Why do some Mexicans looks Asian?

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I've been receiving comments on my YouTube channel asking if I'm Vietnamese or Asian. When I was living in Vietnam, I had a ton of questions from Vietnamese people asking me if at least one of my parents was Vietnamese.

I was interested to see that many people were shocked when I said I was Latina. And some of them tried to convince me I had Vietnamese parents. So, in some way, that caused an identity crisis in me. And I  started to wonder, Will I be Asian?

First reason

People have asked me if I’m Vietnamese but also if I’m from the Philippines. And I know some Mexicans living abroad have been asked this question as well. And it makes a lot of sense.

 

Juan Esteban Rodriguez, a student in population genetics at the National Laboratory of Genomic for Biodiversity searched a database of genomes and found out that about one-third of the people in Guerrero, the pacific coastal state of Mexico, had 10% Asian ancient ancestry. This number is significantly high. Well, they were related to people from the Philippines and some of them from Indonesia.

This is because, in the XVI century, the Spaniards had conquered Mexico and The Philippines and they found one of the most important commercial routes. 

The route was Manila - Acapulco - Veracruz - Cádiz. This was functional for around two and a half centuries. 

The Spanish brought Filipinos to Acapulco as slaves or prisoners to assist Spain in its trade. But not only Filipinos were brought here. Mexican people were taken to Manila by the Spanish too. That’s why you’ve probably heard that Mexicans and Filipinos get along very well. We have similar cultures, religion and even the Spanish language that was one of the official languages in the Philippines until 1987.

 

But it didn’t finish there. When the Mexican war of independence started, the Spanish governors in Mexico had the idea of punishing the Mexican rebels by sending them to The Philippines to serve sentences. It seems this wasn’t a good plan as some stories say that the Mexican rebels in The Philippines encourage this country to be independent as well. 


So Mexico already had a lot of Philippine people that arrived here never returned to the Philippines. Most of them lost their identity as they were all recorded as Chinos (Chinese). Can you believe that? Actually, In Mexico, we have a very popular nickname: El Chino. This could be either because a person has curly hair or because they look Asian. And just to clarify, putting nicknames according to one’s person features is a playful way to express our good feelings towards others.

 

So, this is the second reason. Did you know about this?  I could’ve had Filipino descent. But there are two other historical and interesting events in Mexico that could’ve determined our features. These events are related to Japanese and Chinese people.

Second reason

My nan has told me I had a Japanese ancestor. For me, it was super weird knowing this. Having Japanese blood isn’t common and more so when I was born in a very small city in the centre of Mexico. I never knew what happened with that side of the family, unfortunately. 

 

But when I decided to make this video, I found very interesting information about Japanese people settled in the centre of Mexico, which is the area I’m from.


Three or four decades before Pearl Harbor, there were a lot of Japanese people living in the United States and around 6,000 people living in Mexico.

At that time, Japan was a thriving empire. Roosevelt’s government saw the Japanese as a threat and, when the second war was declared, the United States put the Japanese in internment camps. 

 

The United States also sent some Japanese people to Mexico and asked the Mexican government to keep the Japanese away from the northern border. Mexico government kept them in the centre so they could be easily monitored.

 

The United States also requested more Latin American countries to isolate the Japanese in internment camps. If you wondered why there are a large community of Japanese people in

Perú and Brasil, well this might be the reason.

 

Mexico was following the United States requirements. That meant that the Japanese people in Mexico were suspects of being spies of the second world war. They needed to report every movement to the government. 

Then, the Mexican Congress modified some laws, such as the Penal Code, to create the crime of espionage. Children of Japanese immigrants who couldn’t prove they were born in the country were considered enemies.

 

This soon became persecution of those Mexicans who had slanted eyes. The newborns of the Japanese people didn’t even know about their roots because their parents wanted them to keep safe. 


It was so traumatic for the Japanese people and Mexican families with Japanese ancestors. Slowly, the Japanese people lost their costumes, language, religion and even some of them changed their last name. They were silent for decades about what happened, without the children and grandchildren knowing this. 

 

My nan told me my grandad’s grandad changed his last name. She told me it was because the last name was difficult to pronounce but I wonder, was this the real reason? 

 

Although we can still see a few minorities of people in Mexico carrying a Japanese last name.


This is something I didn’t know. Until now, the Mexican government hasn’t apologized to them by considering them enemies for the mere fact of having Japanese blood.

Third reason

I said before, there was another important Asian culture in Mexico that brought inheritance. This happened in the north of Mexico. At the end of the 19th century, there was a large immigration of Chinese people to the United States to work in the construction of railways.  At the end of these, the United States rejected them issuing a law prohibiting their entry because they didn’t longer needed them.

 

This coincided with the development of Mexicali in the state of Baja California del Norte. This city required labour and the existing Mexicans weren't enough at that time to provide it, for this reason, from 1910 to 1920 the entry of Asians to work in this region was facilitated. 

I was surprised after reading all this information. There might be various options that make us Mexican look Asian. If you are Mexican, let me know if you have Asian ancestry and tell me your story. It’d be very interesting to read it.

 

I haven’t taken a DNS yet but I hope to take it soon and I’ll let you know.

 

And well, I don't know how I should physically describe a Mexican person because we are quite different. You can easily tell when you walk around the Mexican streets. That’s why, when I was asked if I was from Vietnam, it was weird or me to have a label, I haven’t even realized that I look a little bit Asian. In Mexico, we are a mix of cultures: Spanish, indigenous, Asian and African that gives our own identity.

 

So, let me know what you think about this topic. I’ll leave the links below where I take all the information. It took me a while to put everything together but I enjoy doing this. I hope you enjoyed it as well.

It’s the opposite in Mexico though. A lot of Mexicans would say I have an indigenous appearance which is true.

 

And well, I started thinking more and more about my indigenous features and why some people say I look Asian. But also, I’ve seen that there are loads of Mexican people with Asian appearance as well. For sure, they will be asked the same questions in Asia.

 

In this country, there are loads of people with an incredible ethnic variety, from indigenous people to very white people. 

 

Of course, we can understand the inheritance the Spaniards left a hundred years ago but, why do some of us look Asian? Well, you’ll be surprised by the information I found. 

Everything started when the first settlers arrived in the Americas. They were people from Asia that had crossed the Bering Strait tens of thousands of years ago.

 

That is why the more indigenous a person is, the more remarkable the features are, not only in Mexico but in loads of indigenous groups in the American continent.

That could be the first reason of course. I was born in a small town in Mexico. And it’s clear to see that my Spanish features could be minimum. 

But… This doesn't end here.  There might be more reasons that I just figured them out and I didn’t know about them before. 

 

I think the things I just researched weren't taught me at school. I suppose that history often extends beyond what a textbook might provide but it seems it’s so evident in our features today. 

I said before, there was another important Asian culture in Mexico that brought inheritance. This happened in the north of Mexico. At the end of the 19th century, there was a large immigration of Chinese people to the United States to work in the construction of railways.  At the end of these, the United States rejected them issuing a law prohibiting their entry because they didn’t longer needed them.

 

This coincided with the development of Mexicali in the state of Baja California del Norte. This city required labour and the existing Mexicans weren't enough at that time to provide it, for this reason, from 1910 to 1920 the entry of Asians to work in this region was facilitated. 

I was surprised after reading all this information. There might be various options that make us Mexican look Asian. If you are Mexican, let me know if you have Asian ancestry and tell me your story. It’d be very interesting to read it.

 

I haven’t taken a DNS yet but I hope to take it soon and I’ll let you know.

 

And well, I don't know how I should physically describe a Mexican person because we are quite different. You can easily tell when you walk around the Mexican streets. That’s why, when I was asked if I was from Vietnam, it was weird or me to have a label, I haven’t even realized that I look a little bit Asian. In Mexico, we are a mix of cultures: Spanish, indigenous, Asian and African that gives our own identity.

 

So, let me know what you think about this topic. I’ll leave the links below where I take all the information. It took me a while to put everything together but I enjoy doing this. I hope you enjoyed it as well.

I took a DNA Test to find out why I look Asian