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Reviewed by:
  • The Chinese in Cuba, 1847-Now
  • Ignacio López-Calvo (bio)
Mauro García Triana and Pedro Eng Herrera. Edited and translated by Gregor Benton. The Chinese in Cuba, 1847-Now. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009. 233 pp. Hardcover $75.00, ISBN 0-7391-3343-8.

The Chinese in Cuba, 1847-Now is an English translation of three previously unpublished essays by Mauro García Triana and Pedro Eng Herrera. The essays are followed by appendixes that include edited excerpts from three key texts by and [End Page 171] about Chinese and Chinese Cubans. The preface is by Abel Fung, a Chinese-born resident of Havana's Chinatown who has lived in Cuba for over fifty years. After introductions by the editor and the coauthors, the fifty-four-page-long first chapter, "The Chinese in Cuba's War of Independence," also includes an appendix titled "Cubans in a Japanese Internment Camp in Hong Kong." Chapter 2, "Chinese Business in Cuba in the Twentieth Century," has twenty pages. The third, "Chinese in Cuban Cultural Life," is sixty-six pages long. Prior to the index are three additional appendixes: "Chinese Emigration, the Cuba Commission, Report of the Commission Sent by China to Ascertain the Condition of Chinese Coolies in Cuba (1877)"; "Gonzalo de Quesada, The Chinese and Cuban Independence (1892)"; and "Duvon Clough Corbitt, Coolie Life in Cuba (1971)".

According to Abel Fung's preface, "This book reveals the part played by Chinese and their descendants in Cuban society and history, a role unmatched in extent and depth in any other Western country" (p. ix). Similar to other texts, this book bases Chinese claims to the national community on the Chinese military participation in the wars of independence and, later, in the Cuban Revolution. In his introduction, the editor and translator, Gregor Benton, analyzes different factors in the process of integration of the Chinese community to the Cuban nation. Included among these factors are the concepts of a "raceless nation," the Chinese role in the liberation struggles and the Cuban Revolution, the anti-Chinese racism brought by the U.S. occupation of Cuba in 1899, and Cuban sinophobia and orientalism. Benton wisely argues that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Chinese line of the Cuban family acquired new visibility thanks to the new geo political and economic power of the People's Republic of China. The revival of an ethnic Chinese culture results, in part, from the creation of the Havana Chinatown Promotion Group and the opening of the Chung Wah Casino's membership to descendants of Chinese, including mestizos.

The introduction explains that every chapter and appendix in the book is a tribute to the Chinese and their descendants in Cuba in the 160th anniversary of the inception of Chinese emigration to the island. After a brief explanation of the reasons behind the Chinese emigration and of the progressive reduction of their community, they list Chinese regional and clan associations, political organizations, corporative bodies, sporting societies, and periodicals. Chapter 1 explores the important role of the Chinese in Cuba's three wars of independence. The Chinese found their motivation in "the exploitation and maltreatment by the landowners and the colonialists" (p. 1) and the "resentment against foreign colonialists and the Opium Wars and the tradition of the Taiping Rebellion and the struggle against feudal exploitation" (p. 24). The significance of their participation is proven by the fact that colonial authorities decided to stop the import of a Chinese labor that was detrimental to the pacification of the island. Curiously, some of the sources provided contradict the general premise of the chapter — that Chinese participation in the wars was a matter of Cuban patriotism. Thus, a British [End Page 172] consul states that the colonial government's habit of forcing the Chinese to renew their contracts was "the main cause . . . if not the only one, of Chinese presence in the rebel ranks" (p. 3). While admitting that this was partially true, García Triana and Eng Herrera claim that many had already joined the rebels before this 1871 imposition. The chapter includes detailed accounts of the main battles, such as Las Guásimas; a discussion of the number...


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