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“Know your ancestor’s history and have open mind” Interview of Professor Sergio Hernandez Galindo

Hello, MEXITOWN interviewed Mr. Sergio Hernandez Galindo, professor at Historical Studies Unit of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. He is the famous researcher of history of Nikkei in Mexico and he have worked in Japan. In this interview, he talked about his experience when he stayed in Japan and why he started to research about Nikkei.




Research of Dekasegi is my turning point

-Good morning, Mr. Sergio Hernandez. Thank you very much for taking your time for the interview of MEXITOWN. First, please talk about your history.

Sergio-san: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity, too. Currently, I am the professor and research at Historical Studies Unit of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. I was graduated from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, department of Economics and also studied Master degree at El Colegio de Mexico in Asia and African Studies Department. My specialization was Japanese Studies. At this time, I was interested in Japan and started to understand Japan deeper than before.

My research topic at EL Colegio de Mexico was "Shitauke" system in Japan. I was in Japan and make research about this system in Japan. Then from 1992 to 1993, I worked at Kanagawa Prefecture as a part of foreign workers program. I was part of Work Department in Kanagawa interview many Dekasegi in Yokohama. In Kanagawa, there are thousands of dekasegi workers.

It was important to understand Peruvian and Brazilian situation in Japan about my dekasegi program. I found that the administrative organizations didn't know about minimum salary that they have to work. They didn't speak Japanese, so their life was very severe.

- Recently, I saw many foreign workers in Japan worked mainly at convenience stores or supermarkets. When you research about dekasegi, which industry they worked most?

Sergio-san : They mainly worked at construction industry such as building constructions, cleaning industry and small factories. Those are where Japanese refuse to work. I guess recent foreign workers who work at convenience stores or supermarkets in Japan are their children and they can speak Japanese. That is the different situation with my dekasegi research.

Family memories with Japanese traditional culture (Kimono and Hinamatsuri)

Living in Japan is my unforgettable memory

-Please share your impressions of Japan and your 3 favorite spots near Kanagawa.

Segio-san: My family was impressed by kind neighborhood, and we were very recognized that Japanese people are very nice to help us and our everyday life.

Yokohama is the one of the important memories in my whole life.

My favorite spots near Kanagawa are;

1. Lake Kawaguchi

Near Mt. Fuji, there are many places to visit. From Lake Kawaguchi, we can see the very beautiful view of Mt. Fuji. It was my unforgettable memory.

2. Yokohama

Yokohama central station is very interesting. I enjoyed shopping in small and big stores with my families at Yokohama. Of course, we also enjoyed my weekends near Kanagawa Kencho and Minato Mirai. Yokohama China town is very interesting as well and we do enjoyed to eat Chinese food.

3.Hot spring ♨

My family love to stay at ryokan and enjoy hot spring near Mt. Fuji, especially Hakone. There are nice museums in Hakone and we visited there. Hakone is very convenient to access from Yokohama and Tokyo.

After I finished this program, I returned to Mexico then again, I worked at Yokohama National University as Visiting Professor for 6 months.

(Above)Sergio's wife and her daughter at Kamakura

(Below) Sergio-san and his wif near Mt. Fuji

- What was your culture shock for Japan?

Sergio-san: Some group of students who visited Japan said they received culture shock for Japanese culture. But for my case, I don’t think I have a big one. I try to understand to receive all culture and open-mind. If I had to choose to say about the culture shock, maybe I have 2 points.

First, there are so many people at the metro and train station. Subways in Japan for me was very interested. I can’t imagine what so many people live and commute everyday in Japan. I think there are more people than Mexico City’s one.

Second, the Japanese style toilet (和式トイレ) was shocked for me and my wife. We never saw and used this kind on the floor…

But overall, we had a nice time in Japan.

-Your wife also worked when she stayed in Japan with you.

Sergio-san: Yes, my wife worked at the restaurant as the part time job. I work all day at the Kanagawa prefecture, but she didn't work at all and decided to work. She tried to understand the Japanese worker situation during the lunchtime and do enjoyed her work. She started to talk Japanese and she noticed that it is not impossible to communicate with people. It was unforgettable experience for her.

Family memories in Japan (photo of the middle was taken at Mexico)

Japanese Immigrants in Mexico wasn’t told in the history

-I guess your experience to interview with dekasegi linked your current studies, Nikkei.

Sergio-san: Exactly. Let me talk about why I started to study the history of Nikkei. Since I came back from Japan, I was the professor at INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia). There was secret archives that the government gathered. All documents was part of Japaneses immigrants that was concentrated in Guadalajara and Mexico City during World War Ⅱ. I found these archives and I started to research many histories and immigrants in CDMX and Guadalajara. All this files about 2000 all the family in Mexico.

I was shocked that it is not recognized among us and we didn’t know there were so many Japanese immigrants were sent to those cities.

About 20 years ago, when I started the research about the immigrants, some professors went to find the archives at general de Mexican Archives Institution. Then, I decided to interview the people and try to recognize and know to about all families. To be surprised, they didn't know that public information are archives.

I inform all of them where they live where repressions in Mexico and they didn’t know about grandparents. At this point it was very difficult to interview all people to find out the real history.

Then, professor Shozo Ogino recovered history immigrants. When I met him, I showed all this files and he didn’t know very close all this family. Therefore, I started to work together with professor Ogino and try to get all info.

One day, professor Ogino introduced Mr. Masao Imuro (Photo※1). He was very important for me because he was watched by FBI in Mexico as part of the American´surveillance of Japanese immigrants. He was concentrated in Prote concentration camp in Veracruz. The Japanese immigrant’s information includes Mr. Imuro was saved in Washington DC and then I went there to get that information. When I met him at the first time, he refused to talk because nobody knows his history. Even his wife and his 2 daughters didn’t know he was in jail 8 years during World War Ⅱ. After World WarⅡ, he stayed at the repression in Mexico.

In 1941 Mr. Imuro arrived in CDMX when he was 20 years old. It was the era of the ultra-nationalist education in Japan. In other words, he was part of this generation Japanese war. He didn't commit any act of terrorist he only wrote letters again American Government that he is not the terrorist action.

After he started to talk with me, I decide to publish this story. Imuro explained his story and finally he convinced me to publish the history.

- We didn’t know there are such a kind of Japanese who were in jail and repressed by the government during the World War Ⅱ like Mr. Imuro. I realized those history was not told in the history books.

Segio-san : Mexican people didn't know about this situation as well. Kiso Tsuru, he was the very powerful man and he had the close relationship with Japanese embassy. He was reached his part of this kind of Japanese policy in Mexico. He was involved by war. He didn't send any concentration. I brought those stories and try to explain Japanese immigration to INAH.

Conference at CONANI, San Luis Potosi, May 2022

My research brought many articles and some books about Japanese immigrants. I also send my articles to Japanese American National museum at Los Angeles. Until now, I interviews about 250 interviews in Mexico. I do appreciate if the readers in MEXITOWN have some interests of my research then read my articles on discover Nikkei (please see above)

Japanese and Nikkei in Mexico -know each other more than now

Networking event in Leon, January 2023

- In Mexico, I think we need to communicate and collaborate between Japanese and Nikkei in Mexico. What do you think how do they communicate well?

Sergio-san: Well, last January, Guanajuato Leon´ Consul Mr. Itagaki made a great opportunity to create the broad networking between Japanese and Nikkei in Bajio region. I enjoyed and realized we need to communicate more than ever. It's the new way of introducing both Japanese and Nikkei in Mexico. I hope we can have another opportunity such that Consul Mr. Itagaki held.

In CDMX, we don’t have this situation. Therefore, when I attend the networking, I would like to hold the same networking CDMX as well. Japanese and Nikkei communities are separated.

Nikkei really didn’t speak Japanese so it’s not easy to get into Japanese community.

In Liceo Mexicano Japones (日本メキシコ学院), even though there are some programs try to introduce Japanese in Mexico and Mexican Nikkei, there are some difficulties to communicate each other. I think there are really GAP between Japanese and Nikkei in community in Mexico.

I would like to see big Japanese companies try to understand the Mexican situation and recognize the Nikkei community and work together. I saw some Japanese companies in Leon that some Nikkei works there.

Many Japanese companies’ president or managers should try to attend the networking such that Mr. Itagaki held and then recruit talented Nikkei.

At the same time, many Japanese companies should know not only Nikkei community, but also their story.

For Nikkei community in Mexico, they can be the bridge between Japan and Mexico and then try to communicate to tell Mexican culture and Japanese. Those are their missions. Many Nikkei are very open minded, and I believe they can be.

Open mind and know your ancestor’s history

Ceremony to receive the Japan´ Canceller Recognition at Embassy of Japan in Mexico

- Please give your message to the next generations both Mexico and Japan.

Sergio-san: For Japanese people, they have to try to understand the different culture when they arrive to Mexico. Of course, then they have the open mind the different situation and culture. When I stay in Japan, I told myself “This is not Mexico”. I know there are bad things but the at the same time they can enjoy the Mexico!

For Nikkei and Mexican people, please learn your ancestor’s path. When I talked with younger Nikkei, he didn’t know about his grandfather has the hard workers. He started to know his grandfather’s history after I told his history. I was very surprised I knew more than his family.

We, both Japanese, Mexican, and Nikkei must know that first generation of Nikkei worked very hard in Mexico and then thank to your current life. That’s what I would like to tell the younger generation. Thank you very much for taking the opportunity for the interview.

Conferencia with Yasuaki Yamashita at Chiapas in November 2022


Sergio Hernández Galindo is a graduate of Colegio de México, where he majored in Japanese studies. He has published numerous articles and books about Japanese emigration to Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

His most recent book, Los que vinieron de Nagano. Una migración japonesa a México (Those who came from Nagano: A Japanese migration to Mexico, 2015) tells the stories of emigrants from that prefecture before and after the war. In his well-known book, La guerra contra los japoneses en México. Kiso Tsuru y Masao Imuro, migrantes vigilados (The war against Japanese people in Mexico: Kiso Tsuro and Masao Imuro, migrants under surveillance), he explained the consequences of conflict between the United States and Japan for the Japanese community decades before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

He has taught classes and led conferences on this topic at universities in Italy, Chile, Peru, and Argentina as well as Japan, where he was part of the group of foreign specialists in the Kanagawa Prefecture and a fellow of the Japan Foundation, affiliated with Yokohama National University. He is currently a professor and researcher with the Historical Studies Unit of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

He received The Japan´ Canceller Recognition in 2022 to his work.


※1 Photo of Mr. Imuro from Seiji Shinohara "RETRATOS DE LOS INMIGRANTES JAPONESES" 移民一世の肖像, page 126


Editors’ Note:

Sergio-san is the famous among the research area of Nikkei in Mexico. We can learn many things about not only Nikkei history, but also his experience in Japan from his wide knowledge. As he mentioned in his interview, we should know more about our ancestors’ path and how 1st generation Nikkei in Mexico suffered and leave something for our generation. I believe after we get to know the background behind the Nikkei in Mexico, we can communicate with Nikkei community much closer than now. I truly realized that from Sergio-san’s interview.



温 祥子(Shoko Wen)





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