Only forgiveness can lead to reconciliation

Daniel Lemus-Delgado
Recently Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador apologized to the Chinese people for a massacre that is little known in the history of Mexico.
Daniel Lemus-Delgado

Recently Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador apologized to the Chinese people for a massacre that is little known in the history of Mexico and that occurred during the first years of the Mexican Revolution. "The racism that the inhabitants of China have suffered for centuries is equal to or worse than that suffered by indigenous Mexicans or Africans," said the president.

110 years ago, one of the most unfortunate and dark events in the contemporary history of this country occurred in the city of Torreón. Delfino Ríos, journalist and witness to the massacre, wrote thus: "The streets of Torreón at three in the afternoon were covered with cadavers ... The consternation in which the city was left is indescribable; there are no words to express it."

It is the most violent episode against Chinese citizens on the American continent. In one day, the citizen of Torreon killed half of the Chinese community.

Before that tragic event, Torreón was a prosperous city located in one of the most fertile agricultural and cotton regions. Several families and communities of immigrants, Spanish, Syrian Lebanese, and Japanese, had settled in this city since the end of the 19th century. Among these communities, the flourishing Chinese community stood out.

The Chinese migrants came predominantly from Canton. Others were escaping from racial persecution in the United States.

In 1911 the Chinese community of Torreón was made up of about 600 people, most of them merchants, peasants, or owners of laundries. Among them, some wealthy people founded the leading bank in the city. Upon arriving in Mexico, the Chinese turned to agriculture and worked in the mines and railroads.

They were shopkeepers, cooks, shoemakers, bakers, and laundresses. The Chinese migrants contributed to the economic development of the Mexican communities.

Where they settled, they energized the cities that were emerging along the railroad and the mines. The Chinese managed to weave networks of solidarity among themselves and organized themselves into associations, married Mexican women, and had offspring.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Chinese communities were prosperous. However, the growing prosperity gradually generated resentment, misunderstanding, and eventually xenophobic hatred and violence.

When the armies entered the city of Torreón, chaos prevailed. Soon, looting began, and a little later, the murder against members of the Chinese community who were accused of opposing the revolutionary troops. This accusation was never proven.

Sadly, xenophobia, discrimination, and racism are scourges that are still present today.

As a hundred years ago, these acts profoundly violated the dignity of people. Forgiveness is the first step to reconciliation.

It does not matter how much time has passed; it is always necessary to ask for forgiveness as an individual or community. Knowing our history and learning the past mistakes is a way to create a better place to live, regardless of cultural differences. In this manner, we will never repeat the acts against any community, recognizing that we share common humanity despite our differences.

The author is professor at School of Social Science and Government, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico, and an invited researcher at Fudan Development Institute.

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