September 30, 2014
Eight years ago I was told the story of two Chinese coolies who had escaped to the Peruvian Amazon, founded a village called El Chino, which means “The Chinese,” and begun a small tapioca business before vanishing mysteriously. I grew curious about what the Chinese were doing in South America, let alone, the rain forest. Two years later I moved from New York to Lima, Peru, to retrace the geography of nineteenth-century Chinese coolie labor as well as the imaginary of Asia in the Americas, given that Peru has the highest ratio of Asian Latin Americans. When I asked limeños for travel advice on the Amazon, several well-intentioned folks warned me of river pirates, reptilian predators, terrorist activity, drug trafficking, and other perils. Undeterred, I began mapping the escape route of the rumored coolies, who had fled harsh labor conditions in search of a road home to China. I then followed the various Chinese migration waves toward the Andes and the Amazon River Basin, weaving together migratory landmarks while documenting oral histories from elders. En route I resurrected...[Read more here]
Taparaco Myth is a trilingual artist book written in Spanish, English and Chinese about artist Beatrice Glow’s auto-ethnographic journey into retracing the geography of nineteenth-century Chinese coolie labor in Peru. Initially inspired by how her family maintains connections within the diaspora via moths that serve as messengers when a relative passes away in her family’s native Taiwan, on this road, she is guided by the moth — and then by grasshoppers, bees, blue flies and the "taparaco" owl butterfly —, to traverse the historical realities and social imaginaries of Asia in the Americas. En route Glow resurrected memories from cemeteries, guano mines on the Chincha Islands, coastal sugar and rice plantations, and railroads that led into the Andes, until arriving by peque peque canoe to El Chino in the Amazonian Rainforest, where no Chinese live.
A limited edition of the book includes an audio CD recording of the interviews with Chinese-Peruvian descendants.
Museum of Modern Art, Library; Poets House, Archive; The Center for Book Arts; Museum of Chinese in America, Archive; Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia, Library; Stanford University Library