East to the Americas

Image:Luz Montero

Francisca Ono , 80, is the child of Japanese emigrants to Mexico. She lives near Tapachula, Chiapas, close to where the first Japanese colony settled.

Francisca Ono de Takemura was 14 and the eldestof seven children when her father was forcedto sell his Mexican restaurant in Tepic, Nayarit,and move his family to Mexico City.

“All of us who lived in Tepic left; we were sixfamilies. Each one looked for a place to live,” saysTakemura, now 79. “My mother was very sad. Butshe kept it to herself.”

A delicate, gracious woman with a readylaugh, Takemura hesitates when asked aboutthe relocation. It was traumatic, she admits,but she now believes it was for the best thather family moved to the city. Like other Japanesedescendants, she is quick to point out thegenerosity that Mexico has shown the Japanesecommunity over the years. 

“They say that in some countries in SouthAmerica the Japanese were not treated well. InMexico we are held in high esteem. I am Mexicanby birth and it is an honor because Mexico is avery worthy country. We are happy our parentscame to Mexico, because here we have lived contentedly.”

Meanwhile, Nishimura, who spent years tryingto get out of Japan, finally got home in 1948,a decade after he was sent away.

“A week after I got back [to Mexico] they sent amessenger from the National Palace,” he recalls.Nishimura was informed he was being draftedinto the Mexican army. “Again I picked up agun,” he says. But before he was dispatched tothe northern city of Monterrey, the draft endedand he was excused from service. In his early20s, he repeated primary and secondary schoolin Mexico. He finished his engineering degree atthe UNAM when he was 31 and went to work forthe electric utility.