Chinese immigrants contributed to sugar production in Cuba

One of the distinctive features of sugar production in the 19th century in central Cuba, what is now Sancti Spíritus province, was the Chinese presence in sugarcane cutting

The sugar industry, which was developed in the so-called Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar mills Valley), in Trinidad, was gaining importance in the northernmost lands of central Cuba and in the second half of the 1800s, there were 41 sugar mills and small mills, about twenty of which were equipped with steam engines.

The mills of the jurisdiction of Sancti Spiritus in 1862 reported 223 Chinese workers, while other sources report that the population of mulattoes, and Chinese and Yucatan immigrants in 1872 amounted to nearly 500 workers.

In the raffles for workers arriving in Sancti Spiritus, according to a promotion published in the newspaper El Fénix, 1,200 pesos were offered for a Chinese, while for a young, corpulent African cost just 30 or 40 pesos.

Roberto Vitlloch, director of the Curator’s Office, told Prensa Latina that the exploitation and the hard work in the fields caused diseases and deaths among the Asians, as well as desertions and escapes.

If they were captured, they were sent to the Maroon Depot, in the Royal Prison, until the owners reclaimed them, something that didn’t happen very often, he added.

The 20th century brought new Asian immigrants who offered their knowledge in the commercial sector, even though many were associated with groups dedicated to the production of vegetables on the outskirts of the city.

The first winery registered in the local Mercantile Registry was a small place, one block away from downtown Trinidad, very clean, organized and well attended to by the owner, it is said.

In about a decade starting in 1908, 25 gastronomic establishments, dry cleaners, stores, hardware stores and clothing stores were created, whose names reflected their nostalgia: Canton, Chinese Republic, Young China, Great China, The Asian and the Cantonese Woman.

The conformation between the Cuban nationality and men and women coming from distant lands, Spaniards, Africans and Chinese, left their imprint.

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