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The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940

By Robert Chao Romero

Publication Year: 2010

An estimated 60,000 Chinese entered Mexico during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, constituting Mexico's second-largest foreign ethnic community at the time. The Chinese in Mexico provides a social history of Chinese immigration to and settlement in Mexico in the context of the global Chinese diaspora of the era.

Robert Romero argues that Chinese immigrants turned to Mexico as a new land of economic opportunity after the passage of the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. As a consequence of this legislation, Romero claims, Chinese immigrants journeyed to Mexico in order to gain illicit entry into the United States and in search of employment opportunities within Mexico's developing economy. Romero details the development, after 1882, of the "Chinese transnational commercial orbit," a network encompassing China, Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean, shaped and traveled by entrepreneurial Chinese pursuing commercial opportunities in human smuggling, labor contracting, wholesale merchandising, and small-scale trade.

Romero's study is based on a wide array of Mexican and U.S. archival sources. It draws from such quantitative and qualitative sources as oral histories, census records, consular reports, INS interviews, and legal documents. Two sources, used for the first time in this kind of study, provide a comprehensive sociological and historical window into the lives of Chinese immigrants in Mexico during these years: the Chinese Exclusion Act case files of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the 1930 Mexican municipal census manuscripts. From these documents, Romero crafts a vividly personal and compelling story of individual lives caught in an extensive network of early transnationalism.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I am deeply grateful for the many people who have helped make this book possible. They have journeyed with me not only through the development and completion of this manuscript but also through my adventure-filled transformation over the past ten years from law student at Boalt Hall to historian and ...

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Note on Transliteration of Chinese Names

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pp. xiii

Organizational names: While the name of the Nationalist Party (Guo Min Dang) has been changed to pinyin, the Chee Kung Tong (Zhi Gong Tang) has been kept in its original Spanish-language spelling. The main reason for this is that the Guo Min Dang is a widely recognized party whose name can be ...

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1. Introduction: Chinese Immigration to Mexico and the Transnational Commercial Orbit

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pp. 1-11

Pablo Chee (see fig. 1.1) immigrated to Chiapas, Mexico, from Guangdong, China, in November 1901. Less than a decade later, after establishing himself as a successful merchant, Pablo married a Mexican woman, Adelina Palomegus. In 1910, the couple gave birth to their first son, Manuel Jesús Chee. ...

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2. The Dragon in Big Lusong: Chinese Immigration to Mexico and the Global Chinese Diaspora

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pp. 12-29

Unknown to most people, Chinese migration to Mexico dates back to the 1600s as part of the Spanish Manila galleon trade. As part of this vibrant colonial transcontinental trade, Spanish merchants purchased large quantities of Chinese luxury items, such as silks and porcelain, from Chinese ...

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3. Transnational Journeys: Transnational Contract Labor Recruitment, Smuggling, and Familial Chain Migration

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pp. 30-65

On the first of July, 1911, Chinese immigrants Hom Hing, Ah Fong, Lee Lock, Sam Seu, and Leu Lin, accompanied by their Chinese-Mexican compatriot Joaquin Mon, drove by wagon from Ensenada to Carise, Lower California. Hom Hing, Ah Fong, Lee Lock, Sam Seu, and Leu Lin were ...

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4. Gender, Interracial Marriage, and Transnational Families

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pp. 66-96

Born in the Tew Lin village of the Taishan region of Guangdong on February 6, 1906, Ramon Wong Fong Song immigrated to Mexicali, Mexico, in 1924 and became a dry-goods merchant and restaurant owner.1 In 1932, Wong made his first return visit to China and married Chin Yuk Lin. Following a two-year

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5. Employment and Community: Coolies, Merchants, and the Tong Wars

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pp. 97-144

Santiago Wong Chao arrived in Mazatlán, Mexico, in 1907 at the age of nineteen. During his first twelve years of residence in Mexico, Wong worked as an employee in both Mexican and Chinese-owned stores, as a laborer on a Chinese-owned ranch, and as a waiter in a hotel café.1 In 1919, after more ...

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6. Mexican Sinophobia and the Anti-Chinese Campaigns

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pp. 145-190

On the afternoon of June 22, 1913, Chinese store clerk Ramón Wong was murdered by a Mexican Constitutionalist revolutionary in the city of Nogales, Mexico, allegedly over a disagreement about the price of cigarettes.1 Prior to the shooting death of Wong, the Mexican soldier had unsuccessfully ...

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7. Conclusion: Re-envisioning Mestizaje and "Asian-Latino" Studies

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pp. 191-198

This book has endeavored to tell and to preserve the forgotten history of Pablo Chee, Ricardo Cuan, Alejandro Chan, and the thousands of Chinese who immigrated to Mexico during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It has attempted to trace their stories and to recreate, however humbly, ...


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pp. 199-234


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pp. 235-246


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pp. 247-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780816508198
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816514601

Publication Year: 2010