Sonora’s Anti-Chinese Movement and State Formation


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1For recent reassessment of the role of race in the construction of mestizaje, national identities and state formation in Latin America, see for example Helg A. (1995) Our Rightful Share. The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press; Ferrer A. (1999) Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation and Revolution, 1868-1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press; Grandin G. (2000) The Blood of Guatemala. A History of Race and Nation. Durham: Duke University Press.; de la Cadena M. (2000) Indigenous Mestizos. The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1919-1991. Durham: Duke University Press. For the U.S. as a racial dictatorship see Omi M. & Winant (1994:65-69). Popularized in the United States in the comparative analysis of Harris M. (1964), the concept was first formulated by Freyre G. ([1933] 1986). For reassessment and criticism of this concept see Winant H. (1994) Rethinking Race in Brazil. In Racial Conditions. Politics, Theory, Comparisons (130-147). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


2 See, Gonzalez Navarro (1974, 1994), Knight (1987) and Jonathan Brown (1983) Foreign and Native-Born Workers in Porfirian Mexico. American Historical Review vol. 98, 768-818.

3 These two decades of revolutionary disorder were punctuated in the first place by the so-called constitucionalista insurrection that following the assassination of president Francisco Madero in April 1913 resisted the counterrevolutionary regime led by the porfirista general Victoriano Huerta. In the second place by the civil war between revolutionary fractions that extended from the defeat of Huerta in mid 1914 to the victorious 1920 rebellion of Agua Prieta led by the Sonoran revolutionaries. Under the military leadership of Alvaro Obregón the Sonoran forces organized in the Ejercito del Noroeste played a pivotal role in the victory against Porfirian reaction and in the consolidation of the constitucionalista regime led by Venustiano Carranza. Obregón also led the constitucionalista army that defeated the more popular and radical forces led by Francisco Villa (Division del Norte) and Emiliano Zapata (Ejercito del Sur). For analysis, assessment and discussion of the nature and consequences of the Mexican Revolution see, Gilly (1971) and Knight (1986). For the role of the Sonorans in the revolution see Aguilar Camín 1977).

4 Between 1910 and 1919, 550 Americans, 471 Chinese, 209 Spaniards and 111 Arabs were murdered, figures that represented 2.66%, 3.25%, 0.85% and 7.25% of their respective populations.

The 1910 official census recorded 1,531 Arabs, 13,203 Chinese, 24,409 Spanish and 20,633 Americans. González Navarro M. (1974: 74-86). See also Knight A. (1986: vol. 1: 44, 150, 279), and Turner F. (1968:259-322).



5 The 1910 national census recorded for Sonora: 4,486 Chinese, 3,164 Americans, 259 Spanish and 183 Germans. The total number of Chinese in Mexico was 13,203. After Sonora the largest Chinese populations were concentrated in México City with 1,482 individuals, Chihuahua with 1,325, Yucatan with 875 and Sinaloa with 667. Including undocumented individuals not registered the total number of Chinese in México reached approximately 15,000. In 1927 the Secretaria de Gobernación registered 24,218 Chinese established in México. Its geographical distribution differed greatly from the 1910 pattern.. The development of cotton production and the Sonoran anti-Chinese campaigns influenced the increase of the Chinese population in Baja California that between 1910 and 1927 expanded from 532 to 5,889. Sonora followed it with 3,758, Sinaloa with 2,019, Chiapas with 1,265, México City with 1,602 and Chihuahua with 1,037. Hu-deHart E.(1985:197-201). For attacks against Americans see Knight A. (1986, vol.1: 68-70, 79-80, 158-162, 342-344) and Knight (1987: 53-70).

6 See Consular Reports in National Archives -- Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of México, 1910-1929 (NARA-Mex). Microcopy 274, Rolls 10 & 11. Since American owned mining corporations in Sonora constituted the most import source of revenue and loans for the constitucionalista regime they were not affected in their functioning and operations. For constitucionalista policy towards American businesses in Sonora see, Aguilar Camín H. (1967: 406 - 415) and Knight A (1986, vol.2: 412). See also, Romero Gil M. (1993: 435-456).

7 In 1913 Sonora had 238 non-Chinese businesses with capitals of more than 20 thousand pesos with a total investment of more than 18 million pesos; and 17 Chinese businesses with less than 800 thousand pesos of total investment. Six years later the former (Americans, Mexicans, Arabs and Europeans) had increased its commercial establishments to 827 with a capital of 2 ‘813,540 pesos; and the later to 434 with an investment of 2’186,935 pesos. See Hu-deHart E. (1986: 200-205), and also Hu-deHart (1980: 49-86).


8 For the Torreon massacre see Puig J. (1992: 177-228) and González Navarro M. (1974: 60-61). For attacks against Chinese in Sonora see Cumberland C. (1960:191-211) and Dennis P. (1979: 65-79).

9 It is estimated that between 1910 and 1920 more than 100 Chinese were assassinated in the state of Sonora. See Hu-deHart, E. (1985: 203), Cumberland C. (1960) and Archivo Histórico General del Estado de Sonora (AHGES) “Tranquilidad Publica” and “Quejas de Chinos,” T. 2777 (1912), T. 3061 (1916), T. 3138 (1917), T. 3141 (1917), T. 3327 (1919) and T. 3449 (1920).

10 More than 40% of the 6.078 Chinese registered in Sonora in 1919 were established in the border district of Arizpe and in the southern district of Guaymas. Nacozari and Cananea, the two most important mining towns in the state, and the border commercial center of Nogales were located in the former; and the port of Guaymas, the Yaqui Valley towns of Cajeme, Cócorit y Torin and Navojoa in the Mayo Valley in the later. Three fourths of the 5,753 working Chinese were dedicated to commerce. Of the total number of 827 Chinese commercial businesses in Sonora, 740 counted with capitals between 1,500 and 5,000 pesos; 76 between 5,000 and 10,000; and 11 with capitals larger than 10,000 pesos. 1,495 individuals reported occupations as launderer, vegetable grower, miner, artisan and day laborer. Hu-deHart E. (1985: 200-2). For a discussion of the participation of the different Sonoran areas in the Revolution see Aguilar Camín H. (1977) and Gerardo Rénique (1990: 482-534).

11 Rénique G. (1990: 42-47, 254-266). See also Ruiz (1988)

12 See Roberts B. (1992) and Carr (1973) and Tinker Salas (1997).

13 The concept of “racial common sense” was formulated following Omi and Winant (1994: 59-60) assertion that every day racial expressions and understandings constitute micro-social formulations of more complex racial projects that together conform the racial formation. Racial Formation, 59-60. I have also taken in consideration Gramsci’s (1971: 182) concept of “common sense” as the changing product of political struggle and as key element for attaining hegemony. For the ideology of honor in a frontier context see Alonso A.M. (1995).

14 Born in Sonora, Corral served as governor of the state between 1887 and 1991, later as governor of México City between 1900 and 1903, and from 1904 to 1911 as vice-President of México.

15 For a discussion of Lamarckian and neo-Lamarckian concepts among México’s scientist see Stepan N. (1991: 55-58, 128-133) and Moreno R. (1989)

16 Corral R. (1959:195-260).

17 Maytorena (1919:78).

18 Quoted in Almada (1992: 10).

19 See Castillo P and Camarillo A. (1973:33-51) and also Paz I. (1925). For a good discussion of the motivations behind the extreme Mexican animosity against the Chinese see Barth G. (1964:143-144).


20 During the summer of 1849 between 10,000 and 15,000 Sonorans representing around 7% of the total population in the state traveled to the California gold placers. For a discussion of the nature of the northern frontier labor force see Katz (1974). For the centrality of anti-Chinese racism in the formation of California’s working class see Saxton A. (1971) and (1990:293-320). For a discussion of the relationship between race, racism and working class formation see Roediger D. (1991). For early ideological influences on Mexican workers in the United States see Gómez J. and Maciel D. (1981).

1981.


21 PLM 1906 Program in González Ramirez (1981:3-29) The anti-Chinese clause of the 1906 program was eliminated in their 1909 program apparently as a consequence of the PLM leftward turn and its emphasis on the responsibility of international capitalism in creating discord and tensions among workers. Other Mexican political formations like the Club Democratico Sonorense directed by Plutarco Elías Calles also include in its demands the prohibition of Chinese immigration. The maderista Plan de Jalisco advocated the prohibition of marriages between Mexican women and men of the “black” and “yellow” races. See González Navarro M. (1974: 59-60).

22 For the critical economic situation in Sonora see AHGES T. 3072 (2da. parte), 1916 - “Informes relativos a la situacion en el estado.” For a discussion of the problems caused by the imposition of new currency see Rivera (1981:421) and Aguilar Camín (1977: 424 ss).

23 By the end of 1916 the municipality of Caborca lost more than fifty percent of its male population due to emigration to the United States. See AHGES T. 3072, Starting with the 1849 migration to the gold deposits in California male emigration to the United States became part of the Sonorans economic strategies of survival, see Rénique (1990: 132-133).

24 As was the case of other Chinese diasporic communities the number of Chinese women in Mexico was also extremely low if not negligible. Although official statistics for 1927 and 1930 counted 1,772 and 2,522 women, out of a total Chinese population of 24,218 and 17,865 respectively, these figures also included Mexican women married to Chinese men. See chart n. 2 in Hu-deHart (1986:198).


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