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Anti-Chinese racism, nationalism and state formation in post-revolutionary Mexico, 1920s–1930s

Anti-Chinese racism, nationalism and state formation in post-revolutionary Mexico, 1920s–1930s
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  1 Political Power and Social Theory. Vol. 14 (2000): 91-140.  Race, Mestizaje and NationalismSonora’s Anti-Chinese Movement and State FormationIn Post-revolutionary M!ico Gerardo Rénique Associate Professor  Department of History of theCity College of the City of New Yor    A"S#RAC# !his article e"amines the mostly neglected anti#Chinese mo$ement that% supported &y  'e"ico(s official post#re$olutionary party% persecuted and finally e"pelled a large ma)ority of 'e"ico(s Chinese community* !he article analy+es the tra)ectory of this racial mo$ement from its srcins as a social and political mo$ement to its incorporation within the new orthodo"y of the post#re$olutionary state* ,n particular% it e"amines the rele$ance of anti#Chinese racism and ideology for the resolution of the hegemonic  struggle &etween the two dominant -onoran caudillos  Plutarco .lias Calles and Al$aro /&reg0n* -econdly% it considers the importance of anti#Chinese ideology and actions for the creation of consent in the 1unsta&le equili&rium2 that shaped 'e"ican politics &etween 3456 and 3478* 9inally% this article e"amines the epistemological compati&ility &etween the anti#Chinese ideology% the 1cultural re$olution2 of 'e"ico(s post#re$olutionary regimes and the racial understandings and sentiments of the mestia!e  theories informing 'e"ican re$olutionary nationalism* !he article suggests that a reconsideration of race offers a &etter theoretical understanding of 'e"ican state  formation and the cultural processes through which social identities tae form in interaction with the state% its institutions and discourses* !he treatment of race as a  political pro&lem also contri&utes to a &etter understanding of the mechanisms and  processes that transform diffuse racial sentiments% perceptions and e"pectations into militant and politically organi+ed racial mo$ements* Introduction "n the 19#0s$ a racial mo%ement s&onsored and su&&orted 'y eico*s o++icial  &ost-re%olutionary &arty &ersecuted and$ +inally$ e&elled a lar,e ma!ority o+ eicos hinese community. /lthou,h thorou,hly documented 'y state institutions at the time$ as well as in the a'undant literature ,enerated 'y the anti-hinese mo%ement itsel+$ the tra,ic e%ents leadin, u& to this e&ulsion ha%e recei%ed scant attention in the literature on eicos &ost-re%olutionary &eriod. ne e&lanation +or this ne,lect is su,,ested 'y  2 e++rey oulds com&ellin, analysis o+ the ideolo,ical wei,ht o+ mestia!e or the idea o+ racial and cultural miture in entral /merican national &ro!ects. Ta3in, icara,ua as a case study ould demonstrates how the myth o+ mestia!e has ser%ed to eliminate indi,enous history and culture +rom 'oth intellectual accounts --includin, those associated with the Sandinista re,ime5and indi,enous historical memory (ould$ 1996). oncei%ed and &o&ularied 'y 7atin /merican intellectual and &olitical elites as a means to di++erentiate 7atin /merican society +rom the 8racial dictatorshi& o+ the nited States mestia!e --li3e the 8mulattoiation es&oused 'y the ;railian and u'an elites5is widely ima,ined as the +oundation o+ a 7atin /merican 8racial democracy which is (su&&osedly) +ree o+ the sti,ma o+ 'oth race and racial discrimination. 1  <or the case o+ eico$ =ni,ht and others ha%e ar,ued that mestia!e was the %ehicle 'y which 7atin /merican elites ha%e en%isioned a &olitical community o+ culturally and racially homo,eneous indi%iduals that is &rescri'ed 'y modern notions o+ the li'eral nation-state (/. =ni,ht$ 1990). /lon, with ould and =ni,ht$ " a&&roach mestia!e as 'oth a ,eneralied strate,y o+ racial and national +ormation$ and as a somewhat idiosyncratic %ersion o+ the ideolo,y o+ white su&remacy. y +ocus on the anti-hinese &olitical mo%ement and its relationshi& to the racial understandin,s and nationalist &ro!ects o+ the Sonoran re%olutionary +raction who laid the +oundations o+ eicos national state$ ,o%ernin,  &arty$ cultural institutions and nationalist ideolo,y durin, the 1920s and 19#0s$ has led 1 <or recent reassessment o+ the role o+ race in the construction o+ mesti+a)e% national identities and state +ormation in 7atin /merica$ see +or eam&le >el, /. (199?) ur @i,ht+ul Share. The /+ro-u'an Stru,,le +or ABuality$ 166C-1912. ha&el >ill: The ni%ersity o+ orth arolina PressD <errer /. (1999) "nsur,ent u'a: @ace$ ation and @e%olution$ 16C6-1696. ha&el >ill: ni%ersity o+ orth arolina PressD randin . (2000) The ;lood o+ uatemala. / >istory o+ @ace and ation. Eurham: Eu3e ni%ersity Press.D de la adena . (2000) "ndi,enous estios. The Politics o+ @ace and ulture in uco$ Peru$ 1919-1991. Eurham: Eu3e ni%ersity Press. <or the .S. as a racial dictatorshi& see mi . F Ginant (1994:C?-C9). Po&ularied in the nited States in the com&arati%e analysis o+ >arris . (19C4)$ the conce&t was +irst +ormulated 'y <reyre . (H19##I 196C). <or reassessment and criticism o+ this conce&t see Ginant >. (1994) @ethin3in, @ace in ;rail. "n @acial onditions. Politics$ Theory$ om&arisons (1#0-14J). innea&olis: ni%ersity o+ innesota Press.  # me to +ocus more &articularly on the intentioned &olitical de&loyment o+ race as a %ehicle o+ state +ormation. S&eci+ically$ in this article " analye the tra!ectory o+ the anti-hinese mo%ement +rom its ori,ins as a social and &olitical mo%ement to its incor&oration and o++icialiation within the new orthodoy o+ the &ost-re%olutionary state. " am &articularly concerned with understandin, the rele%ance o+ anti-hinese racism and ideolo,y +or the resolution o+ the he,emonic stru,,le 'etween the two dominant Sonoran caudillos: /l%aro 're,Kn and Plutarco AlLas alles. Secondly$ " +ocus on the im&ortance o+ anti-hinese ideolo,y and actions +or the creation o+ consent in the 8unsta'le eBuili'rium that sha&ed eican  &olitics 'etween 1926 and 19#4 (ordo%a 199?). <inally$ " eamine the e&istemolo,ical com&ati'ility 'etween anti-hinese ideolo,y$ the 8cultural re%olution o+ eicos &ost-re%olutionary re,imes$ and the racial understandin,s and sentiments o+ the mestia!e theories in+ormin, eican re%olutionary nationalism. " su,,est that a reconsideration o+ race o++ers a &articular &ers&ecti%e +or the 'etter theoretical understandin, o+ eican state +ormation and the cultural &rocesses throu,h which social identities ta3e +orm in interaction with the state$ its institutions and discourses. The treatment o+ race as a  &olitical &ro'lem also contri'utes to a 'etter understandin, o+ the mechanisms and  &rocesses that trans+orm di++use racial sentiments$ &erce&tions and e&ectations into militant and &olitically or,anied racial mo%ements. Revolutionary disorder, !eno$ho%ia and $o$ular anti-Chinese racism <or the &ositi%ists who dominated intellectual and &olitical li+e durin, the more than three decades o+ President Por+irio Eias authoritarian re,ime (16J4-1911)$ +orei,n immi,ration was seen as the &anacea insurin, Micos social &ro,ress and economic de%elo&ment. n the one hand$ it was 'elie%ed that +orei,n immi,rants would 'rin, with them the ca&ital$ material resources and 3now-how reBuired to e&loit the countrys  4 natural resources. n the other hand$ (northern Auro&ean) immi,rants would su&&osedly  'e more ca&a'le$ resource+ul and hard wor3in, than the 'ac3ward and de,enerated indi,enous la'orers. This elite eno+ilia --a eican term +or lo%e o+ the +orei,n5  'rou,ht two$ contradictory$ res&onses: "n di&lomatic and &olitical terms$ the Por+iran state ,ranted ecessi%e &ri%ile,es and concessions to +orei,n in%estors. n the ,round$ howe%er$ the &o&ular classes in those re,ions where +orei,ners would &resuma'ly immi,rate e&ressed a'horrence and scorn o+ their new +orei,n nei,h'ors. Their eno&ho'ia was &artially shared 'y the middle class o&&osition who ar,ued that Por+irian concessions to +orei,ners were ,ained at the e&ense o+ the ri,hts o+ eican nationals. These sentiments$ which 'uilt on an esta'lished tradition o+ anti-S&anish +eelin,$ +ueled resentments towards the Por+iriatos two lar,est ,rou&s o+ immi,rants: the hinese and .S. /mericans. Ghereas hostility towards nited States citiens was ,rounded$ +or the most &art$ in economic$ cultural and class +actors$ anti-hinese sentiments -- 3nown  &o&ularly as antichinismo -- were o+ten o%ertly racial (onale a%arro$ 19J4:?J-?9). 2 These two currents o+ an emer,ent eno&ho'ic nationalism were o&enly e&ressed durin, the twenty tur'ulent years o+ insurrection and re%olutionary disorder that +ollowed the +all o+ Por+irio Eia in une 1911. #  Throu,hout this &eriod$ /mericans and /merican &ro&erty were +a%orite tar,ets due to their social and &olitical mar,inality$ economic dominance$ and +reBuently a'usi%e and arro,ant 'eha%ior. The more socially inte,rated S&anish also su++ered attac3s on their &ersons$ 'usinesses and &ro&erties. + 2  See$ onale a%arro (19J4$ 1994)$ =ni,ht (196J) and onathan ;rown (196#) <orei,n and ati%e-;orn Gor3ers in Por+irian eico. /merican >istorical @e%iew %ol. 96$ JC6-616. #  These two decades o+ re%olutionary disorder were &unctuated in the +irst &lace 'y the so-called constitucionalista   insurrection that +ollowin, the assassination o+ &resident <rancisco adero in /&ril 191# resisted the counterre%olutionary re,ime led 'y the &or+irista ,eneral Victoriano >uerta. "n the second  &lace 'y the ci%il war 'etween re%olutionary +ractions that etended +rom the de+eat o+ >uerta in mid 1914 to the %ictorious 1920 re'ellion o+ /,ua Prieta led 'y the Sonoran re%olutionaries. nder the military leadershi& o+ /l%aro 're,Kn the Sonoran +orces or,anied in the A!ercito del oroeste &layed a &i%otal role in the %ictory a,ainst Por+irian reaction and in the consolidation o+ the constitucionalista   re,ime led 'y Venustiano arrana. 're,Kn also led the constitucionalista army that de+eated the more &o&ular and radical +orces led 'y <rancisco Villa (Ei%ision del orte  : and Amiliano Na&ata (A!ercito del Sur). <or analysis$ assessment and discussion o+ the nature and conseBuences o+ the eican @e%olution see$ illy (19J1) and =ni,ht (196C). <or the role o+ the Sonorans in the re%olution see /,uilar amLn 19JJ).  ? all the +orei,n ,rou&s$ howe%er$ /ra's and hinese were the most +reBuently attac3ed. "ndeed$ these two ,rou&s su++ered &ro&ortionately more casualties durin, the years o+ re%olutionary %iolence than either S&aniards or orth /mericans. 4  Oeno&ho'ic %iolence also %aried 'y re,ion. /ttac3s a,ainst 'oth orth /mericans and hinese were more serious and +reBuent in Sonora and the other northern states where a ma!ority o+ their in%estments and &o&ulations were concentrated. "n these  'order re,ions$ S citiens and cor&orations were harassed and made to &ay 8re%olutionary taes. "n addition$ they were su'!ected to li%estoc3 the+t$ destruction o+ +ences$ &ayroll the+t$ &ro&erty lootin, and endemic la'or &ro'lems. Still others--es&ecially those who either resisted such treatment or reacted with arro,ance--were 3illed. ?  ;eyond ,eneratin, a ,ood deal o+ tension and con+lict$ these actions had little lastin, e++ect on either the actual &resence o+ orth /mericans in Sonora or ,o%ernment  &olicies towards them. Eurin, the administration o+ the onstitucionalist &resident Venustiano arrana (1914-1920)$ +or eam&le$ ,o%ernment actions a,ainst S owned  'usinesses were limited to issues concernin, la'or relations. o%ernment decrees attem&ted to remedy the a'uses$ e&loitation and discrimination to which S  'usinessmen and +oremen su'!ected eican wor3ers. "n no case$ howe%er$ did they ha%e the e++ect o+ Buestionin, the im&erialist character o+ S &resence in the country. C   4  ;etween 1910 and 1919$ ??0 /mericans$ 4J1 hinese$ 209 S&aniards and 111 /ra's were murdered$ +i,ures that re&resented 2.CC$ #.2?$ 0.6? and J.2? o+ their res&ecti%e &o&ulations. The 1910 o++icial census recorded 1$?#1 /ra's$ 1#$20# hinese$ 24$409 S&anish and 20$C## /mericans. onQle a%arro . (19J4: J4-6C). See also =ni,ht /. (196C: %ol. 1: 44$ 1?0$ 2J9)$ and Turner <. (19C6:2?9-#22). ?  The 1910 national census recorded +or Sonora: 4$46C hinese$ #$1C4 /mericans$ 2?9 S&anish and 16# ermans. The total num'er o+ hinese in eico was 1#$20#. /+ter Sonora the lar,est hinese  &o&ulations were concentrated in Mico ity with 1$462 indi%iduals$ hihuahua with 1$#2?$ Rucatan with 6J? and Sinaloa with CCJ. "ncludin, undocumented indi%iduals not re,istered the total num'er o+ hinese in Mico reached a&&roimately 1?$000. "n 192J the Secretaria de o'ernaciKn re,istered 24$216 hinese esta'lished in Mico. "ts ,eo,ra&hical distri'ution di++ered ,reatly +rom the 1910 &attern.. The de%elo&ment o+ cotton &roduction and the Sonoran anti-hinese cam&ai,ns in+luenced the increase o+ the hinese &o&ulation in ;a!a ali+ornia that 'etween 1910 and 192J e&anded +rom ?#2 to ?$669. Sonora +ollowed it with #$J?6$ Sinaloa with 2$019$ hia&as with 1$2C?$ Mico ity with 1$C02 and hihuahua with 1$0#J. >u-de>art A.(196?:19J-201). <or attac3s a,ainst /mericans see =ni,ht /. (196C$ %ol.1: C6-J0$ J9-60$ 1?6-1C2$ #42-#44) and =ni,ht (196J: ?#-J0). C  See onsular @e&orts in ational /rchi%es -- @ecords o+ the Ee&artment o+ State @elatin, to the "nternal
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