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Chinese Indentured Workers in Cuba Contracts

Identifier: MSS 0359

Scope and Content

This collection contains fifty-two nineteenth-century Cuban work contracts for Chinese indentured workers, one identification card of an enslaved man from Macau, China, and two lists of migrants sent from China to Cuba. The nineteenth-century contracts, which are partially printed and completed in manuscript, span from 1861 to 1878. These contracts were issued from different parts of Cuba, such as Cárdenas, Havana, Colón, and Matanzas. Though not all contracts are complete, they contain general information about each person, such as name (original in Chinese and their given Christian name in Spanish), age, civil state, city of origin, and trade. The contracts also include varying numbers of articles that dictate the conditions under which the contract will be carried out, such as the duration of the contract, salary, and the amounts of food, rest, and clothes the indentured worker will receive throughout the duration of the contract. Many of the contracts conclude with the signature of the 'patron' as well as the signature of the worker or of a witness; oftentimes the signature was written in Chinese characters.

The two lists of the migrants sent from China to Cuba contain the names of those who died during the voyage, their Christian names, and a list with 213 names of the men that were sent to Cuba aboard the ship "Guantánamo".


  • Creation: 1861-1878
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1868



This collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

During the nineteenth century, around 125,000 Chinese, predominantly men, were brought to Cuba to work as indentured workers. Oftentimes referred to as "Coolies" (culí in Spanish), the need for Chinese workers in Cuba arose after the abolition of slavery. Cubans found themselves in need of cheap labor to run the sugar industry and resorted to bringing Chinese workers to the island nation. The first Chinese workers were brought to Cuba in June of 1847, many of whom were political prisoners involved in an uprising against Chinese feudal lords. Though they were brought to Cuba as "workers," the treatment Chinese workers received under Cuban patrons is questionable and thought to be equal to, if not more cruel than, the treatment received by African slaves.


1 Folder

Language of Materials

Spanish; Castilian


The collection houses 52 Cuban contracts spanning from 1861 to 1878 for Chinese indentured workers. The collection also includes one identification card of an enslaved man from Macau, China, and two lists of Chinese laborers sent from China to Cuba. The contracts hail from different parts of Cuba and include personal information about the workers as well as information regarding the conditions of the contract and special provisions. This collection offers a glimpse into the changing nature of labor in Cuba in the 1860s and surrounding years.


The collection is arranged in chronological order.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Finding Aid

This guide is available in Spanish at

Acquisition Information

This collection was purchased in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022.

A Guide to the Chinese Indentured Workers in Cuba Contracts
Finding aid created by Kalthoum Elfasi
June 2016 (updated June 2022)
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America