America’s Lost Chinese
The Rise and Fall of a Migrant Family Dream
The inspiring, haunting story of Chinese migrant workers rejected by the USA and determined to build a new community in Mexico—told by their great-grandson.
From the 1850s, as the United States pushed west, Chinese migrants met ordinary Americans for the first time. Alienation and xenophobia lost the US this chance for cultural and economic enrichment—but America gave the Chinese new perspectives and connections. They developed a dream of their own.
As teenagers, Hugo Wong’s great-grandfathers fled poverty in China for California. A decade later, they were excluded from the States. They helped establish a Chinese settlement across the border in Mexico, led by a world-famous dissident-in-exile with visions of a New China overseas. They would be among the Americas’ first Chinese magnates, meeting with presidents, generals and missionaries, living through astonishing victories and humiliating defeats. The bitterest of all would be the colony’s tragic demise amid a violent Mexican revolution, leading to the largest massacre and deportation of Chinese in American history.
This epic 100-year drama follows the lives of the author’s ancestors, via untouched personal papers. Though no Chinese group had ever gained such influence over a Western population and territory, their home in Mexico would long be forgotten. Today, this family story is reborn: one of nationhood, state racism and a turbulent century; of exile, grit and new ways of belonging.
‘Spanning the trans-Pacific from China to America to Mexico, Wong’s family memoir is at once riveting and passionate in capturing the diasporic spirit of patriarchs Leung Hing and Wong Foon Chuck, and sober and dispassionate in carefully situating them in the turbulent histories of three countries.’ — Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Professor of History, American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Brown University
Hugo Wong grew up between Paris and Mexico City. Since 1995, he has lived intermittently in Beijing, where he has helped to found Sino–foreign joint ventures, including China’s first investment bank. He built his career in emerging markets investment at major Hong Kong, London and New York financial institutions.