Chinese immigration to Mexico

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Chinese Mexicans
sinomexicanos; chino-mexicanos
华裔墨西哥人
Ana Gabriel.jpg
Osorio Chong.jpg
Sugi Sito.jpg
Total population

15,628 Chinese nationals residing in Mexico (2012)[1]

est. 70,000 Mexicans of Chinese descent (2008)
Regions with significant populations
MexicaliMexico City
Languages
Mexican SpanishMandarinCantonese
Related ethnic groups
Overseas Chinese

Chinese immigration to Mexico began during the colonial era and has continued to the present day. However, the largest number of migrants to Mexico have arrived during two waves; the first spanning from the 1880s to the 1940s and another, reinvigorated wave of migrants arriving since the early 21st century. Between the years 1880 and 1910, during the term of President Porfirio Díaz, the Mexican government was trying to modernize the country, especially in building railroads and developing the sparsely populated northern states. When the government could not attract enough European immigrants, it was decided to allow Chinese migrant workers into the country.[2] At first, small Chinese communities appeared mostly in the north of the country, but by the early 20th century, Chinese communities could be found in many parts of the country, including the capital of Mexico City.[3] By 1930, the number of Chinese in the country was about 18,000.

However, strong anti-Chinese sentiment, especially in Sonora and Sinaloa led to deportations and illegal expulsions of Chinese-Mexican families in the 1930s with an official count of 618 Chinese-Mexicans by 1940.[4] Soon after the first wave of expulsions, efforts began to repatriate Chinese-Mexican families which resulted in two major returns and various small groups returning between the late 1930s and the 1980s. Today, there are two principal Chinese communities in Mexico, one in Mexicali and the other in Mexico City.[5]

After decades of low numbers migrating, the amount of Chinese migrants is once again growing rapidly. In the 2000 census 1,754 Chinese nationals were counted as living in the country, while in the 2010 census the number of permanent residents was up to 6,655,[6] with a total (permanent and temporary) migrant population of about 11,000.[7] In 2009, the Instituto Nacional de Migración granted 2,661 migratory requests from individuals from China, while in 2010 it was 3,620. Meaning growth for one year of 36%.[8] Of the 54,440 migrants granted permanent residency in 2013, 4,743 (8.71%) were Chinese, more than any other group except for Americans with 12,905 (23.7%).[7]

Immigration to Mexico[edit]

From book: Mexico, California and Arizona; being a new and revised edition of Old Mexico and her lost provinces. (1900) (image caption "A Balcony In The Chinese Quarter")

Mexico had its highest percentage of foreign immigrants in 1930. One reason for this is that from the 1820s to the 1920s, Mexico was mired in political instability and civil war. Another reason is that it did not have the vast areas of open land that attracted farmers to places like the United States and Argentina. Despite the small numbers, those immigrants who did come had a profound effect on their host country economically. European and U.S. investors came to dominate mining, oil and cash crop agriculture. European and Chinese immigrants took over banking and wholesale commerce as well as pioneering the industrialization of Mexico.[9]

Most Europeans who came to Mexico in the 19th century were young bachelors whose aim was to make their fortune then return to their home country to marry and retire. Most of these never considered themselves more than temporary residents and never integrated into Mexican society. Many Americans came to settle Texas in the 19th century but this eventually led to its secession and then the Mexican-American War. This soured many in Mexico to the idea of mass immigration.[9]

Despite this, there was concerted effort from 1876 to 1910 to encourage European immigration to “whiten” the population as well as bring capital into the country. The push here was to populate and develop the empty northern states as well as to promote European education and customs into rural areas dominated by indigenous people. It was thought that this would modernize the country and globalize its economy. However, the government could not entice enough Europeans to settle in the desert northern states due to the climate.[2]

Most of the white Europeans and Americans who did arrive during the late 19th and early 20th century were associated with companies interested in railroads and mines. These companies brought in Chinese and other coolie labor. Asians, predominantly Chinese, became Mexico’s fastest-growing immigrant group from the 1880s to the 1920s, exploding from about 1,500 in 1895 to 20,000 in 1910. Despite being the force behind the last major wave of immigration to Mexico, Porfirio Díaz himself became leery of foreign presence. He nationalized the foreign-built railroads and signed the first restrictive immigration legislation in the last years before the Mexican Revolution.[9]

Arrival[edit]

The earliest known arrival of Chinese to Mexico was in 1635, when a group arrived to become servants and barbers in Mexico City. The Spanish barbers protested to the Governor that they could not compete and asked that the Chinese be expelled. Instead, while the Chinese barbers were not expelled, severe limitations were put on their numbers.[10] Asian slaves who were shipped from the Spanish Philippines in the Manila-Acapulco galleons to Acapulco were all called "Chino" which meant Chinese, although in reality they were of diverse origins, including Japanese, Malays, Filipinos, Javanese, Timorese, and people from Bengal, India, Ceylon, Makassar, Tidore, Terenate, and Chinese.[11][12][13][14] Filipinos made up most of their population.[15] The people in this community of diverse Asians in Mexico was called "los indios chinos" by the Spanish.[16] Most of these slaves were male and were obtained from Portuguese slave traders who obtained them from Portuguese colonial possessions and outposts of the Estado da India, which included parts of India, Bengal, Malacca, Indonesia, Nagasaki in Japan, and Macau.[17][18] Some Spanish temporarily brought some of these Chino slaves from Mexico to Spain itself, where owning a Chino slave showed high status. A Spanish woman named D. María de Quesada y Figueroa,[19][20][21] in New Spain received a Chinese man called Miguel from Seville to serve as her slave after her son Doctor D. Juan de Quesada arranged for his return in 1621.[22] Records of three Japanese slaves dating from the 16th century, named Gaspar Fernandes, Miguel and Ventura who ended up in Mexico showed that they were purchased by Portuguese slave traders in Japan, brought to Manila from where they were shipped to Mexico by their owner Perez.[23][24][25] Some of these Asian slaves were also brought to Lima in Peru, where there was a small community of Asians made out of Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Malays, and others.[26][27][28]

The earliest mass Chinese immigration to Mexico started in the 1870s, as efforts to entice Europeans to settle in the desert north failed. One of the main reasons for this was that many Europeans could not or would not tolerate the hot arid conditions. It was then thought to bring Chinese from areas of that country with similar climates. Matías Romero pushed to allow for this early Chinese immigration as the indigenous population as considered to be weak and lazy. He argued that the Chinese were industrious, submissive to authority and would work cheaply. The proposal was accepted but to only allow Chinese men into the country as guest workers. They were not supposed to build their own communities or mix with the Mexican population. All were supposed to return to China eventually. Resistance to the entrance of Chinese began even at this time because of the obvious difference in appearance plus news of the violence directed at the Chinese in California. One of the first ships to arrive from China had 500 Chinese immigrant workers aboard with a destination of the new railroad being built in Tehuantepec.[2]

Chinese immigration was institutionalized in 1893 by the bilateral Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, which gave the Chinese immigrants to Mexico the same legal rights as Mexican nationals. Some Chinese had arrived earlier than this, establishing small colonies in Guaymas and Ensenada, but by 1895 there were still fewer than 1,000 Chinese nationals in the country.[4] The major wave of Chinese immigration occurred between 1895 and 1910, with about seventy percent coming from the United States, which had been adopting anti-Chinese measures.[9] However, several thousand Chinese were allowed to enter the country directly from China during the Cantu regime, more than 2,000 in 1919 alone.[4] Many Chinese were also brought in from the U.S. and directly from China by U.S. companies to build railroads, work in mines and work cotton fields, despite protests by Mexican workers.[29][30] This immigration caused Chinese communities to appear in a number of places in the country, including Manzanillo, Ciudad Juárez, Salina Cruz, Mazatlán, Tampico, Veracruz and Piedras Negras,[31] concentrating in northern Mexico because of its proximity to the United States and the existence of opportunities in the developing economy.[32]

Whether directly from China or from the United States, Chinese immigrants were overwhelmingly men (98%) and between the ages of 15 and 29 according to the Registro Nacional de Extranjeros (National Foreigner Registry). These laborers could be found in cotton fields, henequen plantations, mines and other labor-intensive areas from the desert north to the Yucatán.[31][33]

Males made up the majority of the original Chinese community in Mexico and they married Mexican women.[34]

A marriage between a Chinese man and a white Mexican woman was recorded in "Current anthropological literature, Volumes 1-2", published in 1912, titled "Note on two children born to a Chinese and a Mexican white"- "Note sur deux enfants nes d'un chinois et d une mexicaine de race blanche. (Ibid., 122-125, portr.) Treats briefly of Chen Tean (of Hong Kong), his wife, Inez Mancha (a white Mexican), married in 1907, and their children, a boy (b. April 14, 1908) and a girl (b. Sept. 24, 1909). The boy is of marked Chinese type, the girl much more European. No Mongolian spots were noticed at birth. Both children were born with red cheeks. Neither has ever been sick. The boy began to walk at ten months, the girl a little after a year."[35][36][37][38][39]

Many Mexican women were married by the Chinese. The Chinese who went to the Yucatan were able to learn the Mayan language more easily than Spanish.[40][41]

In East Central Quintana Roo some of the Mayans are descended from the marriages between Mayan Indian women and Chinese migrants and they were made fun of because of this by other people, although they are dealt with sympathetically, according to Alfonso Villa R.[42][43]

Mestizos and Mayans married with Chinese without restraint.[44]

These immigrants soon went from laborers to merchants, starting their own small enterprises. By the time of the Mexican Revolution, a number of Chinese merchants had considerable control of segments of the economy, especially in new markets created by the railroads and mines in states such as Sonora.[30] These Chinese businesses were concentrated in and were dominant in Sonora and Baja California, but entrepreneurial opportunities brought Chinese into other places such as Nogales, Torreón and Monterrey.[9][45] By 1910, the Chinese numbered 4,486 in Sonora alone, and were by far the largest numerous foreign presence.[9] This concentration in certain towns and businesses gave the Chinese prominence despite the fact that they comprised only between one and two percent of the overall population in Sonora between 1910 and 1930. Initially, Chinese enterprises were welcomed and protected by municipal authorities because they generated revenue and provided necessary goods. While some large—scale businesses grew, most Chinese enterprises were small, selling goods in markets, in the streets and door to door.[46]

The economic success of the Chinese in Sonora and other areas of Mexico came from its role as “middleman minority.” They filled strategic niches in Mexico’s economy. Mexican society has traditionally been divided into rich and poor with no middle class. The American and other foreign entrepreneurs in the northern states constituted a high class, while the native Mexican population remained as the lower class. The Chinese, being neither, became a kind of middleman between the two classes. The Chinese’s success was also due to a strong work ethic and frugality, but it was also due to informal and reciprocal work relationships mostly restricted to the ethnic community. Established Chinese in Mexico would hire incoming Chinese, especially from China itself, as a source of cheap and loyal labor. These new immigrants would gain business knowledge and experience along with their salaries. Many Chinese social networks developed in Mexico, especially in Mexicali which also produced a kind of informal money lending in the Chinese community, called “hui.”[4]

As part of their integration into Mexican society, most Chinese adopted a Mexican first name then used their Chinese names as surnames, which was done by Chinese in many parts of Latin America.[47] Some learned Spanish and sought naturalized Mexican citizenship.[48] The Chinese of Mexicali started the Asociación China, a social organization partly devoted to obtaining Chinese wives from overseas. The group still remains to this day.[49] However, most Chinese men did marry Mexican women, but they retained most of their customs and cultural heritage.[30] Most of these marriages were to women known from business contacts with their families. In some cases, the marriages were encouraged by the Mexican woman’s family, but in other cases secret relationships developed.[48]

In Baja California, most Chinese initially migrated to Mexicali at the turn of the century and signed on as laborers for the Colorado River Land Company, a U.S. enterprise dedicated to building developing farmland along the Colorado River and its delta. These Chinese came from the U.S. and directly from China, lured by the promise of high wages which never materialized.[49] The Americans did not directly supervise the initial clearing and irrigation work. They leased out parcels of 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) to contractors, most of whom were Chinese, who would then contract Chinese labor to create cotton farms. By 1919, there were fifty Chinese-owned cotton farms occupying nearly 75,000 acres (300 km2) producing 80% of the cotton grown in the Mexicali Valley.[4] After the initial irrigation and clearing projects, many Chinese congregated in an area of Mexicali now known as La Chinesca. By 1920, ethnic Chinese residents outnumbered Mexicans 10,000 to 700. This area boomed during the Prohibition years when Americans crossed the border to drink and gamble. Eventually, La Chinesca housed virtually all the city’s casinos, bordellos and opium dens.[49]

Dragon dance at the 2008 Spring Festival celebrations in the Barrio Chino of Mexico City.

Another area which formed a well-defined Chinese community was Mexico City. At the turn of the century, there were only 40 Chinese registered here, but by 1910, there were 1,482.[50][51] By the 1920s, the community, centered on Dolores Street just south of the Alameda Central and Palacio de Bellas Artes, was firmly established and growing.[31][52] One reason for this was that at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, many Chinese in the north migrated south to here, both to flee the violence and the growing anti-Chinese sentiment. These people joined with the Chinese already living in the capital, who had businesses in which to employ the “new Chinese.”[53] The Chinese community expanded by forming new businesses in and around the historic center of the city. One common business was the “café de chinos” or Chinese restaurantes serving both Chinese and Mexican food. These can still be found in Mexico City today.[54] One area outside of “Barrio Chino” which became home to many Chinese business was Avenida Bucareli (Bucareli Street). Here a clock was built and donated by the Chinese community to commemorate the Centennial of Mexico’s Independence in 1910. The original was destroyed during the Decena trágica of February 1913, but it was replaced.[55]

While Mexicans tried to portray Chinese men as a threat to Mexican women in Sonora, Mexican men in the United States were portrayed as a menace to white women and in the 1920s and 1930s white girls and Mexican boys were separated from each other in schools in Texas.[56]

During the Mexican Revolution Chinese embedded themselves into the economy of the Mexican state of Sonora and assumed the role of a type of "pariah capitalist", dominating retail trade, making up the biggest foreign community in Sonora, and the vast majority of the Chinese were male- there were 82 women out of 13,203 Chinese in Mexico in 1910, and in Sonora there were 119 women out of 3,167 Chinese in 1930.[57]

Due to the fact that Chinese males made up the majority of Chinese migrants, the typical experience for them was marriage to Mexican mestiza women.[58]

In Sonora several anti-Chinese campaigns broke out.[59]

Mexican women were attacked for marrying Chinese men and called "shameless", "unpatriotic", "laze", and "dirty" and accused of being lazy and marrying Chinese men for their money with their relations portrayed as "marriages of convenience", several examples of Mexican writings like corrido songs, poems, and cartoon sketches were used to mock these women. Mexican women were attacked for marrying Chinese men and called "shameless", "unpatriotic", "laze", and "dirty" and accused of being lazy and marrying Chinese men for their money with their relations portrayed as "marriages of convenience", several examples of Mexican writings like corrido songs, poems, and cartoon sketches were used to mock these women. The poem "Exile of the Chinese" ("El destierro de los chinos") was written around 1910 and attacked Mexican women who married Chinese men.[60] Some excerpts from the poem: "That she who lives with a Chinese man/Is a woman of pure convenience........She wants the Chinaman to support her/And keep her well dressed.........We hold the government responsible/Even though you may think me unwise/They should exile/Three types of people [Chinese, Mexican women who marry them, and Arabs]./The first should be the women/Who make unions with Chinese men............Burn them with hot oil/With firewood and tar.[61]

The writer of "El destierro de los chinos" also said "If the government lets them,/They will swamp our nation . . . It is urgent to take steps/So that Arabs and Chinese/Don't overrun our country. . . . Gentlemen, in your..."[62]

Mexican women who formed romantic relationships with Chinese men were attacked savagely in the poem as being seduced by "Chinese money" and as meriting punishment such as burning with hot oil, as "pitiful", "shameless", and "wicked", Mexican women in Chinese-Mexican marriages were attacked as lazy and marrying Chinese men for money since the marriages were unions of convenience and the poem said Mexico was "stain" by these women.[63]

The song "Los chinos" by Eduardo Tavo during the Mexican Revolution attacked marriages between Mexican women and Chinese men since resentment against the Chinese was based on their miscegenation with Mexican women and referred to the anti-Chinese attacks in Mazatlán in Sinaloa from 1911-1913, with Tavo attacking Mexican women and calling them "dirty", "shameful" and claiming that it was "for the love of money" that they formed unions with Chinese men and mocks Mexican women for taking up Chinese hairstyles when they married Chinese men, "And they aren't ashamed to make a Chinese bun in their hair." Chinese men were viewed as possessing sexual and economic power unmatched by Mexican men, and therefore the Chinese men were viewed as threatening Mexican manhood.[64]

The poem "El destierro de los chinos" attacked Mexican women as "She who lives with a Chinese man is a woman of pure convenience. They don't like to work. . . . She wants a Chinaman to support her and keep her well dressed.", displaying insecurity to Chinese men's economic leverage. The anti-Chinese sentiment in northern Mexico took off because Mexican men felt their economic and sexual prowess was threatened by the Chinese, since Chinese men were seen to have a sexual advantage over Mexican men and this led to the 1911-1913 anti-Chinese assaults in Sinaloa and in Sonora where the amount of Mexican men drastically decreased and in 1916 in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexican merchants started the anti-Chinese Commercial Association of Businessmen which led in 1931 in Sonora to the Chinese community being expelled.[65]

Mexican women and Chinese men initiated free unions with each other as recorded by the Chihuahua and Sonora census records, a number Chinese men and their Mexican wives and children came to China to live there while a big amount of Chinese-Mexican families were entirely expelled from northern Mexico to China, during the early 1930s 500 Chinese-Mexican families, numbering around 2,000 people in total came to China, with a large amount of them settling in Portuguese Macau and forming their own ghetto there since they were drawn to the Catholic and Iberian culture of Macau.[66] A lot of couples ended up divorcing in China due to a huge variety of factors which caused stress like culture, economic, and familial with the men leaving Macau with hundreds of Mexican women and mixed children alone. Mexican women in Macau rearing their mixed Chinese children wanted to return to Mexico saying "Even if we have to scrape bittersweet potatoes in the sierra, we want Mexico." and Mexico under President Lázaro Cardenas allowed over 400 Mexican women and their children to come back in 1937-1938 after the women petitioned, after World War II, some Chinese Mexican families also came back and after a petition by mixed race Chinese-Mexicans who had been deported from Mexico and raised in Macau led another campaign to allow them to return home in 1960.[67] Children which were born to Mexican women and sired by Chinese men were counted as ethnic Chinese by Mexican census takers since they were not considered Mexicans by the general public and viewed as Chinese.[68] The Mexican ideology of mestizaje portrayed the quintessential Mexican identity as being made from a mix of indigenous native and Spanish white, with Mexico being portrayed by racial ideologues as being made out of a south populated by indigenous natives, a central part populated by mixed white-native Mestizos, and a north populated by white Spanish creoles, Sonora was where these white Spanish creoles lived, and the marriage of Chinese with Mexicans was portrayed as particularly threatening to the white identity of Sonora and to the concept of mixed mestizaje identity of indigenous natives and Spanish since the Chinese-Mexican mixed children did not fit into this identity.[69]

During the Mexican Revolution anti-Asian attacks broke out with Japanese and Chinese targeted in the Torreón massacre in 1911 and the anti-Chinese July 1915 Guaymas massacre. A law banning Mexican women from engaging in concubinage or marriage with Chinese men was passed by the Sonoran legislature but the law was not enforced by the Turkish origin Governor of Sonora, Alejo Bey, since he did not hold any anti-Chinese feelings.[70] Arabs (Syrians and Lebanese) in Mexico were frequently mistakenly labelled as "Turkish" by Mexicans since they originated from the former Ottoman Empire.

Macrina Rabadán Figuero argued that Sonoran society considered the Chinese community as an essential component of itself despite the anti-Chinese campaigns.[71]

Around 6,078 Chinese lived in Sonora in 1919 while there were just 82 women in Mexico among the 13,203 Chinese population in 1910.[72]

2,464 Chinese lived in Sonora in 1903 where they obtained jobs like washing, gardening, cooking, and mining.[73]

Charles C. Cumberland wrote on how the Mexican Revolution impacted the Sonora Chinese.[74]

The anti-Chinese laws in Sonora were not enforced still by 1929 when Francisco Elías assumed the office of Governor of that state but after the Great Depression hit and severely impacted Mexican businesses, new anti-Chinese measures aimed at stopping Mexican women from marrying Chinese men started to get passed by October.[75]

The anti-Chinese campaigns resulted in an exodus of Chinese leaving northern Mexican states like Sonora, Sinaloa, Coahuila, Chihuahua and Mexicali, with the Chinese and their families being stripped of the property they took with them as they were forced across the Mexican border into America, where they would be sent back to China, Dr. David Trembly MacDougal said "many of these departing Chinese have married Mexican women, some of whom with their children accompany them into exile.", and after "a lifetime of skillful and honest work" they were driven into poverty by the loss of their property.[76]

Mexico's international image was being damaged by the anti-Chinese expulsion campaign and while attempts were made to reign in anti-Chinese measures by the Mexican federal government, using the war between Japan and China as a reason to stop deporting Chinese, Mexican states continued in the anti-Chinese campaign to drive Chinese out of states like Sinora and Sinaloa with citizenship being stripped from Mexican women who were married to Chinese men, labeled as "race traitors" and from the United States, Sinaloa, and Sonora, both Mexican women, their Chinese husbands and their mixed children were expelled to China [77]

The anti-Chinese campaigns resulted in an exodus of Chinese leaving northern Mexican states like Sonora, Sinaloa, Coahuila, Chihuahua and Mexicali, with the Chinese and their families being stripped of the property they took with them as they were forced across the Mexican border into America, where they would be sent back to China, Dr. David Trembly MacDougal said "many of these departing Chinese have married Mexican women, some of whom with their children accompany them into exile.", and after "a lifetime of skillful and honest work" they were driven into poverty by the loss of their property.[78]

There was a more widespread general anti-foreign sentiment sweeping through Mexico which was against Arabs, eastern Europeans, and Jews, in addition to Chinese, with the anti-Chinese movement being part of this bigger campaign, a Mexican anti-foreign pamphlet exhorted Mexicans to "not spend one penny on the Chinese, Russians, Poles, Czechoslovacs, Lithuanians, Greeks, Jews, Sirio-Lebanese, etc." a poster advocated "boycott sabotage, and expulsion from the country of all foreigners in general, considered as pernicious and undesirable." and warned against Chinese men marrying Mexican women, saying "WHATEVER IT COSTS, MEXICAN WOMAN! Do not fall asleep, help your racial brothers boycott the undesirable foreigners, who steal the bread from our children."[79]

Many Chinese migrated into Sinaloa and into cities such as Mazatlán up to the 1920s where they engaged in business and married Mexican women, this led to the expulsion of Chinese in the 1930's and Sinaloa passed laws expelling the Chinese in 1933, leading to the break up of mixed Chinese Mexican families and Mexican women to be deported to China with their Chinese husbands.[80]

By 1931 the Chinese numbered around 250,000 in Mexico and the majority of them had Mexican women as their wives with the Sinaloa and Sonora states in northwest Mexico experiencing the fastest growth in the Chinese population more than other areas of Mexico, and the Chinese community's rise and ascenion triggered the anti-Chinese backlash by the Mexicans.[81]

After several hundred Chinese men and their mixed families of Mexican wives and Mexican Chinese children were expelled from Mexico into the United States, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) took charge of these people, took their testimonies and labelled them as refugees before sending them to China, the U.S. immigration employees also included under the category "Chinese refugees from Mexico", the Mexican women and mixed Chinese Mexican children who accompanied the Chinese men and sent them all to China instead of sending the mixed children and Mexican women to Mexico in spite of it having been cheaper, since at this era of history laws and convention regarding citizenship held that women were controlled by their husbands and when they married foreign men, women had their citizenship stripped from them so the women were dealt with by their husbands' standing and conditions so while Chinese men had their testimonies collected, the Mexican women were not interviewed by U.S. immigration officials, and the Mexican women and the mixed Chinese Mexican families were sent to China, even Mexican women who were not officially married but were engaged in relationships with Chinese men. Sinaloa and Sonora saw most of their Chinese population and mixed Chinese Mexican families deported due to the virulent anti-Chinese movement.[82]

At the beginning of the 20th century the Chinese population skyrocketed in Sinaloa, the immigration to Mexico of the Chinese started in the 1860s.[83]

The anti-Chinese sentiment in Mexico was spurred on by the onset of the Great Depression, Chinese started to come to Mexico in the late 19th century and the majority of them were in trade and owners of businesses when the Maderistas came into power, marrying Mexican women and siring mixed race children with them which resulted in a law banning Chinese-Mexican marriages in 1923 in Sonora and another law forcing Chinese into ghettos two years after, and in Sinaloa, Sonora, and Chihuahua, the Chinese were driven out in the early 1930s with northern Mexico seeing 11,000 Chinese expelled in total.[84]

A former attorney general of Sinaloa, Manuel Lazcano, recalled his participation in the anti-Chinese movement in Sinaloa as a university student when he helped seize Chinese property and round up Chinese to forcibly deport into boxcars which took them out of Sinaloa, professing to be ashamed of what he did.[85]

Some families disowned the Mexican women after they married Chinese men.[86]

María de Jesús Váldez and José María Arana were part of the anti-Chinese movement in Sonora and advocated against Mexican women consorting with Chinese men and against Chinese economic power, calling for Mexican women to avoid Chinese businesses and advocated for rules they drew up such as "Chinese merchants . . . are strictly forbidden to joke in any way with their clients or customers, especially with little girls or women, as to do so is improper and detrimental to marality." and claimed that it was the most fair white skinned (blanca) women who were marrying Chinese who dominated the economy in Sinaloa, evoking alarm among the their readers.[87]

El China Antrax was a member of the Sinaloa drug cartel and was given that name because he looks Chinese.[88]

Chinese-Mexican marriages were attacked by racist Mexicans and the word "chinero" was used to attack people who sympathized with the Chinese and the word"chinacate" was a slur used by Mexicans against Chinese.[89]

Sinaloa saw hundreds of Chinese immigrants arrive long before World War I.[90]

From the northwestern border cities of Mexico down to Sinaloa the Chinese community grew over several decades.[91]

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is used to dye eyebrows and hair by Chinese women and the flowers are also used as food.[92][93][94][95]

Chinese men made up the majority of Chinese migrants going to the Americans and to Mexico, and engaged in relationships with Mexican women, the Mexican Revolution and Great Depression resulted in anti-Chinese sentiment against marriages between Chinese and Mexicans and resulted in the expulsion of Chinese from Sinaloa and Sonora in the northwest, with Chinese and their Mexican families returning to China, part of them returning via the U.S.[96]

Immigration of Mormon and Chinese who were brought in by the Mexican state Sonora was criticized by an Arizona based Spanish-language Mexican newspaper in 1878.[97]

Even when the foreign owned businesses such as Japanese, Arab, French, Germany, North American and other peoples were put together, the number of Chinese businesses was nearly double theirs in 1919 in Sonora.[98][99]

Evelyn Hu-DeHart wrote an article 'Racism and Anti-Chinese persecution in Sonora, Mexico, 1876-1932'.[100][101]

Gerardo Rénique wrote "Race, Mestizaje and Nationalism: Sonora's Anti-Chinese Movement and State Formation in Post-Revolutionary Mexico" and "Race, Region and Nation: Sonora's Anti-Chinese Racism and Mexico's Post-Revolutionary Nationalism, 1920s-1930s".[102]

From the Greater Syria region of the Ottoman Empire Arabs moved to Mexico. Arab Muslims are commonly associated with the stereottype of the "turco" (Turk) as a double dealing cheating merchant.[103]

Immigrants like Arabs, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese have tended to migrate more to Mexico's northern states like Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora, and Chihuahua due to their isolation.[104]

The Chinese owned assets and business properties were surveyed by the Sonora state government during an anti-Chinese outbreak in 1925.[105][106]

Mexican writer and journalist Montserrat Fontes said "Who has or has not lived in Sonora? We have Lebanese, Arabs, Sephardic Jews, Marranos, French, German, Irish, Japanese, Chinese and Mexicans."[107]

In Sonora it was found that there were 13 Japanese 12 Arab, 5 miscellaneous European, 6 German, 5 Spanish, 11 French, 31 North American, 316 Mexican, and 572 Chinese businesses in Sonora which were recorded from 1921-1924 by Harold Arnold.[108][109]

In the 1860s some Chinese workers were employed in mining and construction in north Mexico.[110]

Lebanese Arabs and Chinese have moved into Mexico.[111]

The Chinese immigrants were presented as polluting the mestizo identity of Mexico which was formulated by intellectuals and politicians.[112]

In the 1920s, Chinese communities in Mexico, especially in Baja California, were numerous and politically powerful locally. However, they were also split into two factions, which roughly aligned with the political situation in China at the time. One was called the Chee Kung Tong (a more conservative group) and the other Partido Nacionalista China, who supported the more westerned movement of Sun Yat Sen. These two divided business territories, especially in areas such as casinos along the border and large markets. The political struggles between these two groups gave the Chinese a violent reputation, especially in northern Mexico.[29]

During the period from 1895 to 1926, Chinese immigration grew rapidly, with the total Chinese population reaching more than 24,000 from a little over 1,000. However, expulsion and deportation in the 1930s would shrink this population to under 5,000 throughout Mexico in 1940.[113]

The maternal grandfather of Mexican singer Ana Gabriel was a Chinese man named Yang Quing Yong Chizon who adopted the name Roberto in Mexico.

Anti-Chinese movement[edit]

An anti-Chinese movement emerged during the Mexican Revolution and peaked during the Depression.[32] The experience and treatment of the Chinese in Mexico was similar to what they experienced in California in the second half of the 19th century. They were initially welcomed into unpopulated areas which needed large amounts of cheap manpower. The frontier situation in both areas also allowed the Chinese to carve out economic niches for themselves. The Chinese as a whole turned out to be hardworking, frugal, mutually supportive within their communities, and often succeeding as entrepreneurs in agriculture and small commercial enterprises. In both cases, when their numbers reached a certain percentage of the local population and when they attained a certain amount of monetary success, backlashes occurred on both sides of the border.[4]

Mexican Revolution and Torreón Massacre[edit]

In both Sonora and the Mexicali area, the Chinese came to dominate the merchant class, with Mexicali the undisputed center of Chinese settlement, economics and culture in northwestern Mexico by 1925. At the same time, resentment and hostility was growing toward the Chinese by the native Mexican population. Anti-Chinese sentiment had been voiced before the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. An anti-Chinese article was part of the 1905 platform of Liberal Party of Mexico (PLM). During the Mexican Revolution, violence against Chinese and their property occurred in the important rail junction of Torreón.

In May 1911, federal troops loyal to Porfirio Díaz that had controlled the city left and revolutionary troops supportive of Francisco I. Madero marched in. The Maderistas claimed the Chinese had "sniped" at them, and Mexican townspeople attacked individual Chinese and looted Chinese businesses. The brother of Francisco Madero, Emilio Madero, was a military commander and brought order to Torreón soon after he arrived, but by then over 300 Chinese had been killed in the Torreón massacre.[114] Francisco Madero became president in November 1911.

The Revolution culminated in multifaceted effort to “Mexicanize” the country and economy, but British and U.S. nationals and their businesses were not targeted in the same way that the Chinese were.[115] This effort to Mexicanize was strongest in the north. While Chinese persecution was mostly limited to the north, it had national implications, mostly due to the political clout of Revolution leaders coming out of the northern border states.[4]

During Mexican Revolution and the years after, a notion of “Mexicanness” (mexicanidad) was an important one politically and legally. Prior to the 1917 Constitution, people in Mexico were classed by race: white European, mestizo (mixed European and indigenous), indigenous and, to some extent African was acknowledged. This was a carryover from the colonial era caste system, which did not include Asians.[113] After the Revolution, the mestizo was adopted as a kind of ideal or “cosmic” Mexican race. All foreigners were reminded of their outsider status by Revolution leaders and became targets of movements to end foreign influence in the country. This was an open expression of the resentment that built up in Mexico during the Porfirio Díaz years. During the Revolution, many Europeans and Americans in the country left. However, since the Chinese were still barred from the United States, their numbers actually increased.[9]

As part of this nation-building effort, the notion of race was abolished by the time of the 1930 census. Prior census did take race into account and those of Chinese origin were so noted. However, the lack of a race category, plus the complicated laws concerning nationality blurred the line as to who was Mexican and who was not. This not only affected those who had immigrated from China, but also their Mexican wives and mixed-race children. Depending on when wives married their husbands and when children were born, among other factors, wives and children could be considered to be Chinese rather than Mexican nationals. While it cannot be proven that information taken from this census was used in the mass deportation of Chinese men and their families in the 1930s, their uncertain legal status reflected by it would give them little to no protection against deportations.[113]

Rise of anti-Chinese sentiment[edit]

Anti-Chinese propaganda in Mexico was prominent in the early years of the 1900s through the 1930s and mimicked that of the United States in the 19th century. The Chinese were painted as without hygiene, and responsible for vices such as opium smoking and gambling. They were blamed for spreading diseases, degenerating the Mexican race, corrupting morals, inciting civil unrest and generally undermining Mexico’s social and political makeup. Their lack of assimilation was also attacked.[4] Another accusation was that Chinese men (and almost all Chinese immigrants in Mexico were men) had been stealing employment and Mexican women from Mexican men who had gone off to fight in the Revolution or in World War I.[116]

However, the greatest resentment was economic. The Chinese were accused of competing unfairly for jobs, especially as the formerly empty northern states began to experience a surplus of labor both due to increasing population and cutbacks in industries such as mining and petroleum. After World War I and again during the Depression, the United States repatriated Mexican workers, which added to the problem. As for Chinese businesses, these were accused of competing unfairly and for illegal lending practices and excluding Mexican labor. Sentiment arose that jobs in Mexico should be reserved for Mexican workers. Various state and federal laws were enacted to this effect in the 1920s.[4][117] This anti-Chinese sentiment spilled over onto those Mexicans who had business and social ties with the Chinese, being called “chineros” and “chineras.” Marriages between Chinese men and Mexican women were banned in the early 1920s with women married to Chinese men being labeled as “traitors” to the nation and race.[118]

Anti-Chinese movements[edit]

Overall resentment eventually grew into formal anti-Chinese movements in northern Mexico,[49] with most of the people active in these groups coming from the same social class or even the same business circles as the targeted Chinese.[119] Most of these groups were formed between 1922 and 1927, with names such as the Comité Pro-Raza and Comité Anti-Chino de Sinaloa.[29] The first of these was the Commercial Association of Businessmen in the small mining town of Magdalena de Kino. It was led by José María Arana with the purpose of “defending Mexican merchants and rid Sonora of Chinese business owners.[117] Collectively, these groups pushed for the exclusion or expulsion of Chinese-Mexicans. The first major convention of these groups took place in 1925 in Nogales and formed the Comité Directivo de Antichinismo Nacional. A second umbrella group, the Liga Nacional Obrera Antichina, was formed in Tamaulipas the same year. These groups, along with many in the state and federal governments, pushed laws to segregate Chinese, prohibit interracial marriage and eventually deportation. These groups were not considered to be illicit, but rather were tolerated and even accepted by state governments and even presidents such as Álvaro Obregón and Plutarco Elías Calles.[29] Eventually, the federal government itself perceived Chinese migration as a national concern and commissioned various studies to address the alleged threats.[113]

Hundreds of Chinese in northern Mexico were tortured and murdered in the 1920s and 1930s.[49] The most serious act occurred earlier. It was the 1911 massacre of over 300 Chinese in Torreón, Coahuila, which was carried out by a faction of Pancho Villa’s army. This army would sack Chinese homes and businesses as well. This event galvanized the anti-Chinese movement in Mexico. Francisco I. Madero offered to pay an indemnity of three million pesos to the Chinese government for the act but this never happened due to the coup by Victoriano Huerta.[4][29]

Anti-Chinese sentiment in Sonora, Baja California and Mexico City[edit]

Owing to their visible presence, Chinese had experienced prejudice since they first arrived in Sonora. Negative attitudes and jokes abounded, and some people perceived Chinese as different and foreign.[46] Anti Chinese sentiment first grew strong in Sonora and became the principal center of anti-Chinese campaigns in Mexico. The powerful political leadership of this state pushed the federal government to cancel further immigration from China in 1921, with the nullification of the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, with all foreign manual labor prohibited eight years later.[4][29] The Chinese consulate in Nogales was closed in 1922.[29]

The strength of Chinese numbers in Mexicali afforded a certain amount of protection and made it a refuge for Chinese fleeing persecution in other areas, especially for Chinese in Sonora and Sinaloa after 1915. However, even here health and building codes were being selectively enforced against Chinese establishments in La Chinesca as early as 1925. The formal anti-Chinese organizations moved into Baja California in the 1930s, but it never had the strength it did in Sonora. The end of the Chinese era did not come until 1937 when President Lázaro Cárdenas expropriated most foreign land holdings and forced thousands of Chinese off of more than thirty large cotton farms. These Chinese were forced to move to Mexicali or out of the country.[4]

In other areas, including Mexico City, Chinese were being forced to live in ghettos starting in the 1920s, separating them due to supposed hygiene and moral reasons.[29] Despite efforts by anti-Chinese groups such as the Unión Nacionalista Mexicana and the Campaña Pro-raza de Distrito Federal against Chinese businesses and the beginning of expulsions from the country, the Chinese still managed to open business in and around the historic center of the city. They also took in Chinese fleeing from other parts of the country.[53]

Deportations and expulsions[edit]

Early deportations of Chinese-Mexican leaders were authorized by Alvaro Obregón due to the violence between the Chinese factions in Mexicali in the 1920s.[29] However, mass deportations did not occur until the 1930s, when nearly 70% of the country Chinese and Chinese-Mexican population was deported or otherwise expelled out of the country.[53]

Mass expulsions were mostly carried out in Sonora and Sinaloa in part because of their large populations, but Chinese were deported from all over the country. Some were deported directly to China but many others were forced to enter the United States through the border with Sonora, even though Chinese exclusion laws were still in effect there.[32] In a number of cases, Chinese were being deported without having time to sell or otherwise settle their possessions in Mexico.[29] The governor of Sonora Francisco S. Elías had judges removed if they issued “amparo” or protection orders in favor of Chinese being deported.[29] The following governor, Rodolfo Elías Calles, was responsible for the expulsion of most Chinese-Mexican families into U.S. territories. Despite the diplomatic problems this caused, Elias Calles did not stop expelling these families until he himself was expelled from Sonora. However, by that time almost all of Sonora’s Chinese-Mexicans had disappeared.[120] By the 1940 census, only 92 Chinese were still living in Sonora, with more than two-thirds of these having acquired Mexican citizenship. This had the unintended consequence of nearly collapsing the Sonoran economy.[113] The governor of Baja California, Abelardo L. Rodríguez would also actively participate in the deportation of Chinese in his state. The legal rationale was the violence associated with the two Chinese mafias but those not connected were being deported as well.[113] The state of Sinaloa reduced its Chinese population from 2,123 to 165 in the same time period.[121]

Many in the northern border states moved to other areas of Mexico in order to avoid being expelled from the country.[113] Some fled to the states of Baja California or Chihuahua, where anti-Chinese movements were not as strong.[122] Another place that many Chinese fled to was Mexico City.[51] However, entire Chinese-Mexican families were escorted to the Sonoran border with the United States and expelled to Arizona,[113] by being pushed through gaps in the border fence.[32] This strained relations between Mexico and the United States.[29] The U.S. held most of these families in immigration jails in the Southwest, then deported them to China.[32] By 1934, the U.S. presented complaints from over 3,000 Chinese-Mexicans on foreign soil. In the end, Mexico paid only a fraction of the costs demanded from it by the U.S. government for deportations to China.[123]

Chinese Mexican community in Guangdong and Macau[edit]

Face with persecution and mass deportations, many voluntarily left Mexico for China.[124] Those who left involuntarily were mostly those rounded up as entire families and either sent directly to China or forced to cross the border illegally into the United States. This included Mexican women married to Chinese men and their mixed-race children.[125] After arriving in China, most Chinese-Mexican families settled in Guangdong Province and Portuguese Macau, developing Chinese-Mexican enclaves.[124] Macau was attractive for these refugees because it had a cosmopolitan atmosphere more accepting of mixed race unions and its Portuguese influence gave it a familiar Latin cultural aspect. It was also home to many different types of refugees in the early 20th century as its population doubled to 150,000 people. The Catholic Church in Macau became crucial to this community as a place to meet, meet others, make connections back to Mexico, spiritual and economic support.[126]

Most in the community never accepted their expulsion from Mexico and would struggle for years for the right to return to Mexico. These people’s identity as “Mexican” became more salient as they experienced the hardships of China in the 20th century, living through the Japanese invasion of World War II, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Communist Revolution and the Cold War.[124][127] For the Mexican women, life was especially difficult as gender norms in China were very different from Mexico. Some of their husbands already had wives in China and they found themselves relegated to second wife or concubine status. This would often lead to break up with Mexican-Chinese children divided between households.[128]

Juan Chiu Trujillo, third from right, and his wife and children. When he was five, Chiu Trujillo, his siblings and parents were vacationing in Guangdong, China and became stranded there once Mexico started the expulsion of Chinese-Mexicans. The family fled to Macau in 1941 to escape the turmoil of WWII. He was repatriated in 1960 at age 35 along with his Chinese wife and children.[129]

The size of the Chinese Mexican community in Macau and Guangdong fluctuated over the 20th century as some moved to other places in China and others managed to return to Mexico. The community became spread out in this region and moved around.[130] By the late 1950s, the community was well-enough known in this part of China that the phrase “being like a Mexican” came to mean someone who is poor and stateless.[131]

Repatriation[edit]

While in China, Chinese Mexicans campaigned to be allowed to return to Mexico from the 1930s to the 1960s.[124] Renouncing and or disregarding their Chinese heritage was part of this, especially in the Cold War era.[132] Among the reasons Chinese-Mexican families were pushed to do this were that the problems they faced in China — including economic hardships, alienation from Chinese culture and the upheavals that occurred in that country — made Mexico a far more desirable place to live. To press their case, Chinese-Mexican related their mixed race status to the concept of “mestizaje”, the Mexican nation’s notion that its identity is based on the blending of races and cultures.[124]

From the early 1930s to at least the 1980s, smaller groups to Mexico.[124] The first major success occurred when Lázaro Cárdenas permitted the return of at least 400 Mexican women and many more Mexican Chinese children in 1937 and 1938. Their Chinese husbands and fathers, however, were not permitted to return.[133]

In the late 1950s, the Lions Club in Mexico became involved in the campaign to repatriate Chinese-Mexicans. This organization has been traditionally identified with middle-class professionals, businessmen and others who had supported the expulsion of the Chinese a generation earlier. However, these same groups, were now also anti-Communist, and so this aspect of the effort was to liberate Mexicans from a communist government. Branches of this organization in the northern states wrote letters to the federal government pressuring them to document and repatriate these Mexican nationals in China.[134] This led to the second major repatriation under President Adolfo López Mateos in 1960.[135] Although there was still resistance to the return of Chinese-Mexican, especially in Sonora, the work of the Lions Club and others was able to overcome this.[136]

Chinese Mexicans today[edit]

Chinese-Mexican restaurant owner from Mexicali.

In 2008, there were an estimated 70,000 people of Chinese descent living in Mexico.[129] There are two major Chinese communities or “Chinatowns” in Mexico today: La Chinesca in Mexicali and Barrio Chino in Mexico City. Tensions remain, however. Chinese in Mexico who do business with partners in China are often seen as a threat to national interests. Especially this concern emanates from manufacturers unable to compete with Chinese imports, and is evident in antagonistic news media and acts of hostility against Chinese businesses.[137]

Mexicali[edit]

Main article: Chinatown, Mexicali

Mexicali’s Chinese community or “La Chinesca”, with a population about 5,000 people, may be the largest Chinatown in Mexico. Part of the reason for this is that many repatriated Chinese came here as well as refugees from the defeated Nationalist China. However, since the mid 20th century, there have been few new Chinese entering the city and many Mexicans have moved here, diluting the Chinese population which was already heavily mixed.[49] There are about 10,000 full-blooded Chinese, down from 35,000 in the 1920s.[138] Marriage of these people with the general Mexican population is common. Nowadays, there are about 50,000 residents more than thought who are of Chinese descent.[138] Chinese Mexicans in Mexicali consider themselves equally “cachanilla,” a term used for locals, as any other resident of the city, even if they speak Cantonese in addition to Spanish.[49] However, Chinese-Mexicans still stand out here as owners of retail establishments, service industries and real estate concerns.[4]

Plaza de la Amistad (Friendship Plaza) Pagoda in Mexicali.

Mexicali still has more Chinese, mostly Cantonese, restaurants per capita than any other city in Mexico, with over a thousand in the city. However, this cuisine has modified over the years to local tastes. Most dishes here are served with a small bowl of a condiment much like steak sauce, which is an addition from northern Mexican cuisine. Chinese dishes are also supplemented with tortillas, seasoned rice and barbecued meats.[49]

La Chinesca still survives as the center of Chinese-Mexican identity and culture. Local Chinese associations work to preserve the Chinese language and culture through classes in Cantonese, calligraphy and the sponsorship of Chinese festivals.[49] However, few live in this area of town anymore, as it has deteriorated along with the rest of the historic center. Most of those with Chinese heritage live in the south and west of the city, along with the rest of the population. Attempts to revitalize La Chinesca and make it an attraction for tourists have not been successful.[4]

Mexico City[edit]

Dolores Street in Mexico City

Mexico City’s Chinese community or “Barrio Chino” may be the smallest Chinatown in the world.[139] Barrio Chino today is only two blocks along Dolores Street and extends only one block east and west of the street, with only seven restaurants and a few import businesses as of 2003.[55] The buildings in Barrio Chino are no different from the rest of the city, but businesses here are either restaurants or importers. Most of the shops and restaurants here had abundant Chinese-style decorations and altars, but statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe and San Judas Tadeo (a popular saint in Mexico) can be seen as well.[140]

Other than the expulsion of the Chinese in the 1930s, another reason for the small size of this Chinatown is that the Chinese-Mexican population of Mexico City has mixed with the native population and is spread out in the city.[141] According to the government of Mexico City, about 3,000 families in the city have Chinese heritage.[142] In many parts of the older sections of the city, there are “cafes de chinos” (Chinese cafes), which are eateries that serve Chinese and Mexican food.[141]

However, Barrio Chino remains the symbolic home for many of these Chinese-Mexicans, who congregate there for camaraderie and to pass on their culture.[141] The Comunidad China de México, A.C., established in 1980, sponsors Chinese festivals, classes and other activities to preserve and promote Chinese-Mexican culture. The largest annual event by far is the Chinese New Year’s celebration, which not only attracts thousands of visitors from the rest of the city, it also has major sponsors such as the Cuauhtemoc borough and Coca Cola.[140]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Augustine-Adams, Kif (Spring 2009). "Making Mexico: Legal Nationality, Chinese Race, and the 1930 Population Census". Law and History Review (University of Illinois) 27 (1).
  • Campos Rico, Ivonne Virginia (2003). La Formación de la Comunidad China en México: políticas, migración, antichinismo y relaciones socioculturales (thesis) (in Spanish). Mexico City: Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH-SEP)
  • Delgado, Grace. Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Localism, and Exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. Stanford: Stanford University Press 2013.
  • Hu-DeHart, Evelyn. "Immigrants to a Developing Society: The Chinese in Northern Mexico, 1932-1975." Journal of Arizona History 21 (1980)
  • Hu-DeHart, Evelyn. "Racism and Anti-Chinese Persecution in Mexico." Amerasia Journal 9:2 (1982)
  • Hu-DeHart, Evelyn. "The Chinese of Baja California Norte, 1910-1934." In Baja California and the North Mexican Frontier. San Diego: san Diego State University Press 1986.
  • Hu-DeHart, Evelyn. "Chinese" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 1, pp. 245-248. Chicago: Fitzroy and Dearborn 1997.
  • Jacques, Leo. "The Chinese Massacre in Torreon (Coahuila) in 1911." Arizona and the West 16 (Autumn 1974)
  • Romero, Robert Chao. The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940 (University of Arizona Press; 2010)
  • Schiavone Camacho, Julia Mara (November 2009). "Crossing Boundaries, Claiming a Homeland: The Mexican Chinese Transpacific Journey to Becoming Mexican, 1930s-1960s". Pacific Historical Review (Berkeley) 78 (4)
  • Schiavone Camacho, Julia Mara. Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migration and the Search for a Homeland, 1910-1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 2012.
  • Walton Look Lai, Chee Beng Tan, ed. (2010). The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean (illustrated ed.). BRILL

References[edit]

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