Becoming Mexican Across the Pacific: The Expulsion of Mexican Chinese Families from Mexico to China and Diasporic Imaginings of a Mexican Homeland, 1930s–60s

Sunday, January 10, 2010: 11:40 AM
Torrey 3 (Marriott)
Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho , University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX
Chinese men arrived in Mexico after Chinese Exclusion in the United States.  Chinese concentrated in the north due to its proximity to the United States and opportunities in the developing economy.  Chinese men forged a variety of ties with Mexicans including romantic liaisons with Mexican women.  Anti-Chinese campaigns emerged in the border state Sonora during the Mexican Revolution of 1910.  Spreading rapidly and gaining tremendous power, the movement reached its zenith during the Great Depression when the United States forcibly repatriated hundreds of thousands of Mexicans.  Overlapping partially with Mexican “repatriation,” a mass expulsion of Chinese occurred in Sonora and its southern neighbor Sinaloa.  Mexican women and Chinese Mexican children accompanied Chinese men for a variety of reasons.  Some Chinese men and Mexican Chinese families departed Sonora and Sinaloa through Mexican ports.  Others traversed the Mexican-U.S. borderlands, landing in the custody of U.S. Immigration Service agents who, in enforcing the Chinese Exclusion Acts, jailed and deported them to China.  Complicating international relations, the United States accused officials in Sonora of violating its immigration laws by forcing Chinese across its border.  Mexican Chinese families faced great challenges in their new locations in Guangdong province.  While some families remained unified, others broke apart.  The Mexican Chinese families, congregated in Portuguese Macau.  The colony’s Catholic and Iberian culture was similar to Mexico’s and the Mexican Chinese found niches.  Over time, they created a coherent enclave whose web extended to British Hong Kong as well as Guangdong.  The concept of the “Mexican homeland” gained increasing salience in the context of great flux in mid-twentieth-century China.  The Mexican Chinese “became Mexican” over time and from abroad as they struggled to return to Mexico.  Following these families across borders and oceans, this paper examines larger questions of nationalism and “diasporas.”
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