The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940. [González Review]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Mexico on 2012-11-26 01:27Z by Steven

The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940. [González Review]

H-Net Reviews
February, 2012

Fredy González
Yale University

Robert Chao Romero. The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010. xii + 254 pp., ISBN 978-0-8165-2772-4.

Moving across the Transnational Commercial Orbit

Robert Chao Romero’s The Chinese in Mexico, the first English-language monograph on the subject, makes an important contribution to the existing literature on the topic of immigration and race in Mexican history. Previous work on the Mexican Chinese has mostly highlighted the 1930s anti-Chinese violence in the northern part of the country. Romero departs from this historiography by focusing instead on the economic links that the Chinese in Mexico maintained with other regions of the Americas as well with home communities in Guangzhou. In addition, he offers a substantive social history of the pre-1940 Chinese community in Mexico. His work argues that the Chinese in Mexico were not passive victims of anti-Chinese violence and instead possessed a greater amount of agency than previously acknowledged. In both the United States and Mexico, the Chinese took concrete steps to resist and adapt to anti-Chinese movements and legislation.

Central to Romero’s work is the transnational commercial orbit, an economic network created by the Chinese on both sides of the Pacific and extended to Mexico after the passage of the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. It allowed the Chinese to smuggle and recruit migrant labor, collect capital for investment, and import goods for sale to Chinese businesses, all “in resistance, and adaptation, to the Chinese exclusion laws” (p. 5). The transnational commercial orbit helps explain why, after the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mexico would become an important nexus in the Chinese migrant networks of North America and the Caribbean. One aspect of this was the practice of substitution, in which Chinese workers who landed at U.S. ports of entry and obtained a transit visa en route to Cuba or Mexico switched places with Chinese merchants already based in the United States. By exchanging an undocumented Chinese migrant for a documented one, Chinese workers circumvented immigration restrictions under the Exclusion Act. The practice required coordination between Chinese communities across the Americas. In his discussion, Romero makes a case for the significance of the Chinese community in Mexico to other Asian migrations to the Americas…

Read the entire review here.

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The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2012-01-21 04:48Z by Steven

The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940

University of Arizona Press
272 pages
6.00 in x 9.00
Paper (978-0-8165-1460-1)
Cloth (978-0-8165-2772-4)

Robert Chao Romero, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies and Asian American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

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.

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