Chinese of Costa Rica - History and Cultural Relations



In 1855 two groups totaling 73 Chinese immigrants arrived in the port of Pantarenas, Costa Rica, from Panama, where they had probably been engaged in the construction of the transisthmian railroad completed that year, to work as domestic servants and farm hands in the large haciendas of general José Cañas and the German baron von Bulow on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Little is known about them and their descendants.

A second and more important group of 653 contract workers arrived in 1873 from Macao to work in the construction of the railroad to the Atlantic coast. The government later approved the railroad company's request for additional Chinese laborers, but there is no clear evidence that any others entered the country under subsequent railroad contracts. A number of studies have focused on this second group, those who joined them later, and their descendants.

The background of these other migrations to the Americas is found in the growing poverty and political unrest experienced by China in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly in the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, and Hunan. The need for a large number of cheap laborers to replace African slaves after Abolition constituted the main attracting factor of the Americas. The colonial presence of Portugal in Macao and the British in Hong Kong facilitated the emigration of large numbers of Chinese who participated as indentured workers in the construction of railroads in Peru, Panama, the Caribbean, the United States, and Mexico. They also provided labor for the plantations of the Caribbean region and for the excavation of the Panama Canal.

After 1873, when railroad contacts began facilitating Chinese immigration, the first immigrants to Costa Rica were joined by near and distant kin, real and nominal, who arrived in small numbers. Steadily, however, they increased the size of the immigrant community and also replaced elder members who were retiring to their ancestral homes in China. The immigrant community also grew through intermarriage with Hispanic women, and, very exceptionally, Hispanic men, such unions creating cross-cultural individuals, the cruzados, who were, and continue to be, a very important link to the local Hispanic community. Although primarily socialized within Hispanic culture, the cruzados retain an appreciative understanding of their forefathers' culture and a deep regard for the immigrant's historical experience, and thus they have been able to act as cultural and social brokers between the immigrant community and Costa Rica society.

Since 1950, Taiwanese immigrants have been migrating to Costa Rica in large numbers; by 1984 they outnumbered the mainland Chinese by 14 to 1. Although the Hispanic community perceives the two groups as one and the same, in fact the two differ markedly in their origins, their social, economic, and demographic characteristics, and in their reasons for migrating to Costa Rica.

Immigrants from Hong Kong have also been entering the country since the early 1950s, and, like the Taiwanese, they constitute a separate subculture of Chinese culture in Costa Rica.


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george wu
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Aug 25, 2012 @ 7:19 pm
Approximately what is the Chinese population in Costa Rica. Is there a church in barrio chino? If so, what is their address?

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