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Chinese Immigrants in Cuba: Documents from the James and Ana Melikian Collection


The Chinese Immigrants in Cuba collection includes hundreds of original documents, manuscripts and photos covering the migration of 125,000 Chinese who signed up to be cheap labor in Cuba from 1847 until the later 1890s. The archive continues until the 1970s and records the Chinese community in Cuba and is rich with photos. This massive collection, from the archive of James and Ana Melikian Collection, is probably the largest one in private hands concerning Chinese in Cuba. At present the collection contains over 1341 records and about 8,000-9,000 pages.


Date Range
1851 1970


Certifies that Valentin, a Chinese settler, completed an eight-year-contract with his employer. He was eventually granted permanent residency after fulfilling the legal requirements.

Created Date
1871

Certifies that Justo, a Chinese settler, completed an eight-year-contract with his employer, Miguel Armona. He was eventually granted permanent residency after fulfilling the legal requirements.

Created Date
1865

Overview and minutes of meeting of 5 Chinese settlers hired to work in the field in 1861. They were transported to Cuba aboard the American ship “Francis P. Sage" under contract with Torices, Puente y Co and Ferran y Dupierris. These workers were hired to work in the fields in Bejucal.

Created Date
1861

This collection of personal documents that belonged to Ricardo, a Chinese settler, specifically his application for permanent residence in Cuba. The documents in this collection include his first contract, personal ID card, baptism certificate, and several "reviews" written by his past owners attesting to good conduct. The final document in this selection is a testimony of Ricardo's promise to abide by Cuban and Spanish laws; he signed it upon the approval of his request for permanent residence.

Created Date
1863-10-10

This file includes several document. One of them is a contract written in both Spanish and Chinese. According to the contract, Xie Tian was willing to go to Cuba as a worker. So he was requested to sign the contract and should follow the rules listed on it.

Created Date
1865

These are the records of Jose Dolores, a Chinese settler brought from China to Cuba for work. The documents include handwritten contracts with various owners and recommendation letters, detailing his good behavior as a worker. His certificate of nationality is also included and was accepted by the governor of Cuba.

Created Date
1864

A recommendation letter from an unnamed employer concerning the Chinese settlers he employed and their permanent residency status.

Created Date
1861

This group of documents pertain to the disappearance of 14 Chinese settlers and their cedulas, and the search that ensued to locate them and return them to their owners. A claim was made by the owners of the cedulas- D. Antonio and Eduardo Betancourt, on November 27, 1858. Various authority figures in several of the Cuban towns responded to the report and promised to keep an active search, and to remain in constant communication regarding the missing 14 settlers. However, it was later established within the reports that D. Antonio Betancourt had provided fraudulent contracts about the 14 settlers, and …

Created Date
1858-11-27

This report was written by a member of the local board of health of Havana- Junta Local de Sanidad de la Habana, to a government official regarding the procedures and regulations for ships that arrived into the port of Havana with Chinese settlers on board, and the importance of those procedures. The board member explained that once the ships were docked in the port, the company introducing the settlers was required to provide ship manifests, the settlers' contracts, lists of the settlers who died during the journey and the causes of their deaths, and other documents to support that the …

Created Date
1860-03-14

An identity card, or cedula, for Simon. Simon was twenty-three years old when this card was issued. He had a contract with Jose Maria Criado. Simon had begun his eight year contract with D. RR Torres, but his contract had been ceded to Jose Maria Criado.

Created Date
1864-12-16

Records for a shipment of Chinese settlers brought to Cuba from China under contract with Torices Puente y Co. These workers were contracted and given cedulas, or identity records, to stay in Cuba.

Created Date
1861

An identity card, or cedula, for Enrique. He was thirty one years old when this card was issued. He had a work contract with Y. S. de Castro and had completed a previous contract with the mining company, Comolidada.

Created Date
1865

This is an identity card, known as a cedula, that was issued for a Chinese settler named Lucas. At the time that this cedula was assigned to Lucas, he was 29 years old, and in the process of completing his eight year contract as an indentured servant. The names of two of his past landlords and his current one were listed on the cedula. Originally, when he arrived in Cuba, his contract had been transferred to M. B. Pereda who then transferred the contract to Juan Peyra. Jose M. Criado was Lucas's present owner at the time that this cedula …

Created Date
1864-12-16

This document from the police commissioner of Santiago de las Vegas, Luis Quesada states that all Chinese settlers who arrived in the city prior to July, 1860 must be notified of a change to contract documents, especially concerning a Chinese settler named Crispin, who signed a contract with Quesada.

Created Date
1863

This is a neighborhood identity card (cedula) that belonged to a Chinese settler in Cuba. When this cedula was issued, the settler was 27 years old, a fieldworker, and in the process of completing his initial eight year labor contract as an indentured servant. The names of some of his contract owners are also listed on the cedula. Havana, 1861.

Created Date
1861-11-02

Lee, a Chinese settler, fulfilled a contract with Agustin. Agustin recommended that Lee be given permanent residency in Cuba because he met the legal requirements of completing an eight year contract with one employer. The letter also states that Lee always exhibited good conduct and behavior. Lee's permanent residency was confirmed by the governor.

Created Date
1861

Record the death of a Chinese settler in 1865. contains: other documents; identity card Chinese settlers; original contract written in Chinese and Castilian, Macao 1860.

Created Date
1865

Cedula or identification card for Toribio, a Chinese settler. He was originally from Soltero and is in the process of of fulfilling a contract with a Cuban landowner. 1869.

Created Date
1869

This is a cedula, or an ID card, that belonged to a Chinese settler named Dionisio. Dionisio was brought to Cuba by la Compania and was then contracted to M. del Cobre. 1865.

Created Date
1865

An identity card for Manuel, originally from Macao. Manuel was twenty-four years old when this card was issued. He worked for the Society of Immigration for eight years.

Created Date
1860