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Prisoners Without Chains:The Forced Relocation of Japanese Mexicans, 1942-1945

Fri, May 25, 7:30 to 9:00pm, TBA

Abstract

This paper will examine how the Japanese adjusted during turbulent period of World War II in Mexico and the over-arching policies of the U.S. regarding Japanese immigration at the hemispheric level. My presentation argues that the Japanese negotiated a distinct space within Mexican culture where their identity and ethnicity was maintained and rarely challenged or ignored due to a perception that the Japanese displayed markers of whiteness that were associated with western imperialism and power. The Japanese were initially lured to Mexico with promises of cheap and productive land in Chiapas. The first decade of the twentieth century saw nearly ten thousand Japanese immigrate to Mexico with a significant portion entering the U.S. My paper argues that as U.S.-Mexican-Japanese relations became complex Japanese immigrants in Mexico and elsewhere in the Americas were drawn into the diplomatic foray that eventually turned into a racialized homogenization of the Japanese Diaspora in the Western Hemisphere. Further, this paper will argue that the Mexico state and its citizens reacted to its Japanese immigrants in a different manner, one that was predicated on a sense of respect and admiration, rather than fear. This Mexican attitude is partially responsible for the limited scope of the Japanese Mexican round ups and detentions during World War II. Finally, I submit that the Japanese Mexican experience during World War II, although not void of discriminatory practices and treatment, was nonetheless, markedly different than the Japanese American experience in the U.S.

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