The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, offered an apology on Monday for a massacre that occurred in 1911 in which more than 300 people of Chinese origin were killed by revolutionary troops in Torreón, a city in the north of the country.
The apology is the latest in a series of ceremonies in which the Mexican president has sought to repair the damage caused by abuse suffered by indigenous and minority groups in Mexico in recent centuries.
López Obrador said that the apology was intended to ensure that “this will never happen again,” noting that during the period the Chinese were mutilated or hung from telegraph poles.
“Discrimination was based on the most vile and offensive,” said López Obrador. “These stupid things were transferred to Mexico, where extermination was added to exclusion and mistreatment.”
Many Chinese immigrated to Mexico in the 1800s, in some cases to work on expanding the country’s train network. But many of them created businesses, farms and, in Torreón, even a bank.
The 1911 massacre of 303 men, women and children of Chinese origin occurred during a chaotic period of the Mexican Revolution, when the revolutionary troops took Torreón, sealing the fate of President Porfirio Díaz. The loss of the city led Diaz to resign and go into exile.
Like most racially motivated killings, this one was fueled by suspicion, hatred, fear, envy, and lies. Torreón was a flourishing town with a railroad track, and control of the city was key to the rail connection to the United States. Some Mexicans complained that the Chinese were taking over jobs or causing a decline in wages; others were envious of the economic success of the Chinese community.
Between May 13 and 15, 1911, the revolutionary troops seized control of the city from the army of Díaz and once in the city, they assassinated many of the inhabitants of Chinese origin, although some managed to hide or were rescued by other residents of the locality.
The victorious revolutionary government of President Francisco I. Madero agreed to pay compensation for the massacre, but Madero himself was overthrown in 1913 and the payment was never made.
“It is during the most turbulent moments in history when they turn into events with fatal results and genocidal consequences,” said the governor of Coahuila, Miguel Ángel Riquelme.
López Obrador, who generally praises the revolutionary movement of 1910-1917, noted that the movement also expressed anti-Chinese sentiments.
Historian Monica Cinco Basurto explained that the massacre was not the only demonstration against the Chinese in Mexico. The looting of Chinese-owned businesses and the expulsion or forced departure of Chinese – usually without recognizing whether Mexican citizenship or that of their children or wives – spread throughout Mexico until the 1930s.
At the apology ceremony, López Obrador was accompanied by Chinese Ambassador Zhu Qingqiao.
Mexico has relied on Chinese brands for approximately 10.5 million of the 29.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it has received to date, or nearly 36% of all injections. Zhu said the vaccines and medical equipment from China “has left a strong mark on the history of relations between our two countries.”
As in the United States, acts of racism against the Asian population have been an unpleasant affair in the history of Mexico. In fact, many Chinese came to Mexican territory when they were unable to enter the United States.
In the United States, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was designed to prevent Chinese-American workers from entering the country as a result of widespread xenophobia. That law made immigration of Chinese workers to the United States illegal and limited the Chinese population in the country for more than 60 years.
It is part of a series of apologies offered by the Mexican president for injustices committed in the past.
In early May, López Obrador apologized to the indigenous Mayan group that lives in southeastern Mexico, mainly in the Yucatan peninsula.
During the 1800s, the Mayans were forced to work in conditions similar to those of servants on sisal plantations. Sisal and henequen are fibers used in the manufacture of ropes. Some were tricked into slavery in sugar cane fields in Cuba.
Fed up with tribulation and exploitation, the Maya rebelled from 1847 to 1901 against the Mexican colonizers and the government in a period known as “The War of the Castes.” The rebellion was brutally silenced by government troops.
López Obrador said he plans to offer a similar apology to the indigenous Yaqui group in the northern state of Sonora.
Perhaps best known abroad for the mystical and visionary powers attributed to them by the writer Carlos Castaneda, the Yaquis doggedly faced the brutal campaign of the Mexican government to eradicate the tribe in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Nonetheless, they were mostly defeated by 1900, and Díaz began moving them from their fertile farmlands to less valuable territories or virtual slavery on estates as far away as the state of Yucatán.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.