subjectId: 690647

Resources for Researching Asian Diasporas and Histories in Cuba

A shrine dedicated to Guan Gong, known in Cuba as San Fan Con. Located in Casino Chung Wah in Havana’s China town.
Image courtesy of Dr. Martin Tsang

Chinese American Museum (CAM) panel discussion, AN UNTOLD PAST: Chinese in the Caribbean

Table of Contents

Subject Specialist

  • Amanda Moreno

    Esperanza Bravo de Varona Chair and Director of the Cuban Heritage Collection

  • Juan A. Villanueva

    Cuban Heritage & Spanish Language Collections Archivist


UM CHC Digitized book: Apunte histórico de los chinos en Cuba

Click on image to access the digital book

Books in the CHC

Tejeiro, Guillermo. Historia ilustrada de la colonia china en Cuba. Habana: 1947. 

Rodríguez Coronel, Rogelio. El Rastro Chino En La Literatura Cubana. Editorial UH, 2019.

Quesada, Gonzalo de. Los chinos y la revolución cubana. La Habana: [Ucar, García], 1946. 

Pérez de la Riva, Juan. Los culíes chinos en Cuba, 1847-1880: contribución al estudio de la inmigración contratada en el Caribe. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2000.

Cuba Vega, Lidia, and Lidia León Castellanos. Memorias del Programa de Formación de Jóvenes Chinos en Cuba: (septiembre, 2006-julio, 2016). La Habana: Editorial UH, 2016. 

Jiménez Pastrana, Juan. Los chinos en la historia de Cuba, 1847-1930. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1983.

Jiménez Pastrana, Juan. Los chinos en las luchas por la liberacion cubana: 1847-1930. La Habana: Instituto de Historia, 1963. 

Espinosa Luis, Mitzi. Huellas de China en este lado del Atlántico. La Habana, Cuba: Editorial José Martí, 2016.

Herrera Jerez, Miriam, and Mario Castillo Santana. De la memoria a la vida pública: identidades, espacios y jerarquías de los chinos en La Habana republicana (1902-1968). La Habana, Cuba: Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Cultura Cubana Juan Marinello, 2003. 

Crespo Villate, Mercedes. Creencias y tradiciones chinas en Cuba. La Habana: Ediciones Extramuros, 2016. 

Cosme Baños, Pedro. Los chinos en Regla, 1847-2012. Segunda edición. La Habana: Editora Historia, 2013. 

Castro Caso, Miriam. China en Cuba: herederos del Celeste Imperio. La Habana, Cuba: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2018. 

China. Zong li ge guo shi wu ya men. Report of the Commission Sent by China to Ascertain the Condition of Chinese Coolies in Cuba. Ch'eng Wen Pub. Co., 1970. 

Baltar Rodríguez, José. Los chinos de Cuba: apuntes etnográficos. Ciudad de La Habana: Fundación Fernando Ortiz, 1997.

Selection of Monographs & Articles

Yun, Lisa. “An Afro-Chinese Author and the Next Generation.” Afro-Hispanic Review, vol. 27, no. 1, William Luis, 2008, pp. 173–82.

Hu-DeHart, Evelyn. "The Chinese Presence in Cuba: Heroic Past, Uncertain Present, Open Future.Contemporary Chinese Diasporas. Palgrave, Singapore, 2017. 349-368. 

Benjamín N Narváez, Subaltern Unity? Chinese and Afro-Cubans in Nineteenth-Century CubaJournal of Social History, Volume 51, Issue 4, Summer 2018, Pages 869–898.

López, Kathleen. "Approach to Researching Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Migration to Cuba.Chinese Overseas: Migration, Research and Documentation (2007): 167. 

López, Kathleen (2005). Migrants between empires and nations: The chinese in cuba, 1874–1959 . University of Michigan. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2005.

Chinese Influences on Life and Religion in Cuba by Dr. Martin Tsang for UM News

A Chinese-Cuban Secret Society in Havana by Dr. Martin Tsang for UM News

Tsang, Martin, "Con la Mocha al Cuello: The Emergence and Negotiation of Afro-Chinese Religion in Cuba" (2014). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1247.

Perez Fernandez, Rolando Antonio. “The Chinese Community and the Corneta China: Two Divergent Paths in Cuba.” Yearbook for traditional music 46 (2014): 62–88.

Kadetz, P. I., and J. Perdomo. "Slaves, Revolutions, Embargoes, and Needles: The Political Economy of Chinese Medicine in Cuba." Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 6 (2011): 95-122 

Chiu, Lisa. "A Short History of the Chinese in Cuba." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020.
Charmaine Au-Yeung “Privileged Access Through the Eyes of the Chinese-Cubans” jhiblog, September 22, 2021.

Fundación Fernando Ortiz. Catauro: revista cubana de antropologiá. La Habana: Fundación Fernando Ortiz, 1999. See Special Edition on Chinese Cubans.

Selection of Books

Recent Acquisitions

Busquet Roca, Eddys R. La Presencia China En Manzanillo. Ediciones Orto, 2014.

Abdala Pupo, Oscar Luis. Los chinos en el oriente Cubano: apuntes sobre la presencia China en el siglo XIX. Ediciones Santiago, 2015.


External Archival Collections & Online Databases

Chinese Immigrants in Cuba: Documents from the James and Ana Melikian Collection
"The archive continues until the 1970s and records the Chinese community in Cuba and is rich with photos. This massive collection, from the archive of James and Ana Melikian Collection, is probably the largest one in private hands concerning Chinese in Cuba. At present, the physical collection contains over 1,341 records and about 8,000-9,000 pages." Video overview of the collection.

Migration to New Worlds Discover the motives, aspirations, realities and personal hardships for European and Asian migrants during two centuries of global migration. 

Chinese Cuban Genealogy Resources

My China Roots – Trace Your Ancestry in China: My China Roots helps people of Chinese heritage find records of their ancestors, connect with long-lost relatives, and organize trips to China.
A guide to tracing Chinese genealogy: How to Find My Chinese Ancestors 


Chinese Newspapers in Southeast Asia Includes a comprehensive collection of scanned Chinese newspapers published in Singapore and Malaysia. 

The International Digital Ephemera Project Latin American and Caribbean Periodicals UCLA Library, Explore the issues of the Cuban-Chinese publication Man Sen Yat Po  for the years between 1947 and 1958 

Guide to the Chung Sai Yat Po Newspaper Collection  Chung Sai Yat Po was published in San Francisco from Feb. 1900 to 1951. It has a long publishing history and almost all its issues survived. Extent 14 microform reels 1,460 online items 



The Photography of Prof. Pok Chi Lau
Pok Chi Lau is Professor Emeritus of PhotoMedia in the Department of Design at the University of Kansas. He is a documentary photographer whose work on migration focuses on the Chinese Diaspora in the Americas, Cuba, and Malaysia and now Myanmar. 

Havana Divas, A Film by S. Louisa Wei

Offering a window into the experience of Chinese migration to Cuba, HAVANA DIVAS follows two Cantonese opera singers who perform for decades in Cuba before, and during, Fidel Castro’s revolution.

Cuban Chinese, Caridad Amaran as a Cantonese Opera Performer, by Pok Chi Lau 刘博智


Flora Fong

Girasol (Sunflower), 1996. Image courtesy of Cuban Art Resources

Flora Fong was born in Camagüey, Cuba in 1949. "Belonging to the first generation of Cuban plastic artists to emerge on the island after the 1959 Revolution, Flora Fong’s work evolved during one of the most interesting periods for art in the Greater Antilles. Her work reconciles the intense energy of the tropical environment in which she was born with philosophical concepts inherited from her Chinese ancestors." ( 

Books and archives in the Cuban Heritage Collection:

Fong, Flora. Nube de otoño. La Habana Vieja, Cuba: Flora Fong García, 1997. 
Fong, Flora. Entre décadas. Havana: Galería La Acacia, 2001.
Barnet, Miguel, and Flora Fong. Poemas chinos. La Habana, Cuba: Casa Editora Abril, 2018.
Image of Flora Fong, 1975, "Flora Fong, un inesperado encuentro con sus familiares."

Biographical Note

Wifredo Lam was born in Sagua la Grande, Cuba in 1902 to Lam-Yam, a Cantonese immigrant, and Ana Serafina Castilla, who was of Spanish and Congolese descent. Lam was a renowned painter known for infusing a modernist Western style of painting with African and Caribbean imagery and most evidently Afro-Cuban religious motifs. A primary step in his journey to becoming a painter took place in 1918 when he began studying at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Havana until 1923 the year in which, displeased with his experience in the school, he decided to continue his studies abroad and traveled to Spain. Once there he was exposed to modern Western avant-garde painting styles including surrealism and he began to apply those techniques in his own work. Once the Spanish Civil War broke out, Lam left for Paris, where he joined the community of other prominent artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and others. During a trip to Mexico, he also communed with painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The presence of Surrealism and Cubism in Lam's work highlights the formative influence of his interaction with European painters before the Second World War.

After a brief imprisonment in Martinique, Lam returned to Cuba in 1941. This is when Lam began to evolve his work to include his interpretations of Afro-Cuban religious motifs and images which are paradigmatically visible in his 1943 painting, La Jungla (The Jungle). Lam's focus had sharpened after his meeting Aimé Césairé, the author considered to be one of the founders of the Négritude movement, in Martinique. "In La Jungla (1943), Lam depicts Santería through the recurring image of the femme cheval (or “horse-woman”)... she appeals to the Santería practice of possesions by the orishas (“divinities or spirits who act as intermediaries between humans and the forces of nature”) while also invoking a feminine energy that is key to Lam’s Négritude and the cultural syncretism of La Jungla (1943)."( This work has often been compared to Picasso's representations of the female figure. 

Lam continued to paint and develop work influenced by African imagery and religions, as well as the complex racial history of Cuba and colonialism. He took residence in Paris in 1952 and his work has been exhibited globally to critical acclaim and widely studied. He died in 1982. In 1983, the gallery Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam opened in Havana and has become a formidable institution of art appreciation and research in Cuba.

References and links: 

At the Lowe Art Museum

Digitized photo: Wifredo Lam with Family Members ca. 1940's

View digital copies of Lam's works held by the Lowe Art Museum: 

Wifredo Lam: The Imagination at Work

In collaboration with Gary Nader of Gary Nader Art Centre, Pace Gallery is pleased to present Wifredo Lam: The Imagination at Work, an exhibition of paintings, works on paper, and rarely seen bronze sculptures, including a significant loan from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, at its 510 West 25th Street space in New York. 

The Cuban Heritage Collection has recently acquired the exhibition's print book: Wifredo Lam: The Imagination at Work.

La Jungle (1943)

Image courtesy of 

Martha Frayde Barraqué Papers

The Martha Frayde Barraqué Papers consist of letters from the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam (1902-1982) to Frayde dating between 1962 and 1966. The collection also includes a group photograph of Lam and Frayde in Mexico in 1957. Some correspondence between Lam and Frayde has been digitized here.

Selection of Books