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Chinese Americans in New Mexico

Chin Charley Hop Kee, Chloride Laundry Man, 1900 - 1919

Chin Charley Hop Kee, Chloride Laundry Man (listed as Sam Kee in Hillsboro directory), 1900 - 1919
Glass plate negative, by Henry A. Schmidt

Chinese immigrants first came to New Mexico in in large numbers in the 1800s looking for jobs, particularly building railroads and mining. Because of harsh laws, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and other discrimination, the “first wave” of immigrants were unable to create lasting communities in New Mexico.  In the early 1900s, a small but permanent Chinese-American community took root in New Mexico, which later came to include refugees from the Communist takeover of mainland China, along with immigrants from Taiwan. New Mexico’s Chinese Americans are proud to be U.S. citizens, but also remember their ancient heritage.

“Throwing Down the Ladder by Which They Rose,” by Thomas Nast, 1870

“Throwing Down the Ladder by Which They Rose,” by Thomas Nast, 1870

The exhibition, which was on view in the museum from February 2016 – January 2017, recounts the story of Chinese immigrants and Chinese American communities in New Mexico through photographs, documents and family heirlooms. The video available through the link below is an encapsulation of the exhibition, and a brief tour through this important but little known history and cultural aspect of New Mexico.