Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Localism, and Exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Localism, and Exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Localism, and Exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Localism, and Exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Synopsis

Making the Chinese Mexican is the first book to examine the Chinese diaspora in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. It presents a fresh perspective on immigration, nationalism, and racism through the experiences of Chinese migrants in the region during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Navigating the interlocking global and local systems of migration that underlay Chinese borderlands communities, the author situates the often-paradoxical existence of these communities within the turbulence of exclusionary nationalisms.

The world of Chinese fronterizos (borderlanders) was shaped by the convergence of trans-Pacific networks and local arrangements: against a backdrop of national unrest in Mexico and in the era of exclusionary immigration policies in the United States, Chinese fronterizos carved out vibrant, enduring communities that provided a buffer against virulent Sinophobia. This book challenges us to reexamine the complexities of nation-making, identity formation, and the meaning of citizenship. It represents an essential contribution to our understanding of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

Excerpt

By 1993, Cheng Chui Ping could claim she helped hundreds of Chinese immigrants achieve the American Dream. Cheng, most commonly known as “Sister Ping,” proved to be a reliable conduit to jobs and housing in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco for wouldbe immigrants. Sister Ping’s generosity was without comparison and her resourcefulness was unsurpassed. When destitute immigrants were unable to afford the transportation cost from China to the United States, Ping financed the journey and arranged work for those who could not immediately repay the loan. For her deeds, the Fujianese native earned a reputation as a modern-day Robin Hood and was once described as “a living Buddha.” Ping’s benevolence seemed befitting of one called “Sister.” She promised hope and prosperity to those who believed that hard work and dependability would secure jobs and relieve debts.

Ping, though, was not a “sister” of goodwill. Rather, she was a kingpin, often dubbed the “Mother of All Snakeheads,” who organized and financed the most notorious human-smuggling network in the history of the United States. Her scheme, which included packing hundreds of Chinese into the sweltering holds of cargo ships, netted millions of dollars for the immigrant financier and members of the Fuk Ching, a New York Citybased gang with whom Ping worked closely for more than fifteen years. “Customers” paid as much as $40,000 for a circuitous, often treacherous trip from Hong Kong through Thailand and across the Pacific Ocean to Guatemala and Belize. From Central America, immigrants either continued by sea to the port of New York City or trekked overland and across the Mexican border to the United States. Once they landed in the United States, they were either harbored or housed, depending on the travel debt owed to Sister Ping. After years of immigrant smuggling, Ping’s enterprise finally met its end when the off-loading of would-be border crossers went . . .

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