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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
1858 1874

Jose, a Chinese settler, converted to Christianity. He was contracted by Francisco Morales and was baptized in the Church of Cerro. His godfather was Jose Molina.

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Documents pertaining to the Chinese settler, Desiderio from Vaij Chao. Contains: contract written in Spanish and Chinese, signed in Macao on October 23, 1865.

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Application for permanent residence in Cuba for a Chinese settler, Roman. Included are his baptism certificate, a work contract and a request to be rehired, and several recommendations from the owners of the Sugar Refinery of Carmen.

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This is a registry that documented the number of deaths of men of Yucatan or Chinese descent that occurred in the jurisdiction of Bejucal in Cuba in 1860. Three Chinese settlers are listed in the registry; some personal details, such as age and gender, as well as contract information that pertained to each settler were included in the document.

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Relates that the civil government regulated the ability of Chinese settlers to marry. If they possessed a cedula, or identity record (meaning they were legally employed in Cuba, but had not yet become a permanent resident), they needed permission to marry anyone who was considered to be of a different race. Chinese settlers could only marry other Chinese settlers without permission

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Records pertaining to the right of a company to not pay for the burial of their employees if they die while contracted. The court ruling does mention that many settlers are poor and that the parish has struggled to find resources to help the poor, but that the bishop did not help the parishes. The Deposit of Immigrants has been persisting in changing public and legal perception of Chinese settlers as humans who have rights. However, companies are not legally obligated to fulfill a church job.

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Death certificate for Mamerto, a Chinese settler, who died from injuries to his femur in Ingenio Santisima Trinidad. He worked for Mrs. Gabriel Garcia before his death and was buried in the cemetery of the Church of our Lady of Torque without having been baptized. His cedula, or identity card, is included and lists him as having worked for M.C. Blanca when he was given the cedula. He was brought from Macao to Cuba by Torrices, Puente and Company.

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These are two death certificates that were issued for two Chinese settlers. The first one was signed on October 12, 1874, and pertained to a young girl named Brigida Fuentes who was the daughter of a Chinese settler named Celestina Fuentes. The second certificate was signed on October 5, 1874, and pertained to an unknown person. Havana.

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These are four separate death certificates that pertained to four Chinese settlers who died in November of the year 1872. The first three certificates were issued at the same hospital- Real Hospital de Cardiad de S. Felipe y Santiago, and date that the settlers were admitted into the hospital, the number of days they remained in the hospital before they expired, and the cause of their deaths, were well documented. The fourth certificate pertained to a Chinese settler named Juan de Dios who was not assisted by a hospital when he died, and therefore not a lot of details were …

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This collection of documents pertains to the death of Zenon Porto; he was a free Chinese settler in Cuba who owned his own fish frying business. The first document in this group is an announcement of his death on July 28, 1971, that was made by a Cuban police official. Within the same document, the official explained that an investigation and interrogation into the matters of his death would take place. Several records of the interrogations are included in this collection. Three Chinese settlers who were familiar with Zenon Porto including his brother Nicolas, and two neighbors- Domingo and Pedro, …

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