiaki Miura in Mexico City to Tokyo that indicated the Japanese diplomatic corps remained free to wander the streets of Mexico undisturbed. This message provided one of the first hints of Mexico’s...

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Chapter Six: El Comité Japonésde Ayuda Mutua: Hacienda Internment Camps and Japanese Resistance, 1942–1945

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pp. 161-184

In September 2008 the Japanese Association of Mexico published one of its bimonthly bulletins that featured a cover image of the Hacienda de Temixco, located south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos near Cuernavaca (see figure 6.1).1 Today, the Hacienda de Temixco is a resort...

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Conclusion: I Am 60 Percent Mexican and 60 Percent Japanese

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pp. 185-198

The experience of the Japanese in Mexico during World War II can be understood only by examining their arrival in Mexico nearly five decades earlier. The central focus of this book has been to illustrate a very different experience for Japanese in Mexico than that experienced by Japanese...


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pp. 199-230


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pp. 231-240


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pp. 241-249

About the Author

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p. 250

E-ISBN-13: 9780816598861
E-ISBN-10: 081659886X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530250
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530254

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 3 illust, 10 photos, 7 tables
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 874965288
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Looking Like the Enemy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Japanese -- Mexico -- Ethnic identity.
  • Mexico -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • Japanese -- Mexico -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Social aspects -- Mexico.
  • Japanese -- Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Mexico.
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