Friday, May 09, 2008

Cuban Chinese

Peace. We often speak of the stories of the so called African in the diaspora in the Americas or we speak of the Native Nations in the Americas. There is another group in the Americas that are related to both historically. This is the Far East Asian.

The Native Nations were attacked immediately with bio-chemical warfare (disease and firewater). In order to fill that labor pool the so called African was brought over. After 'emancipation' happened another group came through to fill in certain economic slots; the Far East Asian.

Have you ever heard a Chinese person speak Spanish or Patois? Check out the video below from 'Candyman' a 'dark' Cuban.

Reggaeton acknowledging the Chinese in their midst.

Chinese immigration to Cuba started in 1847 when Spanish settlers brought in Cantonese contract workers to work in the sugar fields. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers were brought in from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan during the following decades to replace and / or work alongside African slaves. After completing 8-year contracts or otherwise obtaining their freedom, some Chinese immigrants settled permanently in Cuba, although most longed for repatriation to their homeland. Havana's Chinatown (known as Barrio Chino de La Habana) was one of the earliest and largest Chinatowns in Latin America. Some 5,000 Chinese from the U.S. immigrated to Cuba during the late 1800s to escape the discrimination present at the time. A small wave of Chinese immigrants also arrived during the early 20th century to escape the political chaos in China.

The Chinese tended to concentrate heavily in urban areas, especially in the Havana Chinatown. Many used the money they accumulated as indentured laborers to open small grocery stores or restaurants. Generations of Chinese-Cubans married into the larger Spanish, mulatto and Afro-Cuban populations. Today almost all Chinese-Cubans have African, Spanish, and Chinese ancestry. Many of them have Spanish surnames.

Some Chinese fought in Cuba's Ten Year's War. Chinese Cubans, including some Chinese-Americans from California, joined the Spanish-American War in 1898 to achieve independence from Spain, but a few Chinese, who were loyal to Spain, left Cuba and went to Spain. Racial acceptance and assimilation would come much later.

When the new revolutionary government led by Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, the economic and political situation changed. Many Chinese grocery store owners, having had their properties expropriated by the new government, left Cuba. Most of these settled in the United States, particularly nearby Florida, where they and their U.S.-born children are called Chinese-Americans or Cuban-Americans of Chinese descent, while a relatively few to nearby Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries, and also to U.S.-ruled territory of Puerto Rico, where they are called Chinese Puerto Ricans, Cuban-Puerto Ricans of Chinese descent, or Cuban-Americans of Chinese descent. Chinese refugees to United States include people whose ancestors came to Cuba 10 years before the Cuban Revolution and those from the United States. These Chinese American refugees, whose ancestors had come from California, were happy to be back in the United States. As a result of this exodus, the number of pure Chinese dropped sharply in Havana’s Barrio Chino. The places they migrated to had a unique Chinese culture and a popularity of Chinese Cuban restaurants.

I'll be exploring more of the Chinese and Indian presence in the Caribbean in the near future.

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