Chinese Mexicans celebrate reparation in Mexico

By Olga R. Rodriguez
The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) — Juan Chiu Trujillo was 5 years old when he left his native Mexico for a visit to his father’s hometown in southern China. He was 35 when he returned.

As Chiu vacationed with his parents, brother, and two sisters in Guangdong province, Mexico erupted into xenophobia fueled by the economic turmoil of the Great Depression and aimed at its small, relatively prosperous Chinese minority. Authorities backed by mobs rounded up Chinese citizens, pressured them to sell their businesses, and forced many to cross into the United States.

Unable to return to their home, hotel, and restaurant in the southern border city of Tapachula, the Chius stayed in China and began a new life.

Chiu’s father took a job at a relative’s bakery and his children began learning Chinese. But their life was soon turned upside down as China was invaded by the Japanese, endured World War II, and then suffered a civil war that led to a victory by communist forces that persecuted religious people. In 1941, the family fled to Macau, then a Portuguese colony.

They never stopped dreaming of Mexico, and Juan Chiu Trujillo returned in November 1960. He came back with his pregnant wife and four children and with 300 other Chinese Mexicans after President Adolfo Lopez Mateos, trying to improve Mexico’s global image, paid for their travel expenses and decreed that they would be legally allowed to live in Mexico. They were eventually granted Mexican citizenship.

Twenty-one of those Chinese Mexicans and their descendants celebrated for the first time on Saturday, Nov. 24 the anniversary of their return. Gathering at a Chinese restaurant in Mexico City, they shared emotional memories of their lives in China and paid tribute to the late Lopez Mateos.

Adrian Lay Ruiz remembered his father, Ramon Lay Mazo, who was born in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa and who campaigned tirelessly for the repatriation while living in Macau.

“He passed down to me the Spanish language and his great longing to return to Mexico, our homeland,” said Lay, his voice breaking.

For many, the commemoration has brought reflection on their status as Chinese Mexicans. It’s a group that feels deeply Mexican, but also has been scarred by persecution by their countrymen and still faces ethnic prejudice, despite growing acceptance.

“I thought, ‘My children need to know this history. They need to know where we come from, and they need to know how much hard work it has taken for us to be here,’ ” said Chiu’s youngest son, Ignacio Chiu Chan, a 46-year-old lawyer.

Chiu Chan began a Facebook page to share photographs of the repatriation that he found in his father’s photo albums and to collect the stories of other Chinese Mexicans who were brought back by Lopez Mateos. So far, more than 260 people have joined his page, sharing images and recounting family stories.

Chiu Chan, who is married to a Mexican woman of Spanish and Indian descent and has four children, said he struggled with his identity while growing up because of bullying and got into several fights because of name calling.

He was a young bachelor when a group of elders invited him to lunch at a restaurant in Mexico City’s tiny Chinatown. Three young women were at the table and he was asked to say which one he would like to marry.

“I thought, `What are these dudes talking about?’ ” he recalled. “For the first time I felt Mexican and thought, `I don’t belong to this.’ ”

Large numbers of Chinese began arriving in northern Mexico in the late 1800s, drawn by jobs in railroad construction and cotton. The country represented a haven from the United States, which had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, an 1882 law that banned Chinese immigration.

But from the moment they began to arrive, they faced racism, which was exacerbated during the 1910-17 Mexican Revolution and its aftermath, when the country was trying to build a national identity that celebrated the mixture of Indian and Spanish cultures.

Mexican women who married Chinese men were considered traitors, and in some cases, families disowned them. With the Great Depression, large numbers of destitute Mexicans began returning home from the United States and resentment about the financial success of Chinese people grew.

“Even though there was a small number of Chinese people, their economic prowess and their position in the labor force made them a threat,” said Fredy Gonzalez, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Yale University, who is studying 20th century Chinese migration to Mexico.

In the northern border state of Sonora, anti-Chinese leagues formed and thousands of Chinese were taken to the border of the United States and forced to cross. Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, they were immediately detained by U.S. immigration officials and sent to China.

In 1930, Mexico had 18,000 Chinese citizens and Mexicans of Chinese descent. By 1940, there were only 4,800, Gonzalez said.

Today, there are at least 70,000 Chinese citizens and Chinese Mexicans in the country, according to a report in 2008 by the Foreign Relations Department.

In China, Chiu Trujillo’s Mexican mother spoke to her children in Spanish and often sang Mexican ranchera songs so loudly that she could be heard all around the stream where she washed the family’s laundry.

Their mother also instilled in her children devotion for the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint.

“We would recite the rosary in Spanish, she would teach us,” Chiu, 87, remembered during an interview in his small apartment in Mexico City’s rough La Merced neighborhood, its walls decorated with images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Jesus Christ, a couple of Chinese calendars, and lots of family photographs. “She would tell us, don’t forget you are Catholics, don’t lose your religion.”

Three years after his mother and two siblings returned, Chiu, his pregnant Chinese wife, and four children finally were flown to Mexico.

After working at his brother’s grocery store in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, he decided to move to Mexico City, where he worked as a cook and eventually opened his own cafeteria.

“I was able to give my sons an education. The boys all graduated from college,” Chiu said. “The oldest is an accountant, the second is a chemist, the third is a mathematician, and the young one is a musician.”

Chiu said he always felt more Mexican than Chinese.

“I have always thought that wherever you can find tranquility, that’s where your home is,” he said. (end)

One Response to “Chinese Mexicans celebrate reparation in Mexico”

  1. Ahmad says:

    謝謝兩位的意見 KLACK的成員感激清平的讚揚 我們將之轉為動力 也謝小丁詳加說明妳的意見 這樣認真地給予意見是少有的 知妳未能出席也想在此作一點回應 設計上有很多地方需改進 是的 它的外形未能好好地跟內在的性格配合 原因很多 如人力(四位part-time editor,後加一位full-time amin) 時間及溝通是主因 但都不能成籍口 我們大部分時間都放在資料收集及definition上 攝影的本質一直是眾多art criitc遇到的最大難題 因為它呈現的方式多項且模糊不清 ambiguity 我們想實踐及explore in photography NATURE, 最重要及困難是從本土發現 從中希望探究出香港影像及其內容上的獨特性 相信你們也明白 因為很多人也認為香港的攝影創作都是別人的影子 其實早幾年已有人說 影像內容及style在不斷重複 將來人只需要於flickr上打出自己想拍攝的東西 定必能找著 我很少說什麼跟什麼的影像是好是美 因為我寧可將影像看成是一次的觀照 也不貪戀作一本靚相集 因為更多人會做得比我好 我所能做到的是引起人去提出問題及好奇 在堂上每每遇到想法傳統單一或固執的學生 我便會熱血起來 不抗拒他們亦明白為何他們會有這些沒出路似的想法 他們存在的想法正是想去從中引問的源頭 若KLACK能引起討論 不論讚或彈 只要是觸到核心的討論我們便很滿足了 不過 它的 形 第二期必加以改善 望能形神共仔 每期要探討的本質不同 1how camera use for giving information, #2 how camera (hard machine) create sentiment #3what is time mean to photography, about duration, process. 太多的categories 但會較接近Eleanor Heartney, “Art&Today”(blues feature has been mentioned)的分類法 雖然像有很多thoery在背後 我們均盡量低調及深入淺出 What autually is seeing — it is a very very interesting question, always, at least for me :> simple but profound

Trackbacks/Pingbacks


Leave a Reply

Follow our tweets

Do you like us?

Weekly E-Newsletter

READ NWAW ONLINE!

  1. We welcome any feedback, questions or comments
  1. Are you the organizer of an Asian/Pacific Islander community event? Just fill out the following form at least 14 days in advance of your event and we’ll do our best to include it in our calendar. Please fill out the information as completely as possible. Failure to do so may result in your event not making it in the calendar.

Photos on flickr