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Chinese Indentured Labour in Peru

Lawrence A. Clayton on the Chinese labourers who came to work in Peru, often in appalling conditions.

Massed shipping in the Chincha Islands in 1863, at the height of guano extractionIn Lima, Peru, one can see today men, women and children of unmistakable Oriental descent. Some of the girls are strikingly beautiful, combining not only features of the East but traces of Spain and ancient America. While their Spanish ancestors may have arrived almost 450 years ago with the irresistible Conquistadors of Francisco Pizarro, and their Indian lineage may be traced back to the origins of man in the Western Hemisphere, we know more precisely when their Oriental progenitors – their great- grandfathers, perhaps – came to the Americas. They were shepherded off great sailing ships in the mid-nineteenth century as virtual slaves, having been transported from their Chinese home- land across the immense Pacific to labour as contract workers on the plantations and the guano islands of Peru.

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