[Havana. July 12, 1871]. pp. of partially printed forms, completed in manuscript, plus an extra blank leaf of the printed form. Leaves browned and chipped, full or partial separations at center horizontal folds. Good overall. Item #WRCAM55115
A manifest listing a shipload of Chinese indentured servants recently arrived to the harbor of Havana, Cuba in 1871. It provides details of the names and ages of more than 300 Chinese men sent to Cuba to work essentially as slave labor. The list is headed "Lista de los colonos que fueron embarcados en China á bordo de la fragata Espanola nombrada Encarnacion su capitan Gardoqui, llegada á este puerto de dia 11 del presente mes, donde se espresan los que han fallecido durante la travesia y los nombres cristianos que se les han dado.” In English, this translates to "List of the migrants who were embarked in China on board the Spanish frigate named Encarnacion, its captain Gardoqui, its arrival at this port having been on the 11th day of this month, where it is stated those who died during the voyage and the Christian names that have been given to them." The document lists 327 men, giving their transliterated Chinese name, age, their assigned Spanish given name, and a column headed "Defuncion" (death). Other columns are headed "Sexo" and "Profession," but all passengers were men, and their profession is left blank. At the end of the list is a note signed by an official named Colomé, who writes: "Por donde se ve que los muertos son diez los cuales van marcados asi Ø. [It will be seen that the dead are ten, which are marked so: Ø]." In contrast to this note, however, there are sixteen names which bear the fatal mark "Ø" who did not survive the voyage from China to Cuba. For example, among the deceased are #26 on the list, Chang Foi Quan, aged 31, assigned the name Anatolio; #63, Lam Sem, aged 24, assigned the name Bernardino; and #78, Ho Veng Soi, aged 20, assigned the name Caridad. The Spanish names are in alphabetical order and end with "S," suggesting that they were written onto the manifest from a pre-prepared list, assigning the Chinese men new names completely at random. 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 high percentage of these laborers were kidnapped from their homeland, with many unable to survive the long passage from China to Cuba, as the present documents illustrates in sad detail. 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. Original primary source documents of the era of Chinese indentured servitude in Cuba are rare, and growing more so with each passing year. The present example is one of the most sobering and detailed that we have encountered.