Chinese migration to Latin America was a major part of the pattern of mass migration streams across the world that typified the nineteenth century. “Coolies” (from the Urdu word kuli, or “hireling”) were indentured laborers recruited from India and China on 5- or 10-year contracts, who were forced to work to pay off the cost of their transportation. Roughly 235,000 Chinese came to Peru, Cuba, and Costa Rica, working in guano pits and silver mines, on sugar and cotton plantations, and later on railroads. Such work contracts were little better than slavery, and oftentimes were accompanied by institutions familiar from enslavement itself. This photograph, published in a Chilean army newspaper, depicts a Chinese coolie who is being liberated by an invading Chilean army in 1881.
Recent archaeological discoveries in the Caral-Supé valley have pushed back the timeline of cultural development in the Andes by several millennia. A fixture of later Incan culture, the quipú (or khipu) was an elaborate series of knotted ropes that seemed to serve as a coded system of communication. Excavations have demonstrated that the quipú was used in the region as much as 3,000 years before its earliest previous attestation. Moreover, this quipú was apparently left as an offering on the stairway of a public building when another building was built on top.
© President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, PM# 2004.24.35177 (digital file# 153390016).
Now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, this section of an elaborately crafted and painted piece of textile attests the manufacturing prowess of the Chavín people. In the image, a central fanged figure grasps and may be controlling a four-eyed monster. The snake-like elements of this figure have led to the conclusion that he is an ancestor of the khipucamayuc, the Inca name for the keeper of a khipu.
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY