Chinese in Cuba subject of MSU's next Faculty Forum

Chinese in Cuba subject of MSU's next Faculty Forum

Chinese in Cuba subject of MSU's next Faculty Forum

In the late 1800s the United States and Latin America experienced an influx of Chinese people who were brought to work on railroads and plantations, mainly with false promises of great salaries and good working conditions. More often than not, the conditions for these immigrants were close to slavery. One segment of that Chinese population settled in Havana, Cuba. Associate Professor of Spanish Claudia Montoya will speak about the ordeal of the Chinese-Cubans for the next Faculty Forum at 7 p.m. Monday, April 1, in Dillard 101.

Montoya is part of a group who visited Cuba in 2017 to study this unique ethnic group. Her talk, "The Cuban-Chinese Experience: a Story of Migration, Sacrifice, and Adaptability," will explain the history of the Chinese migration to Cuba, known as the Coolie trade or indentured labor, and juxtapose the voices of the descendants of those original migrants, who were interviewed by MSU Sociology Chair Beverly Stiles, former MSU Research Analyst Newman Wong, and Montoya. Montoya says that the Chinese migration to Cuba may be one of the most overlooked in the history of global migrations.

The Chinese migration to Cuba took place from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s and their culture flourished with restaurants, theaters, and other businesses. Under Fidel Castro's communism in the late 1950s, their goods were taken by the state and businesses closed. New cultural influences were cut off, making the Chinese culture in Cuba a shadow of what it once was.

With the last wave of Chinese immigrants arriving in Cuba between 1910-1950, today only a few of those migrants are still living; however, they left a legacy through their descendants, sometimes pure Chinese, sometimes a mix of Cuban and Chinese. Montoya will discuss the lives of those who grew up in a Chinese household during the 1940s and 1950s, and the legacy that their Chinese ancestors instilled in them.

"This work is a reflection of what to be Chinese in Cuba means to the inhabitants of Havana's Chinatown," Montoya said. "It's a collection of memories and dreams, struggles and successes, a historical, cultural, and sociological glimpse at this intriguing and resilient culture of adaptable survivors."

Faculty Forum is a monthly showcase for the research and creative endeavors of the Midwestern State University faculty. It is an opportunity for the campus and Wichita Falls communities to learn, engage, and sometimes discuss the novel ideas and explorations of the talented individuals who teach, discover, and create at MSU.

Admission is free and open to all. Contact Dr. Jon Price at or 940-397-4288 for more information.