Friday, February 16, 2007

Talk To Highlight `Pershing's Chinese'

Written by Bruce Daniels - ABQnewsSeeker
Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Refugees who helped failed hunt for Pancho Villa allowed in U.S. despite exclusionary laws.

There was no love lost between Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa and the Chinese who lived in northern Mexico in Villa's day.

That's why it's somewhat ironic that a talk on the role the Chinese played in Gen. John J. "Blackjack" Pershing in his Punitive Expedition into Mexico following Villa's raid on Columbus, N.M., will be held this Saturday in Pancho Villa State Park .

Blanca Chinolla, a resident of Mexico of Chinese descent, will speak on the troubled history of the Chinese in northern Mexico, their struggles with survival and their successes, as well as the help they gave Pershing's expedition, at 10 a.m. Saturday at the state park in Columbus, according to the Deming Headlight .

"I know there is little knowledge about the contributions of the Chinese in Mexico and so little written about it," Chinolla said. "And the greatest problem with Chinese-Mexicans is that most of them kept hardly any records."

Chinolla's talk will be drawn from her own research and the recollections of her 90-year-old father, the Headlight said.

It was 90 years ago this month that Pershing's bedraggled column trudged back out of Mexico after a fruitless search for Villa, whose irregulars had attacked Columbus back on March 9, 1916.

While most Mexicans resented Pershing's presence and refused to help, many Chinese in Mexico offered assistance, from supplying cigarettes and candy to the troops to cooking and doing laundry, according to one historical account .

In at least one instance, some Chinese even joined in one fight against the Villistas, earning Villa's wrath and a vow to kill every "Chino" in northern Mexico.

When Pershing's troops -- nearly 10,000 of them, or about one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. Army at the time -- returned to the United States in a column said to measure five miles in length, they had with them a number of Chinese refugees -- 527 by one count, 537 by another -- who had to be granted a special exemption to the exclusionary laws still barring Chinese entry into the United States.

Those laws, passed in 1882, renewed every 10 years or so, were still in effect until finally repealed by Congress in 1943.

But at Pershing's request, the Chinese refugees were permitted to enter the United States -- as long as they agreed to work for the U.S. Army.

Within two months of their arrival in Columbus, the refugees were put on trains for San Antonio, Texas, where they were eventually relocated and put to work by the military, according to the story in today's Headlight.

Villa targeted Chinese shopkeepers and farmers living along the U.S.-Mexico border because he considered them no different from Mexico's landed aristocracy, according to a 2005 review of a book titled "The Chinese Heart of Texas -- The San Antonio Community, 1875-1975" in the online Asian Week .

"Because of the Mexican Revolution, the Chinese were heavily persecuted," wrote the book's author Sam Brown. "General Pershing brought more than 400 of them to San Antonio. The Chinese (in Mexico) saved many lives because they did scouting work for him. They warned him of poisoned wells. They cooked for his troops. When General Pershing died, the largest number of wreaths, flowers and cards came from the Chinese community in Texas."

Chinese people even named their children in memory of Pershing, said Brown, who added, "I know one man who named his son `Blackjack' Wong."

A fuller history of the Chinese experience in northern Mexico is available here, in an online article that originally appeared in the Journal of Arizona History.

For information on the talk, titled "Forgotten Faces: Contributions Made by the Chinese-Mexican Community," call Pancho Villa State Park at (505) 531-2711.

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Anonymous said...

The quote I heard was that Villa vowed to "Kill all the Chinos in Chiuauaua"...Too bad there is no history of the rumored massacre of the "Black Mexicans" of the era, I'd like to get that cleared up...

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