The Chinese of New Mexico

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Saturday 31 October 2015

Chinese of New Mexico video short now available

The Chinese of New Mexico video is now available! Thanks to the generous support of the Historical Society of New Mexico.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Chinese Placenames of New Mexico

We're only scratching the surface. Here's food for thought (and research): 

Look how many places in New Mexico have the name "China" or "Chino" (Spanish for China/Chinese) as their placename:

Here's a shorthand link for the interactive map:

Chinese in New Mexico?

Chinese in New Mexico? has often been the initial reaction when I mention what I'm researching. But it shouldn't be surprising, and not just because New Mexico is a multicultural place today. Even if we just look at Hollywood stereotypes of the Western frontier, there's the proverbial Chinese cook. (There was Bonanza's Hop Sing, for example.) Though let's get to the real world...

A browse through local histories shows how the Chinese cook was a staple in a white Californian Victorian household's staff. A turn-of-the-century San Francisco Chinatown merchant, Wong Taw, in 1916 published the volume known as the Fat Ming Cookbook, a guide to Western recipes and cooking techniques printed in side-by-side English and Chinese. (There's an article about it in Gastronomica.) 

What about New Mexico?

The Silver City Museum has shared this preview of a 1913 photo "of a small girl and boy, and two men, ...standing in front of a ranch house constructed of adobe and rock." The handwritten caption below the photo reads "Ranch House and Chinese Cook." Click on over and you can see it. (Pogson Collection; no. 02555). 

Here's another indication, from the Want Ads, someone who wants a "First class cook immediately... Japanese, Chinese, or Filipino preferred...."

This ad happens to be from the El Paso Herald (1917), and we see that although it's a Texas newspaper, the Want Ads include also advertisements for positions in Arizona and New Mexico. 

Check out the ad just above the ad for the first-class cook: Someone in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, wants an "expert gardener," "Japanese or Chinese preferred." The expertise of Japanese and Chinese American horticulturalists was something known then. More on this later.

A casual glance through photo collections at the Palace of the Governors will show us a window into the experience of Chinese in urban areas of New Mexico. Click through the thumbnail below to see the pic:

You clicked through to see the image, yes? Is it not one of the most suave 19th-century New Mexico portraits you've seen? There's so many questions raised by this picture. What was 1880s Las Vegas like? What sort of opportunities were there for a Chinese or Chinese American? Was this guy Lee Chin famous? Is this his suit? His friend's, or maybe part of the formal portrait setup? That's quite a watch fob and ring. He looks so comfortable in the outfit -- which includes one of the most prodigious double-windsors ever seen in neckwear -- that I'm inclined to think it's his. The date is estimated at 1885 -- does he wear a braided queue wound up under that hat? Is this the only portrait of a Chinese American made by the Crispell Art Parlor? Glancing at another commercial portrait, it looks like the photographer for Crispell had some good technique, and Peter Palmquist (in his essay "In Splendid Detail") noted a professional portraiture market among 19th century Chinese Americans who were connoisseurs of good photographic technique. How many images from the Crispell Art Parlor have survived and are accessible in public collections?

And then there's miners. Gold and silver mining booms attached people from all over the country and the world; why not Chinese?

Again, click through the thumbnail below to see the pic at the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives of the New Mexico History Museum:

The museum notes this collection "is comprised primarily of studio portraits taken in Socorro during the mining boom." 

From another collection, this time part of the 580 digitized photographs by J. C. Burge, from the Black Range Museum Collection at the Palace of the Governors, again mainly studio portraits, and thought to be of the same time period.  This Chinese man of the "mine area of Hillsboro and Kingston" wears more traditional dress, and appears to be wearing the traditional shaved-forehead and braided queue hairstyle:

(Click through thumbnail to view.)

With an almost iconic look, he looks so familiar. As if I've seen him on the cover of a book, or otherwise featured in a publication. Does anyone recognize this photo?

Even just in a few portrait collections, there's so much testimony already to Chinese heritage of New Mexico. Let's see what else we can find!

This here blog

Greetings! I'm Dr. Anna Naruta-Moya.  I'm an archivist and researcher. I specialize in tracking down hard-to-find information. 

This blog is to share emerging research I'm uncovering as a 2014 New Mexico History Scholar. This is an award given to my research proposal by the University of New Mexico Center for Regional Studies Director Tobías Durán, the Office of the State Historian, and the Historical Society of New Mexico.  

I am researching into the Chinese heritage of New Mexico. In part this is due to the encouragement of my mentor, Philip P. Choy.  Among Phil's many accomplishments in research and historic preservation, he and Him Mark Lai, another mentor I was fortunate to do projects under, developed and team-taught the first-ever courses on the Chinese heritage of California. (Given the success of their work, it can be hard to image there was ever a time when the Chinese American history in California was overlooked and discounted.) 

Until recently, I lived in the Bay Area, in Oakland, California. That's (mainly) where I studied Chinese, as my dissertation advisor L. Ling-chi Wang noted that if I was going to research California history, I had better learn Chinese. (It was a good idea.) Before working for Stanford University as a processing and reference archivist, I served for a number of years as the director of archives and exhibitions of the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco, and completed a number of research and exhibition projects in this area. The flagship exhibit I originated for them and launched in a partnership with the Judicial Historical Society of the Northern District of California in 2007 is today still touring the US. Under the mentorship of Philip P. Choy, Him Mark Lai, and the amazing scholar Connie Young Yu, I served as the lead curator for The Chinese of California, the first-ever collaborative exhibition of the Bancroft Library, the California Historical Society, and the Chinese Historical Society of America. The California Historical Society, the host venue, reported this exhibition set an all-time attendance record for them.

The dissertation I completed for the University of California, Berkeley, "Racialization Processes, Land, and Policy in the Context of California’s Chinese Exclusion Movements, 1850 to 1910 –-
History and Archaeology of the Chinatowns and Early Development of Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Oakland, California," is currently under revision for publication.

One characteristic shared by the scholars I was fortunate enough to work with is that they always made their contributions in scholarship and in the real world. They made their work matter. 

I'm excited at getting into the archives here and uncovering materials related to the Chinese heritage of New Mexico.

I'll be giving a talk this summer for the Santa Fe Opera, and this fall for the Maxwell Museum. In the meantime, I'll be sharing some findings here.  Hope to see you around.