Remains of 19th century Chinese laborers discovered in Peru

World Today

Remains of 19th century Chinese laborers discovered in Peru

Archaeologists in Peru have discovered the remains of 16 Chinese laborers—from the nineteenth century.  They were unearthed at a site in Lima.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports on “how the finding” — sheds light on Peru’s diversity today.

Archeologists exploring a Pre-Hispanic adobe pyramid made a discovery from a more recent chapter of Peruvian history.

The graves are believed to belong to Chinese migrants brought to Peru to replace slave labor after slavery was abolished in 1854.

Of the 16 bodies uncovered, 11 were wrapped in cloth and five buried in coffins.

This discovery speaks of the rich tapestry that is Peru’s history. These are the remains of Chinese indentured laborers entombed atop a pre-Hispanic burial mound in the middle of the capital city.

The findings include the remains of a young man wearing traditional Chinese clothing. He may have suffered a violent death from a blow to the head, say archaeologists.

But in a sign that the laborers began to emerge from dire poverty, others were buried wearing blue jeans and other belongings, such as an opium pipe or a small ceramic vessel.

So how did they come to be buried in the late 1800’s on this mud pyramid built by the Ichma people, in pre-Inca times, hundreds of years before that?

Roxana Gomez, excavation chief of the Bellavista Huaca—where the remains were found—has an explanation.

“They would have chosen this Huaca—which in that time would have been completely abandoned—because they were not Catholics so they would have looked for these places to bury their dead. They would have had their own beliefs which excluded them from Catholic burials.”

Back in the 19th century, this particular Huaca was a country estate where archaeologists say the Chinese would have likely picked cotton.

From these humble beginnings, the Chinese in Peru eventually prospered and integrated.

“Our Peruvian culture is a mixture and now these Chinese are part of our culture,” Roxana explains. “We have important Chinese personalities and they have contributed to our culture.”

Peru has the largest ethnic Chinese population of any country in Latin America. And with dozens more Huacas across Peru’s capital, it’s possible more remains of the first Chinese to reach them.