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Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture

Ignacio López-Calvo

Publication Year: 2008

More than 150 years ago, the first Chinese contract laborers ("coolies") arrived in Cuba to work the colonial plantations. Eventually, over 150,000 Chinese immigrated to the island, and their presence has had a profound effect on all aspects of Cuban cultural production, from food to books to painting.

Ignacio Lopez-Calvo's interpretations often go against the grain of earlier research, refusing to conceive of Cuban identity either in terms of a bipolar black/white opposition or an idyllic and harmonious process of miscegenation. He also counters traditional representations of chinos mambises, Chinese immigrants who fought for Cuba in the Wars of Independence against Spain.

Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture fills a void in literary criticism, breaking new ground within the small field of Sino-Cuban studies. It is destined to set the tone for years to come.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

For most of history, Asians in Latin America and Asian–Latin American relations have not been topics of much serious discussion or scholarly attention in the U.S. academy, marginalized at best, with some infrequent token recognition. Yet, let us not forget Christopher Columbus’s project that changed world history was all about finding a new route to link Asia to the known Western world, for the primary purpose of trade and commercial exchange. ...

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pp. xiii

I want to express my deep gratitude to my friends Robert Rudder, José I. Suárez, and Mark Anderson for their careful proofreading of the manuscript and their invaluable suggestions. I also wish to thank Yuli Chung, one of the inspirations for this book and a person I will always keep very close to my heart. ...

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A Note on the Translation

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pp. xv

In all cases where no English-language edition of the text appears in the bibliography and there are no page numbers after the quotation in the text, the translation is mine. The original Spanish and the page number of the quotation appear in an endnote. Otherwise, quotations come from English- language sources. ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-25

For the last several decades, academic circles in the humanities have been questioning the construction of binary oppositions when dealing with issues of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, or religion. This relatively new approach has brought a whole new spectrum into literary and cultural studies. Likewise, in the shadow of the so-called New World Order, another crucial ...

Part 1. A Hostile Path to Hybridity

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2. Chinese Bondage

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pp. 29-45

A long tradition of colonialist and Orientalist discourses has resulted in the (mis)representation of Chineseness (a tenuous term in itself) not only by authors and artists, but also within academic circles. In this sense, Rey Chow has voiced her suspicion of Western academia’s acceptance of non-Western testimonials: ...

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3. Cuban Sinophobia

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pp. 46-57

At both official and popular levels, xenophobic anti-Chinese sentiments have been common in most countries with a significant Chinese minority. Cuban cultural production often reflects this irrational fear and hatred, which may originate from very different sources. In the tradition of the “Yellow Peril” complex, the hostility may be caused by the Chinese having emasculating jobs traditionally assigned to women, competition in the job market, jealousy of the Chinese ...

Part 2. Strategies for Entering and Leaving Chineseness

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4. Orientalism

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pp. 61-71

In the introduction to his seminal work Orientalism (1978), Edward Said laments the manipulative appropriation that characterizes Orientalism, a hegemonic discourse that connects individual authors with the imperialistic projects of Western powers. In his words, the Romantic invention of the “Orient” mainly by British and French colonists, academics, travelers, artists, and writers, far from contributing to the understanding of this region, facilitated ...

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5. Chinese Women as Exotica

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pp. 72-79

Most Chinese who migrated to Cuba and other countries in the Americas, particularly in the early years, were men. “There were 56 Chinese females in Cuba in 1862, 32 in 1872, and 81 in 1877,” according to Denise Helly (29).1 As of December 8, 2005, only 30 native Chinese women remain on the island. ...

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6. Self-Orientalization

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pp. 80-89

When critics use the term “Western Orientalism,” it is because of the synchronous existence of Eastern Orientalism. This type of self-perception coexists with Eastern Occidentalism, an approach that resorts to similar patterns of essentialization, stereotyping, and dehumanization and that can be often traced in Islamic and Asian studies of the so-called Western world.1 This chapter, however, will focus on a related occurrence: the processes of ...

Part 3. Cross-Cultural Heterogeneity and Hybridization

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7. Religious Syncretism

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pp. 93-105

It would be a mistake to assume that there was only one religion in China. Along with Buddhism, a major world religion, Taoism (both a philosophy and a system of religion) and Confucianism (which has never been an established religion with a church and priesthood) complete what is known as the “Three Ways.” Of the three, Confucianism has been the most influential movement in Chinese thought, followed by Taoism and then Buddhism. ...

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8. Painful Transculturations

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pp. 106-116

According to Antonio Cornejo Polar, “the category of mestizaje is the most powerful and widespread conceptual device with which Latin America has interpreted itself” (“Mestizaje” 116). However, as Juan de Castro elucidates, it was also demagogically used by Creoles during the wars of independence against Spain: “This discursive tradition originated in the attempt by the Latin American colonial Criollo (Euro-American) elites to rhetorically ...

Part 4. Beyond Identity: Ongoing Identitarian Sedimentations

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9. Self-Definition and the Chinos Mambises

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pp. 119-133

For the purpose of promoting assimilation and presenting a positive image of immigrant Jews, some Jewish Argentine authors envisioned Argentina as the land of the future and used their Sephardic heritage as a link to their adopted country (despite their Ashkenazi origin).2 In the same way, Chinese Cubans like Antonio Chuffat Latour and Regino Pedroso devote their ...

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10. Exclusion and (Mis)representation

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pp. 134-144

Ien Ang argues that China is the “land/nation/culture that has loomed largest in the European imagination as the embodiment of the mysterious, inscrutable other” (On Not Speaking Chinese 11). As evidenced in previous chapters, the Chinese have also populated the imaginary of the Cuban nation for decades. However, a parallel destructive process of erasure exists whereby they have been excluded from the official discourse and from historical records. ...

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11. Conclusion

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pp. 145-154

The body of works analyzed in this study constitutes a cultural mapping of the rugged history of the Chinese community in Cuba.1 One by one, each Sino-Cuban character traces a collective identity in a process of uninterrupted articulation. Each unveils a human palimpsest that reflects the evolving image of this ethnic group, from a starting point of demonization ...

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pp. 155-163

The unsung and relatively prosaic lives of “legitimate” Chinese and people of Chinese descent are just as fascinating as those of Wifredo Lam, Regino Pedroso, Flora Fong, and other well-known Chinese Cubans.1 The recording of their testimonies is, therefore, a valuable resource in apprehending the ever-changing world of the Chinese Cubans and their diaspora from the point of view of the protagonists themselves. ...


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pp. 165-208


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pp. 209-220

Chronological List of Works

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pp. 221


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pp. 223-227

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813045603
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813032405
Print-ISBN-10: 0813032407

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2008