Chinese immigration to Mexico began as early as the 1600s (Chinese migration started on a much large scale during the 1870s). Although most of the Chinese immigrants were mostly cheap labor, but many quickly filled up a merchant void. Like in the United States, the Chinese were not exactly welcomed by the locals. Due to the fact that Chinese obviously looked physically different then the local Mexicans, spoke a different language, and were often associated with higher income jobs, they were easy scapegoats for the economic problems. Plus competition with the “native” Mexican businesses and jobs didn’t really help much ether.
During the Mexican Revolution, a few Mexican Revolutionary groups (especially Francisco Madero’s Revolutionaries) started to exploit these anti Chinese sentiments. They started to accuse the “wealthy” Chinese for maliciously “causing” all of Mexico’s economic problems (doesn’t that eerily sound like Nazi Germany blaming the Jews for Germany’s economic problems). There was also propaganda that the Chinese wanted to rape Mexican women. Soon many Mexican mobs were incited to violence against the Chinese communities.
Soon in 1911, Madero’s forces captured the town of Torreon. Tragically, this had a sizeable Chinese community. The Maderista army soon went on quite the rampage, destroying several Chinese homes and businesses. They were quickly joined by a local mob in the violence.
There was no discrimination between age or gender, the Maderista army and the mobs killed any Chinese they could lay their hands on. One Maderista soldier sized a young male toddler, and bashed his head against a lamp post. Often the Chinese were murdered in the most horrific ways possible. The Mexicans dragged several Chinese to death by tying them to their horses. Some of the Chinese were even torn limb by limb from being dragged. Decapitated heads were thrown out into the streets. Up to 300 Chinese were killed in the extreme violence, almost half the Chinese population.
Fortunately not all of the Mexicans in the city were out for Chinese blood. Many made efforts to protect the Chinese from the blood crazed mobs. A good number of Good Samaritan locals even hid Chinese in their homes. One Mexican tailor even deliberately misdirected a mob away from 70 Chinese taking refugee in his home.
The Chinese government immediately demanded the Mexican government to pay 30 million pesos in reparation money and a formal apology for the massacre. Despite the fact, that clearly it was a rampaging rebel group that committed the massacre. Something that obviously, the Mexican government had absolutely no control over. However, reparation was never paid, despite several attempts a making an agreement.
The Torreón massacre was hardly an isolated incident. At least 830 Chinese were murdered in other killings during the Mexican Revolution. A fascinating, yet tragic story that has been forgotten by history.