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The Silver Way: How Mexican Silver Coins Paved a 16th-Century Sea Route to China

By Poornima Weerasekara
A painting, circa 1770, shows the Chinese market in Mexico City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A painting, circa 1770, shows the Chinese market in Mexico City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Many Americans think Chinese immigration to the continent started with their country’s railroad projects in the 19th century. But long before San Francisco’s fabled Chinatown, 16th-century Mexico City was home to a sizable Chinese population, and a Pacific trade route to and from Spanish America had turned China into the “factory of the world” 400 years ago.

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