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Chinese, Cubans share long history

Reporter: Michael Voss 丨 CCTV.com

09-25-2016 09:15 BJT

Full coverage: Premier Li Attends UN Conferences, Visits Canada and Cuba

Ethnic Chinese have been a presence in the Caribbean nation since the 19th century. CCTV's correspondent also brought us this report on how cultural ties between Cuba and China go well beyond ideology and commerce.

A visit by such a senior official from Beijing provided an opportunity for the dwindling community of Cubans of Chinese descent to get together to enjoy their cultural heritage.

At the headtable, two Cuban-Chinese generals who fought in the Cuban revolution alongside Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra mountains.

"The Chinese influence in Cuba is very strong. The first Chinese came here after slavery was abolished. They were treated badly, they didn't know how to cut sugar cane. Many went on to join the independence wars against Spain and then for the socialist revolution," said General Gustavo Chui.

An estimated 150,000 Chinese emigrated to Cuba in the 19th century to work on the plantations and later to build the railroads.

More came in the 20th century, this time wealthier merchants and businessmen, who helped develop Chinatowns in several Cuban cities.

Havana's Chinatown is located in what is today a rundown part of city. In its prime, though, this was the largest and most vibrant Chinatown in the Americas, outside of San Francisco, California."

Today there are still outward signs of its former glory. Most of the wealthy Chinese-Cubans left the country after the Revolution.

Of the tens of thousands of Chinese who came here, just 150 or so, mainly elderly ethnic Chinese descendants remain. The majority of the early arrivals were men who ended up marrying former slaves.

Today their presence can be seen in thousands of Cubans, like General Chui, with a mix of black and Chinese features.

"Cuba is an ethnic mix -- the Spaniards who were the conquerors, creoles, African slaves and Chinese. We have all come together and blended as one people," said General Gustavo Chui.

Chinese culture and traditions are also popular here among ordinary Cubans, very few of these performers have any Chinese roots at all.

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