Robert Chao Romero

Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies

RCRomero Portrait7353 Bunche
(310) 206-2813
Curriculum Vitae


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

Research Interests

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

Biography and Interests

Professor Robert Chao Romero considers himself fortunate to be able to study himself for a living. 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. For his next project, Romero has begun research on the history of Mexican segregation in the United States and the important, but much overlooked Mexican desegregation cases of Doss v. Bernal (1943), Lopez v. Seccombe (1944), and Mendez v. Westminster (1946).

Before he joined the UCLA César E. Chávez Department Chicana/o Studies in 2005, Romero was a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the UCLA Department of History and School of Law.  He is also a former Ford Foundation Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Fellow.

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


BC Chinese in MexicoThe Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940
Robert Chao Romero
University of Arisona Press (2010)

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.

“Musica de la Frontera: Research Note on the UCLA Frontera Digital Archive.” In Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies 30, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 233-237.


  • Chicano Studies 10A, "Introduction to Chicana/Chicano Studies: History and Culture." (Fall 2007)

  • Chicano Studies 89, "Honors Seminars Chicano 89, seminar 1: Honors Seminar for Chicana and Chicano Studies 10A, Lecture 1." (Fall 2007)

  • Chicano Studies 143, "Mestizaje: History of Diverse Racial/Cultural Roots of Mexico." (Spring 2006, Spring 2007, Spring 2008, Spring 2010)

  • Chicano Studies 150, "Affirmative Action: History and Politics." (Spring 2006, Winter 2007, Spring 2008, Winter 2010

  • Chicano Studies 178, "Latina/os and Law: Comparative and Historical Perspectives." (Winter 2006, Winter 2008, Fall 2009)

  • Chicano Studies 191, "Variable Topics Research Seminars: Chicana and Chicano Studies Chicano Studies 191, Seminar 1: Chicana and Chicano Public Interest Law." (Spring 2010) 

  • Chicano Studies 100SL, "Barrio Service Learning." (Fall 2006, Winter 2007, Spring 2007)

  • Chicano Studies 100Sl-2, "Barrio Service Learning." (Fall 2006)

  • Chicano Studies 375, "Teaching Apprentice Practicum." (Fall 2007)

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