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Primary Source Documents For The Torreón Massacre

Daniel R. Jennings

Synopsis: The Torreón massacre (Spanish: Matanza de chinos de Torreón, Chinese: 托雷翁大屠殺) was a racially motivated massacre against people of Chinese descent that took place May 13-15, 1911 in the Mexican city of Torreón, Coahuila. The massacre occurred in connection with the capture of Torreón by the revolutionary forces of Francisco I. Madero. In total 303 Chinese and 5 Japanese residents were killed at the hands of a local mob acting in tandem together with the invading soldiers. A large number of Chinese homes and establishments were also looted and destroyed.

 

Primary Sources

 

 

 

Person/Group

Description

Source

 

Chinese Merchants’ and Laborers’ Society Of Torreón

Prior to the arrival of the revolutionary forces in Torreón, the local Chinese population feared that they would be targeted and issued a circular, in Chinese, instructing them what to do in the event they were targeted.

 

Circular text in Lebbeus Wilfley & Arthur Bassett, Memorandum on the Law and the Facts in the Matter of the Claim of China against Mexico for Losses of Life and Property Suffered by Chinese Subjects at Torreón on May 13, 14, and 15, 1911 (Mexico: American Book and Printing Company, 1911).

 

 

 

Edith Wagner

Wagner was a U.S. citizen living in the neighboring city of Gomez Palacio. She gives a firsthand account of the entrance of the Revolutionists into the area, including the persecution of the Chinese.

 

Letters from Mexico I & II in The Bellman, Vol. XVI, No. 397, Minneapolis, Saturday, February 21, 1914 (The Bellman Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota) & The Bellman, Vol. XVI, No. 398, Minneapolis, Saturday, February 28, 1914 (The Bellman Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota).

 

 

 

Anonymous Account In The Salt Lake Tribune

The author was a photographer living in Torreón at the time of the massacre. He secretly sent some of his photographs and a written account of the abuses towards the Chinese to a newspaper in Utah. He asked that his name be withheld for fear of reprisals against him in Mexico.

Salt Laker Witness Of Terrible Sight; Scenes Of Ruthless Massacre Of Chinese At Torreon in The Salt Lake Tribune, Wednesday Morning, May 31, 1911, p.12.

 

 

 

George C. Carothers

Carothers was the U.S. Consul in Torreón at the time of the massacre and was asked to perform an official investigation into the massacre.

 

Report Of Investigation Of Chinese Massacre That G.C. Carothers, American Consular Agent, Torreón, Coahuila, Made June 7, 1911. National Archives and Records Administration College Park, Maryland, RG 59 Department Of State Decimal File, 1910-29: 312.93/1-312.94/46, Box 3832.

 

 

 

In 1919 Carothers testified before the United States Senate Committee On Foreign Relations as part of their investigation of outrages committed against U.S. citizens in Mexico. During his testimony he described his experience of living through and attempting to bring an end to the massacre against the Chinese.

 

 

 

 

Testimony Of George C. Carothers in Investigation Of Mexican Affairs, Preliminary Report And Hearings Of The Committee On Foreign Relations, United States Senate Pursuant To S. Res. 106 Directing The Committee On Foreign Relations To Investigate The Matter Of Outrages On Citizens Of The United States In Mexico (a.k.a. The Fall Commission) in Senate Documents, Vol 9, 66th Congress, 2nd Session, Dec 1, 1919-June 5, 1920 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), p.1755-1786.

 

 

 

Delfino Ríos

Ríos was an old resident of Torreón and a Mexican citizen who witnessed the massacre. He was also the owner of the local Torreón newspaper Diogenes wherein he published his account describing the massacre.  

The Truth About The Assassination Of The Chinese In Torreón in Diogenes, July 16, 1911. Translated and published in Owang King & Arthur Bassett, Report of Messrs. Owang King and Arthur Bassett, Repre- sentatives of His Excellency, Minister Chang Yin Tang in an Investigation Made in Con- junction with Licenciado Antonio Ramos Pedrueza, Representative of His Excellency, Francisco L. de la Barra, President of Mexico, of the Facts Relating to the Massacre of Chinese Subjects at Torreón on the 15th of May, 1911 (Mexico: American Book and Printing Company, 1911).

 

 

 

Billee and Tulitas Jamieson (née Wulff)

Tulitas was the daughter of German-American architect Frederick Wulff who helped design the city of Torreón. Her husband Billee was present in Torreón at the time of the massacre. Their accounts were woven together by their daughter Evelyn.

Tulitas Of Torreón: Reminicenses of Life in Mexico (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1969), pp.112-123.

 

 

 

Cunard Cummins

Cummins was the British Vice Consul in Gomez Palacio at the time of the massacre and mentioned the event in his official correspondence.

British Consular Documents: Cunard Cummins, British Vice Consul, to the Foreign Office, May 29, 1911, Gomez FO/204/391, Foreign Office Records Relating to Mexico [FOR-M], Public Record London.

 

 

 

Photographs

H.H. Miller was an American photographer living in Torreón at the time of the massacre. He, along with at least one to three other anonymous/today unknown photographers took several photographs after the event.

Contemporary Photographs

 

 

 

C. W. Enders

Enders was an American investor living in Torreón at the time of the massacre and testified before the United States Senate Committee On Foreign Relations on what he witnessed.

 

Testimony Of Mr. C. W. Enders in Investigation Of Mexican Affairs, Preliminary Report And Hearings Of The Committee On Foreign Relations, United States Senate Pursuant To S. Res. 106 Directing The Committee On Foreign Relations To Investigate The Matter Of Outrages On Citizens Of The United States In Mexico (a.k.a. The Fall Commission) in Senate Documents, Vol 9, 66th Congress, 2nd Session, Dec 1, 1919-June 5, 1920 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), p.1077-1080.

 

 

 

Paul C. Renard

Renard was an American architect and engineer living in Torreón at the time of the massacre who also testified before the United States Senate Committee On Foreign Relations on what he witnessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testimony Of Paul C. Renard in Investigation Of Mexican Affairs, Preliminary Report And Hearings Of The Committee On Foreign Relations, United States Senate Pursuant To S. Res. 106 Directing The Committee On Foreign Relations To Investigate The Matter Of Outrages On Citizens Of The United States In Mexico (a.k.a. The Fall Commission) in Senate Documents, Vol 9, 66th Congress, 2nd Session, Dec 1, 1919-June 5, 1920 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), p.1080-1083.

 

 

 

Owang (Owyan) King & Arthur Bassett

King, a representative for China, and Bassett, an American lawyer, were sent to investigate the massacre to ascertain whether a lawsuit could be proceeded with. Their results were published in book form in 1911.

Report of Messrs. Owang King and Arthur Bassett, Representatives of His Excellency, Minister Chang Yin Tang in an Investigation Made in Con- junction with Licenciado Antonio Ramos Pedrueza, Representative of His Excellency, Francisco L. de la Barra, President of Mexico, of the Facts Relating to the Massacre of Chinese Subjects at Torreón on the 15th of May, 1911 (Mexico: American Book and Printing Company, 1911).

 

 

 

The New York Times

The New York Times performed its own investigation into the matter, publishing their findings in several articles.

Articles (compiled into one file for ease of access).

 

 

 

Louise Gates

Gates was a child living in Sierra Mojada, Coahuila at the time of the massacre, later moving to the United States with her family for safety. She discusses the massacre on pp.14-17 of her interview.

Interview with Louise Gates by Sarah E. John, 1978, "Interview no. 726," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.

 

 

 

Lebbeus Wilfley & Arthur Bassett

Wilfey and Bassett were from the law firm that was hired by the Chinese to pursue legal remedies from Mexico. This book presented their research and legal strategy which suggested that the current Mexican government was responsible for the deaths and damage.

Memorandum on the Law and the Facts in the Matter of the Claim of China against Mexico for Losses of Life and Property Suffered by Chinese Subjects at Torreón on May 13, 14, and 15, 1911 (Mexico: American Book and Printing Company, 1911).

 

 

 

Henry Lane Wilson

Wilson was the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico at the time the Torreón Massacre occurred. There are references to the event in his correspondence with the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C.

Diplomatic Cables compiled in Papers Relating To The Foreign Relations Of The United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1918) under the section entitled Protection Of Chinese Subjects In Mexico By American Diplomatic And Consular Officers. Temporary Refuge Granted. Waiver Of Exclusion Act

 

 

 

Chinese & Mexican Governments

This was the joint agreement made between the governments of Mexico and China indicating that Mexico would pay for the massacre.

 

Convention Between The Governments Of Mexico and China For The Payment Of An Indemnity in Supplement to the American Journal Of International Law, Vol 8, No. 2, April 1914, p.147-150.

 

 

For More Original Sources See

There are reported to be six large files containing thousands of documents on the subject at the Archivo Genaro Estrada de la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (National Archives) in Mexico City, Records # 13-2-34 “S.R.E. Sección de América, Asia y Oceanía, año 1911. Reclamaciones Extranjeras. Chinos en Torreón, su asesinato”.

There are also likely records at the Archivo Municipal de Torreón “Eduardo Guerra”.

Records of the Department of State Relating To The Chinese Question In Mexico, 1910-1939 {RDS-C], Record Group 59, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Records of the Department of State Relating to Internal Affairs of 1910-1929 [RDS-M], Microcopy 274, roll 161, Record Group 59, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Records of the Department of State Relating to the Chinese Question in Mexico, 1910-1929, on microfilm at the University Of Arizona Library

 

Books/Articles Written About The Event

Jacques, Leo M. Dambourges. "The Chinese Massacre in Torreón (Coahuila) in 1911." Arizona and the West 16, no. 3 (1974): 233-246.

Puig, Juan. Entre el río Perla y el Nazas: la China decimonónica y sus braceros emigrantes, la colonia china de Torreón y la matanza de 1911. Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1993.

 

Herbert, Julián. The House of the Pain of Others: Chronicle of a Small Genocide. Graywolf Press, 2019.

 

Jiménez, Marco Antonio Pérez. "“La matanza de chinos en Torreón, Coahuila (1911) ¿un acontecimiento espontáneo?: los posibles vínculos entre los actores y la élite Revolucionaria”."

 

Cumberland, Charles C. "The Sonora Chinese and the Mexican Revolution." The Hispanic American Historical Review 40, no. 2 (1960): 191-211.

  

Yañez, Brenda Azucena Muñoz, and Brenda Azucena Muñoz Yáñez. "Sang: propuesta para un documental sobre la matanza de chinos en Torreón." Repositorio Nacional Conacyt.

 

Romero, Robert Chao. The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940. University of Arizona Press, 2011.