There’s a popular folk hero in Puebla, Mexico—Catarina de San Juan, who Mexicans hailed as a devoted religious figure after her death in 1688. She’s credited with creating the china poblana dress, a connection of dubious historical veracity made several centuries after her death. But Catarina is one of Mexico’s most famous “chinos”—despite the fact that she was likely from India, not China. In fact, any Asian that disembarked in Mexico, whether from China, Japan, the Philippines, India, or even further away, was called “chino”. It was not a particularly beneficial classification: “chinos”, under Spanish law, could be enslaved; “indios”, or indigenous populations, could not.

Diego Javier Luis hardly bothers explaining to his readers that of course there were Asians in the Americas centuries before the California Gold Rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. But given the common and almost automatic conflation of the United States with “America”, it can nevertheless come as a surprise that Mexico had entire Asian communities before the Pilgrims even set foot on Plymouth Rock.

Like countless other migrants from China, Hugo Wong’s great-grandfathers–Wong Foon Chuck and Leung Hing—travel across the Pacific to make a life for themselves in San Francisco. Unlike many of their peers, they don’t stay, instead traveling south, to Mexico—in part to escape growing anti-Chinese prejudice in the United States.

The railroads, San Francisco Chinatown, the Chinese Exclusion Act, laundries, restaurants: just when you thought there was nothing more to be written about the story of Chinese immigration to America, along comes Hugo Wong with an absorbing account of his families’ history in Mexico. Wong is a scion of two of Mexico’s erstwhile most important and successful Chinese families, but whose stories have largely been forgotten. Both the remembering and the forgetting contain important lessons.

Latin America is home to a large East Asian diaspora, the result of much the same forces that created the not dissimilar diaspora in North America; the authors arising in that other diaspora, however, write in Spanish (and perhaps Portuguese, depending on how one defines things) rather than English. Very few of these works end up in English. The arrival of The Enlightenment of Katzuo Nakamatsu by Augusto Higa Oshiro in an inspired translation by Jennifer Shyue, is a glimpse into a world and literary tradition that English readers rarely get to experience.

A perusal of the bios of the contributors provides the first indication that Tropical Silk Road is not a typical collection of academic papers. In addition to the professors and researchers one might expect, the list also includes Sabrina Felipe, an independent investigative reporter; Paúl Ghaitai Males, “born in the Indigenous community of C­ompañía-Otavalo and is currently an anthropology student at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito”; Rina Pakari Marcillo, “a Kichwa-Otavalo student of cultural anthropology at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito”; Alessandra Korap Silva Munduruku, “one of the most respected Indigenous leaders in Brazil and a law student at the Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará (Ufopa)”; Jefferson Pullaguari, “vice president of the Indigenous Shuar Federation of Zamora Chinchipe” as well as Zhou Zhiwei, deputy director of the Department of International Relations at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The first diplomatic mission from Brazil to China took place from 1879-1882; it also included Brazil’s first circumnavigation of the globe (sailing east in this case). An account—Primeira circum-navegação brasileira e primeira missão do Brasil à China (1879) by Marli Cristina Scomazzon and Jeff Franco—has recently been published. This excerpt about the delegation’s stop-over in Hong Kong and Macau has been translated from the original Portuguese and is published with permission.