[Macao. March 6, 1868]. pp. Partially-printed forms on two leaves, completed in manuscript. First leaf 16 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches, second leaf 13 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches. Old folds. Minor separations and some chipping to edges of first leaf. Minor loss along folds of second leaf costing a few letters, with minor tape repair on verso. Tender, but still in good plus condition. Item #WRCAM54961
Manuscript manifest listing Chinese laborers bound for the Spanish colony of Cuba from Macao. The list includes 213 Chinese men bound for agricultural indentured servitude in Cuba aboard the ship Guantanamo, listing each person's name, age, and town of birth. Their ages range from twenty to forty. The document is signed on the final page by José de Aguilar, the Spanish consul at Macao. Formal slavery persisted in Cuba until 1886, but from the mid-19th century it was accompanied by a significant population working in indentured servitude. Cuba's massive sugar industry had consumed huge imports of African slaves in the 18th century. The abolition of the slave trade in 1808, vigorously enforced by the British Navy, meant that a new source of labor was necessary. Indentured servitude became the predominant source for labor in the region. Unlike the earlier waves of European immigrants who travelled to the New World as indentured servants, Asia was now the primary source. Between 1848 and 1874, 125,000 Chinese indentured servants arrived in Cuba alone - a figure outstripped only by the number who indentured themselves in California. A large percentage of these laborers were kidnapped from their homeland, with many unable to survive the long passage from China to Cuba. If they made it to Cuba at all, the largely Chinese population of indentured servants laboring in the coffee and sugar fields experienced a working life tantamount to slavery. "Some contemporaries and later historians...have condemned the servitude of the Asians as a thinly disguised revival of slavery. These critics have pointed to a variety of abuses to which the Asians were subjected, both legally - with severe laws governing absenteeism, vagrancy, and insufficient work - and illegally, in the form of harassment by vicious masters. Yet other observers have defended the system as a boon to the Asian workers. Voluntary reindenture at the end of their terms was common among the migrants, suggesting that many Asians judged the system to be beneficial to them" - Drescher. It is odd to think that anyone could be well served by indentured servitude, but the present document could help shed light on such a controversial topic. The present example is a valuable record of over 200 Chinese men, their age, and their home region in China that could serve any number of purposes for academics and genealogical researchers. Manuscript material covering the period of Asian indentured servitude in Cuba is growing increasingly scarce in the market. Seymour Drescher & Stanley L. Engerman, eds., A HISTORICAL GUIDE TO WORLD SLAVERY (New York, 1998), pp.140-42, 239-42.