The Promise of Gold Mountain: Tucson's Chinese Heritage

Wong Check Kwong

We gratefully acknowledge Emma Wong Medina-Griffin for contributing the information and images about Check Kwong Wong

From the late 1920s until 1935, Wong Check Kwong served as the consulate representative of the Chinese government in Nogales, Sonora. While in Nogales, Sonora, he married a Mexican woman and their first child, Carmen was born in 1932.

Wong Check Kwong at the consular house, 1929

Wong Check Kwong at the consular house, 1929

photo of Wong Check Kwong family and friends on a picnic in Nogales, Sonora, March 1936
This photograph was taken at a picnic in Nogales, Sonora, March 1936. Wong Check Kwong is holding his daughter Anna, born in 1935. Emma's mother is next to him wearing a white jacket and holding Carmen, their first daughter. Emma was born in Tapachula, Mexico, few months after this photo was taken in August, 1936

"In the late twenties and early thirties, however, their [Chinese residents] prospects for continuous prosperity ended when thousands of them were expelled from the northwestern state of Sonora, which had the largest and most influential Chinese colony. Since then their presence in Mexico has been insignificant, their early history all but forgotten. (See: "Immigrants to a Developing Society: The Chinese in Northern Mexico, 1875-1932" by Evelyn Hu-DeHart)

During his time in northernwestern Mexico, Mr. Wong was well liked by the Chinese and Mexican community. There was also a Korean family, the Kossios, who had a photography studio in Nogales and Hermosillo, Sonora. The images from family photos (above right) include Consul Wong picniking with Chinese and Korean friends. Mr. Wong was also well-known in Tucson. Family members have passed down memories of many parties and social gatherings.

Following the explusion, the Chinese government sent Mr. Wong to Tapachula, Chiapas, where Emma and Luis (1940) were born. Through Mr. Wong's presence as consul, the Chinese government and Chinese residents maintained a degree of formal representation in Mexico. Ms. Wong recalls that her family resided in Chiapas for eight years and related that a prominent member of the community and owner of a coffee plantation, José Chong, became her godfather.

This photograph was taken just before leaving Tapachula, Chiapas, in 1942. Emma Wong is the youngest daughter.
This photograph was taken just before leaving Tapachula, Chiapas, in 1942. Emma Wong is the youngest daughter

Consul Wong was transferred to Jamaica and the family relocated to Kingston where they lived for three years.

Photograph taken upon arriving in Kingston
Photograph taken upon arriving in Kingston, Jamaica, circa 1943
Kingston, Jamaica, circa 1944. Mr. Wong, his wife, and three children pose for the photograph with members of the Chinese Community.
Kingston, Jamaica, circa 1944. Mr. Wong, his wife and four children, pose for the photograph with members of the Chinese community

Mr. and Mrs. Wong with Alexander Bustamante. Bustamante served as mayor of Kingston in 1947 and 1948, and became Jamaica's first Prime Minister in 1962
Mr. Wong with Norman W. Manley who served as Jamaica's Chief Minister from 1955 to 1959, and as Premier from 1959 to 1962
Mr. Wong with Sir John Huggins, Governor of Jamaica (September 1943 - April 1951)

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