Chinese Bondage in Peru: A History of the Chinese Coolie in Peru, 1849-1874

By Watt Stewart | Go to book overview

XI THE COOLIE AS PERUVIAN

MOST PERUVIANS, in the period of our study, regarded the Chinese as an indigestible element in the social body. Indeed, there are those who entertain that view today. Historical facts do not support it. By 1879 probably much more than half of the Chinese still living in Peru had fulfilled the terms of their labor contracts and were free. Even before that date, social integration had begun.

It will be recalled that upon arrival at the plantation where he was to work a Chinese coolie, for the convenience of master and overseer, was given a Spanish name. Items here and there in the Peruvian press prove that many of them, when they became free men, retained the new name or, perhaps, adopted another in the Spanish form. An eminent Peruvian stated in a recent publication that, "as in the Colony, the use of the family names of wealthy masters began, not now by obscure slaves, but by pale serfs or coolies."1 This practice surely indicates a tendency toward cultural assimilation.

From early years the Chinese moved slowly toward acceptance of the Christian religion. Sufficient evidence of this fact is a statement in the South Pacific Times: "A Chinaman is about to take holy orders in Lima. Upwards of one hundred Chinamen are regular attendants at Santo Tomás church."2 From another source it is learned

____________________
1
Luis Alberto Sánchez, La Literatura Peruana; derrotero para una historia espiritual del Perú ( Lima, 1946), p. 90.
2
Jan. 11, 1876.

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