Chinese Caribbeans

Chinese Caribbeans (sometimes Sino-Caribbeans) are people of Han Chinese ethnic origin living in the Caribbean. There are small but significant populations of Chinese and their descendants in all countries of the Greater Antilles. They are all part of the large Chinese diaspora known as Overseas Chinese.

Chinese Caribbeans
Regions with significant populations
 Jamaica75,000[citation needed]
 Dominican Republic60,000[citation needed]
 Cuba41,000[citation needed]
 French Guiana15,000[citation needed]
 Belize10,000[citation needed]
 Trinidad and Tobago3,984[2]
 Puerto Rico3,000[citation needed]
 Curaçao1,600[citation needed]
Colonial Languages:

Chinese Varieties:

Related ethnic groups
Overseas Chinese


Caribbean Islands:

Mainland Caribbean:

Migration historyEdit

Between 1853 and 1879, 14,000 Chinese laborers were imported to the British Caribbean as part of a larger system of contract labor bound for the sugar plantations. Imported as a contract labor force from China, Chinese settled in three main locations: Jamaica, Trinidad, and British Guiana (now Guyana), initially working on the sugar plantations. Most of the Chinese laborers initially went to British Guiana; however when importation ended in 1879, the population declined steadily, mostly due to emigration to Trinidad and Suriname.[4]

Chinese immigration to Cuba started in 1847 when Cantonese contract workers were brought to work in the sugar fields, bringing their native Chinese folk religion with them. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers were brought in from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan during the following decades to replace and / or work alongside African slaves. After completing 8-year contracts or otherwise obtaining their freedom, some Chinese immigrants settled permanently in Cuba, although most longed for repatriation to their homeland. When the United States enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act on May 6, 1882, many Chinese in the United States fled to Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Latin American nations. They established small niches and worked in restaurants and laundries.[5]

British West IndiesEdit

The Chinese who entered the British West Indies in the middle and late nineteenth century formed a marginal but distinct part of the global dispersal of southern Chinese characteristics of the period.[6] Next to those in the United States, on the one hand, and in Cuba and Peru, on the other, they formed the third largest regional grouping of Chinese arrivals to the Western Hemisphere in the mid-century. About 15,000[6] arrived in British Guiana, with just under 3,000 going to Trinidad and Jamaica, to work as indentured laborers in the sugar industry.[6]

Although the patterns of their entry into these new societies represented a microcosmic version of the story of the Chinese diaspora in the nineteenth century, there were a number of note-worthy distinctive traits attached to this regional experience.

The bulk of Chinese indentured labor migration to the West Indies occurred between 1853 and 1866.[7] By the end of the nineteenth century, some 18,000[6] Chinese would arrive in the West Indies, with the vast majority of those migrants headed for Guyana.[7] As was the case with most migration out of China in the nineteenth century, the immigrants were drawn from southern China and were seeking to escape desperate conditions caused by a combination of environmental catastrophes and political unrest.

There were also a considerable number of Christian converts among the Chinese migrants as a result of the colonial government's willingness to rely on Christian missionaries to assist them in their recruitment endeavors, particularly in the recruiting of family units.[7] The use of Christian missionaries in recruitment[7] was just one of many measures that the colonial government used in its venture to avoid accusations that indenture was simply another form of slavery.[7] The government was particularly sensitive to such accusations because it was competing directly with other European powers, particularly Spain, to recruit laborers from China.[6] The recruitment of Chinese laborers was generally conducted by professional recruiters, known as "crimps", who were paid per individual recruit, while the recruits themselves received a cash advance. In the 1850s, the demand for Chinese labor and the fees paid to the crimps increased so dramatically[6] that the system quickly became notorious for its association with abuse and coercion, including kidnapping.[7] The system was said to be known as "the sale of Little Pigs",[7] alluding to the inhumane treatment migrants often faced.

The exposure of this inhumane system led to a series of ordinances being passed which, despite not directly enhancing the state of indentured Chinese, eventually played a key role in ending Chinese indentured labor in the West Indies.[7] In 1866, the Kung Convention signed in China, but never ratified in Britain, specifically provided back passage for the Chinese laborers.[8] West Indian planters were not, however, prepared to cover the additional cost that this would incur, especially in light of the fact that India was proving more than sufficient as a source of migrant labor. After the Chinese government refused to back down on the provision, interest in the Chinese as indentured laborers seems to have simply faded.[8]


The manner in which the colonial powers introduced the Chinese into the West Indies and the socioeconomic roles that they afforded[6] to the migrants would directly affect how the Chinese were imagined and represented in colonial discourse in terms of where they belonged in the West Indies' social, economic and political landscapes.[6]

The Chinese in literature, particularly, were regarded as either valuable additions to the multicultural mosaic of the Caribbean, or an entry into the problematic multiculturalism that existed in the region. George Lamming, for example, in his work Of Age and Innocence and Wilson Harris in The Whole Armour explored the Chinese character through the lens of the former. More often than not, the Chinese are presented as peripheral figures in stereotypical roles, as inscrutable or clever or linguistically deficient rural shopkeepers, preoccupied with money and profit. Such characters appear in the novels of Samuel Selvon, Michael Anthony, V.S. Naipaul, and even in the short stories of the Chinese Trinidadian Willie Chen.

The distance from other West Indians that is attributed to the Chinese[7] in literary texts also manifests itself in the depiction of the Chinese as being a fundamentally alien presence in the West Indies.[8] Indeed, Chinese characters are sometimes depicted as the only individuals who can see the larger themes and issues within the West Indian experience because of their purported distance from them.[7] This can be seen in novels such as Pan Beat by Marion Patrick Jones, Mr. On Loong by Robert Standish, and The Pagoda by Patricia Powell.[7]

Notable peopleEdit

Politics and government

Business and industry

  • John Lee Lum, businessman and oil-industry pioneer.
  • William H. Scott, businessman.
  • Carlton K. Mack, grocer and philanthropist.
  • Louis Jay Williams, businessman.
  • Chang Hong Wing - businessman and founder of Hon Wing's coffee
  • Chang Wag Yow

Arts and entertainment

  • Sybil Atteck, painter.
  • Edwin Ayoung, calypsonian known by the sobriquet Crazy.
  • Anya Ayoung-Chee, Miss Trinidad & Tobago/Universe 2008, model, fashion designer and winner of season 9 of Project Runway
  • Carlyle Chang Kezia, sculptor, painter and designer; designed the flag and coat of arms of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Ken Chee Hing, Journalist, Daily Editor of Newsday (as of 2017). Former crime/court reporter and columnist. Worked at Bomb newspaper, Trinidad Guardian, Trinidad Express and Independent (now defunct).Richard Chen, calypsonian known by the sobriquet Rex West.
  • Lenn Chong Sing, Former Editor-in-Chief of the Trinidad Guardian newspaper
  • Stella Chong Sing, writer and educator.
  • Ellis Chow Lin On, music producer and manager.
  • Willie Chen, painter.
  • Raymond Choo Kong, actor, producer, director.
  • Aubrey Christopher, who pioneered the local recording of calypsos.
  • Edwin Hing Wan, painter
  • Patrick Jones, calypsonian known by the sobriquet Cromwell, the Lord Protector and mas' pioneer.
  • Stephen and Elsie Lee Heung, Carnival bandleaders.
  • Stephanie Lee Pack, Miss Trinidad and Tobago/Universe 1974
  • Amy Leong Pang, artist
  • André Tanker, musician and composer.
  • Chris Wong Won, better known as Fresh Kid Ice; founding member of 2 Live Crew.
  • Daddy Chinee, singer

Science and medicine

  • Dr. Bert Achong, co-discoverer of the Epstein-Barr virus.
  • Dr. Joseph Lennox Pawan, discoverer of the transmission of rabies by vampire bats.
  • Dr. David Picou.
  • Dr. Theodosius Poon-King.
  • Dr. Oswald Siung.
  • Fr. Arthur Lai Fook, educator and cleric.
  • Prof. Dr. John Aleong, educator, statistician and author
  • Henry Leonard Chan Chow, educator


  • Ellis Achong, first Test cricketer of Chinese descent
  • Rupert Tang Choon, Trinidad cricketer, 1940s to 1950s
  • Darwin LeonJohn, {Dharma Name Shi Heng Xin} Elite Martial Arts Teacher
  • Bert Manhin, winner of Trinidad and Tobago's first medal in shooting (1978 Commonwealth Games)
  • Richard Chin A Poo, former national footballer
  • David Chin Leung, karate pioneer, first Caribbean JKA judge


  • James Chow Bing Quan, first President of Chinese Association 1913, first President of Trinidad branch of Chee Kung Tong 1915/The Chinese FreeMasons of Trinidad (18)
  • Kwailan La Borde, sailor; together with her husband Harold La Borde and son Pierre, the first Trinidadian to circumnavigate the globe.
  • Lyle Townsend, Former Secretary-General, Communication Workers' Union

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Censusstatistieken 2012" (PDF). Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek in Suriname (General Statistics Bureau of Suriname). p. 76.
  2. ^ Trinidad and Tobago 2011 Population and Housing Census Demographic Report (PDF) (Report). Trinidad and Tobago Central Statistical Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 July 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ : Chinese in the English-Speaking Caribbean
  5. ^ "The Chinese Community and Santo Domingo's Barrio Chino". Archived from the original on 2017-08-07. Retrieved 2010-10-30.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Displacements and Diaspora. Rutgers University Press. 2005. ISBN 9780813536101. JSTOR j.ctt5hj582.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lee-Loy, Anne-Marie. (2010). Searching for Mr. Chin : constructions of nation and the Chinese in West Indian literature. Temple University Press. ISBN 978-1-4399-0130-4. OCLC 471810855.
  8. ^ a b c Lai, Walton Look (1998). The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History. Press, University of the West Indies. ISBN 978-976-640-021-7.