TYPE: Documents (Loose)
DIMENSIONS: 6 1/4" x 8"
CONDITION: The bottom edge appears to have been trimmed (but the signature at the bottom of the manuscript appears to be complete and it looks like what is only a trailing "squiggle" at the end of the signature might be cut off).
NOTES: The exact date of the document is December 29th, 1847. This could be one of the best pieces in our Chinese in Cuba collection.
ITEM ID: 4703
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Document Regarding a Suicide

Year: 1847
Decade: 1840s
Century: 19th (1801-1900)
Notes: December 29th, 1847

A “summary” as to why this chino “libre” committed suicide. So this manuscript being from 1847 is extraordinary (since 1847 is the first year the Chinese immigrated to Cuba), and it the only document I know to exist from the year 1847 that mentions a “chino”, so having a document discussing a Chinese person from this year is of course incredibly rare. Of course since this document does not simply speak of a chino but of a chino libre (I assume here “libre” means freed from slavery) but also has content relating to the suicide of a “chino”, makes this also quite possibly the earliest known documented suicide of a Chinese person.

This source says that he was a married man (“casado”) and in his forties (“como de cuarenta años”). His Spanish name was José Cruz and he was probably one of the first Chinese to arrive in Cuba. Being married was something uncommon between recently arrived coolie laborers. Suicides amongst the Chinese in Cuba occurred because they were treated worse than black slaves. In a study over a given period there were 5000 suicides of Chinese slaves and indentured servants compared to 300 suicides of black slaves. The chances the Chinese individual in the document dated 1847 was not a coolie is remote to say the least. Also, although the first documented Chinese may have arrived in the Americas as early as 1565, the earliest known documentation of the Chinese in Cuba specifically, is from 1821 and there were only a very few known Chinese in Cuba at that time. The individual in the 1847 document it is fair to say was one of the first coolies to arrive in Cuba in 1847.”