1863 Cuban Cedula for Chinese Coolie Labourer with Rare Manuscript Note Indicating He is Now Free

  • $595.99
    Unit price per 
Tax included.

On offer is an important document from the Chinese coolie trade, being a cedula (identification card) for a Chinese man who was called “Martin” from “Asia”, dated March 6, 1863. The cedula indicates that Martin is working an eight year contract in Havana. What makes this particular cedula so rare is a manuscript note on the back dated in Havana on July 24, 1863, which indicates that this coolie is being set free from his “promise” to work and that there will be “indemnization”. 

The cedula is a typed form, stamped by the Government of Havana, and filled in ink with Martin’s details. The form contains information about the cedula, its purpose and consequences of not carrying it. It has a pre-printed signature of a Cuban official at the bottom. The manuscript note about the coolie’s freedom is hand-signed by F. de la Cava. 

This cedula provides a glimpse into the documentation required by coolies brought to Cuba to work as indentured servants and paints a picture of the conditions in which these coolies lived and worked. 

The Chinese coolie trade, a system of indentured labor that targeted young, poor Chinese men, operated from 1847-1874. The coolie trade took place, in large part, between the shipping port in Macao (now a part of China, then under Portuguese rule) and Havana, Cuba (then under Spanish control). Coolies were transported from China on ships, many of which had formerly been used as African slave ships (Yun & Laremont, 2001). The coolie ships often had slave names (eg Africano, Mauritius) or ironic names (Dreams, Hope, Live Yankees, Wandering Jew) (Yun & Laremont, 2001, p. 110). Many did not survive the journey, with “approximately 16,400 Chinese coolies [dying] on European and American coolie ships to Cuba during a 26-year period” (Yun & Laremont, 2001, p. 111-112). This accounted for a mortality rate of 12-30%, though, on some voyages, the death rate reached 50% (as in the case of the Portuguese ship Cors in its 1857 sailing). These deaths were caused by violence, rebellions, thirst, suffocation and sickness (Yun & Laremont, 2001). To learn more about the Chinese coolie trade and its importance in world history, click here to read our in-depth research blog on the topic. 

This document measures 8.5x12 inches. It shows significant signs of age including age toning, frayed edges, folds and creases. It is entirely legible. Spanish language. Overall Fair. 

Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or to request photos. (Kindly include the SKU, listed on this page above the price, in your e-mail so we can more easily answer your questions.)

We Also Recommend