Chinese Immigration and Presence in Peru

During the colonial era, South American countries became major recipients of immigrants from Africa, Europe, and Asia. Post-independence, the Asian route to the continent substantially increased, which explains the continued influx of Chinese into Peru. Outside of China, Peru has the largest population of people of Chinese descent. Therefore, Peru remains a significant nation for Chinese immigrants. Although some of the pathways through which the Chinese arrived in this country were illegal, the enterprising immigrants would soon flourish and succeed in establishing themselves as an essential part of Peruvian society.

    Chinese immigration to Peru was gradual. Lausent-Hererra (2011) notes that as early as the 15th century, Peru already had a permanent population of Chinese people. The global movements of the colonial period account for this wave of immigration as colonialists from Northern Europe sought to expand their empires. For instance, Europeans brought Chinese laborers to their plantations (McKeown, 2000). The thriving Silk Road trade route also became a major conduit for Chinese nationals to enter and settle in Peru (Lausent-Herrera, 2011). The period marked the first presence of Chinese people in Peru.

    Chinese immigration to Peru during the mid-19th century was driven by the thriving fowl-based fertilizer trade, for which the latter had become renowned. The sector required significant labor resources, thus attracting many immigrants. However, it was also a dark era of immigration since the Chinese were enslaved in Peru (McKeown, 2000). The Chinese were indentured to their masters for an indefinite period, and their hard labor enabled the nation to become a leading exporter of the highly sought fertilizer.

    The late 19th century period in the history of Chinese immigration to Peru marked some positive changes but was also dark in many aspects. In 1894, slavery was effectively abolished, and all slaves were set free. The initiative triggered a new wave of Chinese immigration. This time immigrants arrived to fill the significant shortage of labor that the country experienced. Many reached Peru aboard vessels on which they were treated as slaves (Lausent-Hererra, 2011). The Chinese were also ill-treated at the mines and farms where they labored. The survivors of this dark period would later strive to integrate into Peruvian culture as plantation owners, and the Peruvian government embraced them. The Chinese population in Peru, thus, expanded again.

    After their initial contracts with plantation owners, many Chinese laborers opted to settle in the country and became competent traders. The now-relocated immigrants opened shops and concentrated mostly on exporting opium and the popular Peruvian brandy (McKeown, 2000). Their establishments were mainly stationed in the part of Lima City that would gradually emerge as a Chinese cultural hub. Chinatown in Lima emerged as an area where the amalgamation of cultures was most pronounced. Over the centuries, it has embraced cultural integration, with most establishments, particularly restaurants, and other eateries, based on a combination of Chinese and Peruvian cultures (Lausent-Herrera, 2011). However, the Chinese were not confined to the capital but soon spread to nearby locations, where they also thrived. Thus, increasing economic activities were among the major forces driving Chinese immigrants’ integration into Peruvian society.

    The Chinese also began integrating through intermarriage and religion. Considering that their immigration was spurred by a major workforce shortage, especially in sectors that required hard labor, it was not surprising that most of them were male. Having settled as successful merchants, the immigrants integrated through marriage and became an integral component of the Peruvian population (McKeown, 2000). Their assimilation also included conversion from traditional Chinese religions to more mainstream Catholicism. Hence, the integration process continued as more workers started families and adopted elements of the local culture.

    Soon, the mostly unrestricted relocation would come to a resounding end. The Porras-Wu Tinfang Protocol of the early 20th century prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers into Peru, the only exceptions being professionals, students, and merchants (Lausent-Herrera, 2011). Peruvians became agitated by the Chinese, whom they blamed for diminishing employment opportunities. Undoubtedly, the new era of regulations marked the beginning of a gradual decline in the number of Chinese settling in Peru.

    The mid-1980s witnessed a revival of the China-Peru migration routes, which encouraged more movement. Noteworthy, the third wave comprised Chinese from Fuji. In addition, the new trend contrasted with previous immigration waves, in which the Chinese mostly originated from Guangdong province (Lausent-Herrera, 2011). Owing to their differences in language and origin, the Chinese from Fuji mostly spoke Cantonese. At the same time, those from Guangdong used Mandarin and Hokkien, and hence disagreements emerged between the two groups. During this period, the Chinese in Lima moved to other stable areas in search of opportunities.

    Although immigration has declined, it remains evident that the Chinese still favor Peru as an adopted country. Notably, different waves of relocation were triggered by substantially varied circumstances. The Silk Road trade route initiated the earliest path and was upheld by subsequent colonial and slavery eras. After slavery was abolished, another wave of laborers arrived, culminating in the official ban on Chinese immigration. Since then, new arrivals into Peru have mostly comprised business people, professionals, and family members seeking to reunite with their relatives. Chinese immigration in Peru continues to date.



Lausent-Herrera, S. (2011). The Chinatown in Peru and the changing Peruvian Chinese

    communities. Journal of Chinese Overseas, Brill Academic Publishers,7, 69-113.

McKeown, A. (2000). Chinese migrant networks and cultural change. Chicago, IL:

    University of Chicago Press.

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