This article examines four decades of anti-Japanese paranoia in popular American media, particularly in California, from the early 1900s to the eve of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. It illustrates the overlooked influence that this hysteria had in shaping American perceptions of Japanese immigrants in Baja California, Mexico, and the consequences of those views for these borderlands prior to 1941. Drawing on California and U.S. national newspapers, contemporary novels, and U.S. government records, the article shows that the presence of Japanese immigrants in Baja California was for decades used as a pretense by American interest groups seeking to annex the peninsula. Beneath these alleged security concerns were strong economic interests, among which obtaining sole control over the Colorado River figured prominently. Decades of annexation calls based on a supposed Japanese threat, this article argues, influenced the Mexican government's 1942 decision to place its citizens of Japanese descent in internment camps.
The Perilous Borderlands: The Role of Anti-Japanese Hysteria in American Efforts to Annex Baja California, 1900–1942
david tamayo is a postdoctoral fellow at Santa Clara University, where he teaches Latin American history. He received his PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley. He is writing a book on right-wing politics in twentieth-century Mexico.
David Tamayo; The Perilous Borderlands: The Role of Anti-Japanese Hysteria in American Efforts to Annex Baja California, 1900–1942. California History 1 May 2020; 97 (2): 59–87. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2020.97.2.59
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