Chinese of Costa Rica - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Different forms of organization evolved among the immigrants in their efforts to assist each other and needy newcomers. Orientation to the culture and community, temporary room and board, and training and financial assistance were provided by each household to its immigrating kin, followed by employment along kinship lines and the establishment of credit societies (not necessarily among kin) among those who were permanently settled in a locality. The credit system, primarily run by well-established older men in the community, replicated credit systems based on games of chance common in southern China; it continues to play an important role in the economy of the community.

Immigrant groups on the Atlantic coast region also established kinship group organizations (family or clan associations), which owned "clan houses." Thus, members of the kin group arriving from China were first housed in these clan houses, often remaining for a period of time in such quarters, while working under contract to repay their kin for the cost of transportation overseas and other services.

As the immigrant community increased in size, Chinese community clubs, which grew out of the informal meetings of the merchants in a community, were established to provide assistance and formal representation to all members of the immigrant community. For this purpose, through the financial contributions pledged by each of its members, the community bought a house in which cultural symbols were kept and traditional Chinese festivities and holidays were celebrated, along with private celebrations such as birthdays and other recreational activities. With the establishment of a club, other organizations were formed.

The elders, an informal group vested with the maximum authority on community matters, continue to meet at the club to discuss community issues, especially those that require arbitration, without involving the local Hispanic community and authorities.

As the number of women in the immigrant community increased, they formed organizations that helped them adapt to the culture, learn the language, and organize social activities for their children. Women also formed recreational groups to which the game mah-jongg was central. The clubs are still present in the larger communities, although their social functions are beginning to wane. The Atlantic coast Colony Club remains socially very active, although some of the original Chinese celebrations held there are no longer practiced.

The family or clan houses run by each family on the Atlantic coast lost part of their original purpose once the club was established, yet, as the number of immigrants of advanced age increased, such houses became retirement centers for the elders of each family who did not retire to China.

At least one community, the port of Limón, set up a "Chinese School" in the late 1940s, for full-blooded and cruzado children; spoken and written Cantonese was taught, along with geography, history, and culture. This effort ended owing to a high dropout rate among the cruzado children, who could not be assisted by both parents in learning the language. Moreover, the bulk of students came under the competing demands of the Hispanic high school system in the late 1960s.

Political Organization. Two immigrant political organizations allowed them some degree of involvement in the political life of China: the Guomindang and the Chicuntong. The first organization had club houses in Pantarenas, San José, and Limón, where political meetings were held to rally economic support for the Chiang Kai-shek government in Taiwan. Through such support, Guomindang chapters in the Americas helped significantly in the military defense of the island.

The Chicuntong association was a less popular, Atlantic coast political organization, which opposed the Guomindang but was not categorically in favor of the Chinese Communist government. It functioned like a brotherhood, or "lodge," for the poor, and had a large membership on the coast.

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