The Album

In 1923, Tsung Yee Loo, the Chargé d'affaires for the Republic of China in Peru, collaborated with Aurelio Pow San Chia, Fon Shan King and Tomas Yui Swayne, three prominent Lima-based Cantonese merchants, along with Francisco Leon, the Director of the Lima-based newspaper The Voice of the Chinese Colony (La Voz de la Colonia China), to gather information and photographs from prominent Chinese businessmen for the publication of a community album that would be presented to the members of Congress. The album would “allow the rest of Peru, particularly the officials, high commerce and Lima society, to marvel at the commercial prosperity and achievements attained by the Chinese in Peru through hard work and action, which is always friendly towards Peru” (Colonia 1924, 9).  Published in 1924, The Chinese Colony in Peru: Representative Men and Institutions: Its Beneficial Action in the National Life appeared just as an informal two-year suspension of Chinese migration came to an end, the result of a failed effort to pass a formal law banning Chinese migration to Peru. The album reflected a strategic attempt by Chinese political and economic elites to counter anti-Chinese sentiment by crafting an image of a prosperous foreign merchant community that brought great economic benefits to its host nation.

 

The community album emerged as a popular genre during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Frequently produced to bolster a city’s commercial and industrial enterprises, these albums portrayed prominent businessmen and their shops and factories (Hoffecker 1983, 37-38).  Racial, ethnic and immigrant populations seeking to craft an integrated image of their communities to claim inclusion within a broader urban or national context also took up the genre, creating albums featuring their own economic elites, businesses and community associations (Young 2013). As a minority community album, The Chinese Colony in Peru of 1924 is a popular primary source used by historians to gather information on Chinese commercial elites, their businesses and associations, the social and economic processes that enabled Chinese to settle and flourish in Peru and the cosmopolitan imaginaries they crafted to claim social and economic inclusion as foreign nationals (Derpich 1999; Lausent-Herrera 2000; McKeown 2001).

 

The Album