Roberto Chao Romero

Associate Professor

Contact Information

Email    rcromero@chavez.ucla.edu
Office  Bunche 7353
Phone  (310) 206-2813
With a Mexican father from Chihuahua and a Chinese immigrant mother from Hubei in central China, Romero’s dual cultural heritage serves as the basis for his academic studies.

His research examines Asian immigration to Latin America, as well as the large population of “Asian-Latinos” in the United States. His first book, The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940 (2010), tells the forgotten history of the Chinese community in Mexico.   The Chinese in Mexico received the Latina/o Studies Section Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association.

Drawing upon his background as attorney, Romero’s second area of research examines the legal history of Chicano/Latino segregation as well as immigration  law and policy. His most recent research explores the role of spirituality in Chicana/o social activism.  

Romero received his J. D. from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Latin American history from UCLA.



Ph. D., Latin American History, University of California at Los Angeles, 2003.
J. D., University of California at Berkeley, 1998.
B. A., History, University of California at Los Angeles, 1994 

Selected Publications

The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940

Robert Chao Romero

University of Arizona Press (2010)

Recipient of Latina/o Studies Section Book Award, Latin American Studies Association

An estimated 60,000 Chinese entered Mexico during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, constituting Mexico’s second-largest foreign ethnic community at the time. The Chinese in Mexico provides a social history of Chinese immigration to and settlement in Mexico in the context of the global Chinese diaspora of the era.

Robert Romero argues that Chinese immigrants turned to Mexico as a new land of economic opportunity after the passage of the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. As a consequence of this legislation, Romero claims, Chinese immigrants journeyed to Mexico in order to gain illicit entry into the United States and in search of employment opportunities within Mexico’s developing economy. Romero details the development, after 1882, of the “Chinese transnational commercial orbit,” a network encompassing China, Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean, shaped and traveled by entrepreneurial Chinese pursuing commercial opportunities in human smuggling, labor contracting, wholesale merchandising, and small-scale trade.

Romero’s study is based on a wide array of Mexican and U.S. archival sources. It draws from such quantitative and qualitative sources as oral histories, interviews, and legal documents. Two sources, used for the first time in this kind of study, provide a comprehensive sociological and historical window into the lives of Chinese immigrants in Mexico during these years: the Chinese Exclusion Act case files of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the 1930 Mexican municipal census manuscripts. From these documents, Romero crafts a vividly personal and compelling story of individual lives caught in an extensive network of early transnationalism.


Articles and Book Chapters

“El Destierro de los Chinos”: Popular Perspectives of Chinese-Mexican Interracial Marriage in the Early Twentieth.  Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies 32, no. 1 (Spring 2007).

"Transnational Commercial Orbits," in A Companion to California History, eds. William Deverell and David Igler (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008).

“Transnational Chinese Immigrant Smuggling to the United States via Mexico and Cuba, 1882-1916.” Amerasia Journal 30, no. 3 (2004/2005): 1-16.

“Fisher v. Texas':  A History of Affirmative Action and Policy Implications for Latinos and Higher Education.” UCLA CSRC Research Report, Number 17, October 2013.

“Doss v. Bernal:  Ending Mexican Apartheid in Orange County.”  UCLA CSRC Research Report, Number 14, February 2012.

“Law, Social Policy, and the Latina/o Education Pipeline.”  UCLA CSRC Research Report, Number 15, October 2012.






Asian-Latinos in the United States; Asians in Latin America; Chicano/Latino legal history