Japanese Mexican immigrants and their descendants suffered the consequences of World War II in concentration camps or their families destroyed by the selective detention of hundreds of men and the forced sale of their property, and deportation.
On December 7, 1941, a suicide squadron that had left Japan weeks earlier attacked Pearl Harbor. After this event, the U.S. military campaign against Japan and other Axis countries reached hundreds of Mexican citizens. There were even ivilian deaths.
This “collateral damage” took place slowly and systematically in the Mexican Republic. Japanese immigrants and their descendants suffered the consequences of World War II in various ways: some families were sent to concentration camps or designated areas in Mexico City and Guadalajara, while others were destroyed by the selective detention of hundreds of men in Perote Prison, the forced sale of their property, and deportation. This book gives a partial account of the history of the Japanese-Mexican community during World War II. However, it makes no attempt to be a historically accurate source of information. The task of narrating this story is so complex that it is necessary to incorporate interviews, legal documents, police reports, memoirs, poems, and short stories without specifying the genre, the degree of veracity, or the exact origin of the texts. All names have been changed, and while some situations are fictional, others are told in the first person by those affected to give the reader an opportunity to measure the dimensions of the human heart.
The documents that served as the basis for this book can be found at the General Archives of the Nation of Mexico and the National Archives of the United States. However, oral histories are the cornerstone of this text. I must inform my reader, therefore, that this story is also the work of Fidelia Takaki de Noriega, Eva Watanabe Matsuo, Rodolfo Nakamura Ortiz, the Tanaka Otsuka family, Raúl Hiromoto Yoshino, María Fujigaki Lechuga, and Susana Kobashi Sánchez, as well as the officials of various government departments who wrote the reports, memos, and certificates that appear in this volume.
Selfa A. Chew holds an MFA in creative writing and a PhD in borderlands history from the University of Texas at El Paso. She is an editor for Border Senses Literary Review. She teaches at the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State University.
A moving story inserted with primary documents that challenges the official discourse through a chorus of voices that interweave in the life and death of the Japanese-Mexican community, especially its women. Images, poetry, and words disseminate a unique story—Lourdes Vázquez, author of Not Myself Without You.
Ïn Silent Herons, Selfa Chew offers us a beautiful, polyphonic testimony, and strikes a balance, thanks to her art, among her own invention, documents, and oral histories. Based on true events, but it doesn’t allow to be overwhelmed by them, nor does I seem to be a mere reconstruction of the past. Materials have been placed in their places: they are seamlessly intertwined.” —Daniel Orizaga, author of Minuta: Ensayos sobre literatura.
Selfa Chew discover and disseminates the history of the Japanese Mexican community that has been erased from national historiography in order to fill the empty spaces of our history and reveal the hegemonic discourse and artifices.”—Guadalupe Pérez-Anzaldo, University of Missouri.