miércoles, 16 de enero de 2013

Latin America and the Caribbean in a Sinophone Studies Reader?

  Published in Sinophone Studies. A Critical Reader. Ed. Shu-mei Shih, Chien-hsin Tsai, and Brian Bernards. 
Irvington, New  York: Columbia University Press, 2013. 409-24.
Ignacio López-Calvo
University of California, Merced

         This essay is largely about writers who write in Spanish, not in the Sinitic script.[1] Only one of the texts mentioned here was originally written in Mandarin: The Cuba Commission Report. Sinophone writing from Latin America and the Caribbean (including texts written or published in China by Chinese nationals who migrated to Latin America for some time) still needs to be discovered, researched, and translated. By looking at Chinese Latin American literature written in Spanish, however, we get a glimpse of the kinds of issues Sino-Latin American writers deal with in general. This essay is a short introduction to these topics. Of course, many other writers of Asian descent could have been included in this study, but I will only consider some of the most representative names.
         The ancient cultural heritage brought by the Chinese diaspora has contributed greatly not only to the region’s literature, cuisine, art, language, and music, but also to its aspirations of independence (in the case of Cuba). Yet, in contrast with the relatively recent efforts by literary and cultural critics to incorporate the cultural production by people of pre-Colombian and African descent into Latin American and Caribbean studies, that of people of Asian descent continues to be, for the most part, neglected. Only in recent years have a few critics begun to acknowledge its importance, thus disrupting the official black-and-white or indigenous-and-white discourse of the nation. In any case, if, as Honoré de Balzac stated, the novel is the private history of nations, the fiction by Latin American writers of Chinese descent offers alternative ways to narrate the nation and to construct or imagine national identities.
        As is the case with the other Latin American and Caribbean countries, the Chinese experience in Cuba has been narrated, for the most part, by non-Chinese authors. Although several of them, including Severo Sarduy, Cabrera Infante and Zoé Valdés, share the presence of Chinese ancestors in their ethnic background, the fact that they do not identify themselves as Chinese Cubans but as Cuban or Cuban American is a reason for caution or even skepticism when dealing with their representation of the Chinese. At any rate, by the last decades of the nineteenth century, the Chinese presence is reflected in the Cuban cultural production, often with Sinophobic overtones. One the most important texts written in Mandarin in Latin America and the Caribbean is the testimonial The Cuba Commission Report: A Hidden History of the Chinese in Cuba (1877). Although translated into English in 1876, it was not widely available until the last edition of 1993. Considering that, to this day, there is no translation of this document into Spanish, the complicity with the Cuban reader that might be expected from a testimonio never took place. Yet its primary objective was achieved since it did elicit empathy and a reaction from the Chinese government. As Denise Helly has explained, in May 1873, after the imperial viceroy in Canton (Kwangtung) had been hampering the recruitment of Chinese workers in this region for years, two agents of Cuban companies decided to complain to the Emperor (14). Subsequently, representatives of the Russian, British, French and German embassies, who had been called to assist in the litigation, proposed to launch an investigation of the treatment received by Chinese emigrants in Cuba. After an inquiry that lasted six weeks, the findings of the Imperial Commissioner Ch’en Lan Pin (aided by A. MacPherson, commissioner of customs of Hankow, and A. Huber, commissioner of customs of Tientsin) not only provided Chinese laborers in Cuba with a voice, but also officially ended the coolie trade with the signing of a treaty between China and Spain in November 1877. In addition, four Chinese consuls were named to different towns in Cuba to grant protection to Chinese citizens.
         Anyone reading the hundreds of testimonies recorded in this document would have little doubt that most coolies became de facto slaves from the moment they were deceived or kidnapped. Despite the efforts of Cuban officials and planters to conceal the truth, the replies supplied in 1873 by the Chinese laborers draw an appalling picture of their ordeals. From these testimonies of suffering collected in Cuban depots, prisons, plantations, jails and sugar warehouses, we learn about numerous demoralizing and dehumanizing patterns of abuse. According to The Cuba Commission Report, eight out of ten coolies claimed to have been deceived or abducted. In sugar plantations, they rested about four hours a day and the insufficient and inappropriate food they received was denounced by some as yet another form of humiliation. Once their contracts expired, Chinese workers in Cuba were often coerced into renewing them; if they refused, they were sent to the depots to do unpaid hard labor. Overall, the 1,176 depositions and eighty-five petitions recorded by the commission, supported by 1,665 signatures, indicate that the coolies worked in conditions of slavery. Marginalized, dispossessed and sometimes vilified, Chinese subjects find in testimonials such as the The Cuba Commission Report a vehicle for the reconstruction of their collective history. Simultaneously, these counter-narratives—albeit often mediated by the interviewer(s)’ political agenda—become sites for resistance and identity construction.
         As happened with The Report, behind purportedly autobiographical accounts such as Chuffat Latour’s Apunte histórico de los chinos en Cuba (Historical Notes about the Chinese in Cuba; 1927), lies a political struggle for representation and empowerment that responds to a collective project. At times marked by vacillation and contradiction, particularly when referring to political and ethnic affiliations, these texts ultimately represent an alternative way to narrate the nation. Chinese Cubans like Antonio Chuffat Latour and Regino Pedroso devote their efforts to a representation of difference based on the premise that the Chinese community “belongs” within the realm of the Cuban nation (something that is common in Chinese Latin American writing). In their zealous attempt to assimilate themselves and their community to mainstream society, however, they depict Cuba as the land of Western progress and freedom, while relegating China to the usual images of backwardness, oppression, and passivity; that is, the same images created by Western powers to justify their intervention and resulting colonization.

In Apunte histórico de los chinos en 
Cuba, Chuffat Latour challenges Creoledominance and demands the acceptance of Chinese culture in Cuba by using all the available rhetorical devices to lead his ethnic group far from the image of the strange Other. His text constitutes a sort of symbolic victory over oblivion: a Chinese mulatto subject, refusing to become a passive object of a non-Chinese anthropological study, writes in the language of the former oppressors (he admits to have studied Spanish to formulate a manifesto of Chinese diasporic thought). Apunte histórico is, therefore, an invaluable document of self-representation and self-empowerment by a Cuban of Afro-Chinese descent. Oddly, Chuffat Latour positions himself both as a representative of the Chinese community in Cuba (a native informant), and as someone who distances himself from them and speaks about them from “the outside.” He refers to the Chinese in the third person plural and often compares them with “us,” the Cubans. While Chuffat Latour speaks for the disenfranchised Chinese “colony” and is proud of his Chinese descent, he considers himself fully integrated into Cuban society and allies himself with the Creoles to whom he targets his study. In a sense, he represents the colonial “mimic man” who reinforces colonial authority while he “talks back” (or writes back) to it. His conciliatory tone responds to a strategic positioning with a twofold goal: to “charm the oppressor,” as Fanon puts it, and to express his disappointment in Cuba’s failure to recognize the key role of the Chinese in the building of the nation.
Chuffat Latour displays a wide range of attributes commonly associated with the colonized mind and the sub-oppressor (to use Paulo Freire’s term). Although he was also of African extraction, he often contrasts the assimilation of the Chinese to “the refinement of the white race” and their efforts to “civilize themselves” (16; all the translations in this essay are mine) with what he sees as the failures of black Africans in Cuba.[2] Yet he still tries to balance his stance by lamenting the marginalization of blacks and even quoting a poem written in Chinese by Kan Shin Kon, the first editor of the Chinese newspaper La voz del pueblo, in which the enslavement of Africans is condemned:
Black face, silver tooth/ They mistreat him as if he were not a
person / Awake from lethargy / I long for your liberty / Break your
chains / I long for your happiness / Fly like a bird / Death to the
tyrant / Long live democracy / Freedom, freedom / I desire it.[3]

Ultimately, his main rationale to have the Chinese community accepted as an inextricable part of the Cuban nation and, therefore, to validate its essential Cubanness is the disinterested patriotism of the Chinese combatants and the “peaceful Chinese” who helped mambí troops free the island from Spanish occupation. For this reason, in the fourth paragraph of his prologue, immediately after affirming the veracity of everything that follows, he declares his intention to record the testimonies of Chinese men who fought for Cuba’s freedom.
Regarding Sino-Cuban self-representation through poetry, Regino Pedroso (1898-1983) asserts his ethnic pride through a process of Sinicization of his own poetry. Writing during the heyday of the Negrista poetic movement in Cuba, Pedroso follows the ethnic trend and chooses to rediscover his Chinese heritage through his poems and essays. In the prologue to Nosotros (We; 1933), Pedroso states that he belongs to “the human race” and that his pigmentation is “black-yellow. (With no other mixture).” He also explains that his race, “Ethiopic-Asian,” is conceived as inferior by “bourgeois ideology.” As part of his avowed goal of writing socially committed poetry, Pedroso mentions both his personal Chinese heritage and the injustice of the coolie trade in several poems in Nosotros. Lacking a first-hand experience in Chinese culture, he finds a basis for the re-creation of the Chinese world in the hackneyed and idealized, Western stereotypes of Chinese exoticism. Intertwined within these lines that overflow with social commitment, is the view that the Chinese past is a negative set of oppressive and passive traditions. At the same time that he embraces his ethnic roots, he has obviously internalized the colonial discourse to the point where he tries by all means to distance himself from China and from the “embarrassing” past of his ancestors. On the other hand, the present becomes the threshold to a bright future of freedom and hope offered, from the poet’s perspective, by Cuba.
In contrast with the socially committed direction of previous works, in his collection of “Chinese poems” El ciruelo de Yuan Pei Fu (Yuan Pei Fu’s Plum Tree; 1955), Pedroso concentrates on the re-creation of the exotic world of his ancestors from a philosophical and nostalgic perspective. In it, the poet decides to Sinicize his identity by “inventing” a Chinese ancestor: the multifaceted Yuan Pei Fu lived as a wandering apostle, preaching to his disciples, and performing miracles; however, he ended up becoming a rich mandarin in the court and leading a life of “Asian luxury.” In all, Pedroso, like so many of his contemporaries, resorts to the Orientalist envisioning of China as a place where the subjects starve while the Emperors squander riches and time on jewels, feasts, and orgies.

The first important Tusán (second-generation Sino-Peruvian) author is the librarian, social activist, poet, and idealist philosopher Pedro Salvino Zulen  (Zun Leng; 1889-1925). Zulen was born to a humble family in Lima: his father was a shopkeeper from Guangdong and his mother, a mestiza from Lima. He studied at the University of San Marcos in Lima (he also studied for a few months in 1916 at Harvard), and published two philosophical studies: La filosofía de lo inexpresable (The Philosophy of the Ineffable; 1920) and his doctoral dissertation, Del neohegelianismo al neorealismo (From Neo-hegelianism to Neo-realism; 1924). A collection of his poems from the 1920s was published posthumously, El olmo incierto de la nevada (The Uncertain Elm of the Snowfall; 1930).[4] Some of his poems were collected by Dora Mayer de Zulen in La poesía de Zulen. In Memoriam (Zulen’s Poetry. In Memoriam; 1927). Although Zulen did not consider himself a poet, it is interesting to note that some of his poems, including “Pampsiquismo” (Panpsichicism) and “Ocaso de ensueño” (Dreamy Twilight), run parallel to his philosophy. He also reflected some of his experiences with spiritualism in poems such as “Vahído” (Blackout). By the same token, while his search for and love of wisdom is reflected in “Mis libros” (My Books) and “En el vallezuelo…” (In the Little Valley), he echoes his ethical concerns in “El carácter y la moralidad” (Character and Morality). Finally, he also wrote love poems, such as “Romántica,” “Soñaba” (I Dreamt), and “Gladys.”

A contemporary of Pedro Zulen, the Sino-Peruvian A. Kuan Veng published several short stories in the newspaper El Correo as well as the collection of stories Mey Shut, poemas en prosa (1924). Although the subtitle of the book is “Poems in Prose,” the texts are not poems but parables, moralizing short stories, and impressions. Several of Kuan Veng’s texts, such as “Idealidad” (Idealism), “El mar” (The Sea) and “Nocturno” (Nocturnal), also have philosophical overtones. The narrator shows his Confucian filial piety or xiao in “Plegaria” (Prayer), “Madre mía” (Dear Mother), and “Voces maternales. Sé sencillo” (Maternal Voices: Be Unassuming). In this last story, his ethical advice echoes his mother’s words: one must be unassuming, modest, and pure like a lotus; one must not arrogant (one of the precepts in the Tao Te Ching)or obsessed with money. The author continues with his moralizing, again in Taoist terms, in “Amor ideal” (Ideal Love) and “Simbólico,” where he exhorts his readers to avoid loving someone only for his or her money or beauty, as these are mutable and instable. A few of these texts are set in an idealized China and describe old traditions like the moon festival. Finally, in “El primer beso” (The First Kiss), Kuan Veng exhibits a certain degree of double consciousness, as his characters are described from a Western point of view: “Her artistically slanted eyes looked tenderly at me.”[5]

Moving on to contemporary authors, perhaps the most international Sino-Peruvian author is Julio Villanueva Chang (1967-). He was born in Lima, where he still lives, and he studied Education at the University of San Marcos. Villanueva Chang has published the anthologies Mariposas y murciélagos: crónicas y perfiles (Butterflies and Bats: Chronicles and Profiles, 1999) and Elogios Criminales (Criminal Praise, 2008). Villanueva Chang is widely considered one of the best cronistas (chroniclers) in the Hispanic world. In Mariposas y murciélagos, he provides intriguing chronicles of daily life in Peru and profiles of interesting people, including a man who is probably the oldest professional model in the world; an Afro-Peruvian traffic police; Gabriel García Márquez’s dentist; a fisherman who became a millionaire; a man who walked the entire coast of Peru in ninety days; or the story of a German woman, expert in butterflies and bats (hence the title of the collection), who was the only survivor of an airplane accident in the Peruvian jungle in 1971. In one of his most engaging crónicas, “Viaje al centro de la noche” (Travel to the Center of the Night), Villanueva Chang describes the underworld of alcoholics and prostitutes that one can discover at night in downtown Lima. With his typical sarcasm, Villanueva Chang concludes: “If, as in the olden times, Lima’s streets were baptized according to the predominant trades in them—Shopkeepers, Sword Makers, Merchants—, today Cailloma Avenue would be Prostitutes, and Quilca, the popular Drunks Street.”[6] Revised versions of two of these texts were published again, along with five more profiles and chronicles, in the collection Elogios criminales.

Another important Sino-Peruvian author is Siu Kam-Wen (his given name was Xiao Jin-Rong). He was born in 1951 in Zhongshan, in the Chinese province of Guangdong, migrated to Peru at the age of nine, and now lives in Hawaii.[7] Although as a young, aspiring writer, Siu Kam-Wen began writing in Mandarin (Spanish in only his third language, after the Lungtu dialect of Southern China and Cantonese), he later chose to write in Spanish in order to reach a larger audience. He has published the collections of short stories El tramo final and La primera espada del imperio (1988), which were later re-printed, along with the collection Ilusionismo, in the volume Cuentos completos (Complete Short Stories, 2004). In the same year, he published the novels La estatua en el jardín (The Statue in the Garden) and Viaje a Ítaca (which the author himself translated in 1993 from an earlier English version titled “A Journey to Ithaca”). La vida no es una tómbola (2007; also translated by Siu Kam-Wen as This Sort of Life in 2008) and El furor de mis ardores (2008) are his last novels. Siu Kam Wen only focuses on the tragic odyssey of the “coolies” in one of his short stories, “En alta mar” (On the High Seas), included in El tramo final; the rest of his works that deal with the Sino-Peruvian experience take place in the 1960s or later, and focus on the second wave of entrepreneurs from Hong Kong and their descendents. As we see in his works, the impressive economic success of the Chinese community in Peru has not come without side effects: self-exploitation and the harsh life of storekeepers mark the life of many youngsters. Although some of his publications do not deal with Chinese issues, in several of his short stories and novels he explores conflicts of personal and national identity, particularly regarding the relationships (including racism and reverse racism) among the Wa Kiu (huaqiao in Mandarin; overseas Chinese nationals or first-generation Chinese immigrants, both Hakka and Cantonese), the Tusáns (Chinese born in Peru), the Sén-háks (recent arrivals or new immigrants), and the Kuei (literally “devil;” foreigner, non-Chinese). Many of his texts reflect, with autobiographical overtones, the claustrophobic world of child exploitation, generational gaps, and the life of Chinese store owners. Siu Kam-Wen’s works are one of the few testimonies of life in Lima’s Chinatown from a Sino-Peruvian perspective. Ultimately, although some of his writings are marked by the nostalgia perhaps expected from an expatriate writer, one can also perceive a certain tone of reproach and resentment against a country that forced him into a third migration.

In Peru,there are also several Sino-Peruvian poets. One of them is Julia Wong Kcomt, who was born in 1965 in Chepén (La Libertad) and currently lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.[8] She has published five collections of poems: Historia de una gorda (1994), Los últimos blues de Buddha (2002), Iguazú (2004), Ladrón de codornices (2005), and Un salmón ciego (2008). The exploration of her Sino-Peruvian identity appears in some of the lines in different poems in Historia de una gorda: “my surname;” “I don’t need to be called Julia / I can show a stamp;” “I have dreamt about an enormous ship cruising the Pacific / (My grandfather died without his coolie queue and in a violet habit);” “Sleep, little Chinese girl;” “Because of my very black skin / And a spare hole in my ribs / That does not match Western aesthetics.”[9] Wong Kcomt’s second collection, Los últimos blues de Buddha (Buddha’s Last Blues), continues to express sexual desire and to evoke maternity (frustrated or not) as well as different cities and countries. Pride in her Chinese identity is again suggested in poems like “Ritual del té” (Tea Ritual), “Hijos de sabandija” (Children of a Bug), and “Mentiras” (Lies). Likewise, in “Quiero (poema de colores)” (I Want [Poem of Colors] she describes herself as yellow. Yet her main sources of inspiration are still her need for company and love, the absence of a loved man, and transitory love affairs with tourists or men she has met in her travels and who will soon forget about her.

In other poems, her prosaic verses mention China directly, as we see in “Cuando atardece en China” (When the Sun Sets in China), where the poetic voice talks to a loved person who made her strong, just like this country made her strong as well. On occasion, she makes generalizations about Chinese women: “Are you calling me / Me? / Are you talking to me? / A Chinese woman is always plagued with doubt” (10-13),[10] she argues in “Un milagro en Chérrepe” (A Miracle in Chérrepe).[11] Some lines in “Harnero” (Sieve) even denote essentialist overtones: “Because one has to understand Chinese, / To understand why the tiger’s stripes / Are painted by rich men” (23-24).[12] Yet the sieve mentioned in the title makes reference to cultural differences; she may look like the other people in Chengdu, China, but she certainly feels different. The poetic voice even admits feeling guilty for not identifying with China. Later, she confesses that, in fact, she does not want to be the same. Likewise, in “Llueve en Shanghai” (It Rains in Shanghai) she rejects this city, which she considers dirty. Yet in “Inmemorial China” (Immemorial China) the poetic voice seems to feel nostalgia for an ancestral China that she never knew, perhaps for invented memories about Chinese ancestors. Wong Kcomt has also published a short novel entitled Bocetos para un cuadro de familia (Sketches for a Family Portrait; 2008), which is divided into short, interrelated accounts. With this book, she joins Siu Kam-Wen in the narrative representation of Peru from a Sino-Peruvian perspective. The novel deals with the life of a family of Chinese immigrants in Chepén, Peru, who stop farming to become shopkeepers. Eventually, the children migrate to the city or abroad.

Another Sino-Peruvian poet is Sui-Yun (a pseudonym for Katie Wong Loo), who was born in the Amazonian city of Iquitos in 1955 to Chinese parents who migrated before the Chinese Revolution.[13] She devotes her first collection of poems, Cresciente (Waxing Moon), to the moon. In this collection, which includes poems in both English and Spanish, and was published in California in 1977, all elements in nature, and particularly the moon and the sun, work in unison to express the poet’s feelings of love and harmony through an extended pathetic fallacy. The nostalgic memory of the Amazonian landscapes and animals of her native land also provide inspiration for metaphysical thoughts. In other poems, they inspire philosophical thoughts close to Chinese philosophy, such as the yin and yang, the Confucian concept of the balance of opposites in the world: “The primitive from the civilized / The humble from the aristocrat / The positive from the negative // All these coordinate in the making of One whole” (8-11). Therefore, the ultimate answers are to be found in the magical powers of nature and in its unity.

In 1983, Sui-Yun published a second collection of poems in Lima (this time all the poems are only in Spanish, albeit with sporadic lines in French and English), whose title Rosa fálica (Phallic Rose), seems to suggest that she has continued to search the yin-yang equilibrium between opposites (woman and man in this case) that we saw in the previous book. Now, the prevalent topics are eroticism and love, which become the fundamental path to harmony. In contrast with Wong Kcomt’s poetry, the only reference to her Chinese ethnic background to be found is in the line “And the memory of Chinese lanterns”[14] (3) of an untitled poem in this last collection. Sui-Yun has also published the collection Soy un animal con el misterio de un ángel (1999) in Lima, and Cantos para el mendigo y el rey (2000), in Wiesbaden, Germany, as a bilingual edition.

The last author from Peru that I will mention is Mario Wong (Lima, 1967-). Wong has published the collection of poems La estación putrefacta (1985), the novel El testamento de la tormenta (1997), and the collection of short stories Moi, je vis à San Miguel, mais je meurs pour Amalia (2002).[15] With thirty characters roaming the streets of Lima and Piura in Peru, Paris, and an unspecified American city, many of the scenes in El testamento de la tormenta take place in the Wony, a Sino-Peruvian chifa restaurant and bar where the “poètes maudits” of the Kloaka movement meet to drink and discuss literature and politics. The nightmarish urban atmosphere—somewhat reminiscent of Julio Villanueva Chang’s crónica “Viaje al centro de la noche”—is sometimes described through a frenzied, poetic cascade of existential thoughts and metaphors, while others through the coarse language of the protagonists, who navigate a world of alcohol, drugs, and nihilism. Wong portrays the violent 1980s in Peru as a hellish hallucination. Eight years of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path)’s terrorism, combined with the official violence of the government, end up flooding Peruvian society with fear, torture, and senseless massacres. Self-reflective and surrealist writing becomes a way to look for answers and to exorcize inner evils. And when this tactic fails, his romantic passion for a woman called Amalia Morales, who has moved elsewhere, fills his thoughts. These two leitmotifs are at the core of the novel, around which several other episodes of fear, torture, violence, destruction, and self-destruction through alcohol and drug abuse take place. It is, as the title indicates, a testimony of a stormy time in Peru as well as in the life of the protagonist. 

Another Latin American country with a long tradition of Chinese immigration is Panama. One of the most prolific and well-known Sino-Panamanian authors is Eustorgio A. Chong Ruiz.[16] In Techumbres, guijarros y pueblo, short stories such as “El rapto” (The Kidnapping), “El machete,” “Longoroneros” and “Kyrie Eleison” describe a small town atmosphere of violent machismo in which boyfriends and parents feel compelled to defend their honor once someone else takes their women. In this last short story, the unnamed protagonist reminisces, while considering suicide, about his childhood, his father’s death, and his bravery on January 9, 1964, when Panamanians marched into the Panama Canal Zone after U.S. students only raised the American flag. Although he mentions several times the socialist concept of the new man, the narrator has lost his faith in all ideologies. This same concept of the new man reappears in the socially conscious play Después del manglar (After the Mangrove Swamp), where Chong Ruiz condemns the abuses committed against the lower classes in the countryside. He tells the story of a hamlet in a mangrove swamp close to the ocean, whose inhabitants end up being displaced by the “owner,” Efigenio, even though they had legal papers bought from him. The play ends with the protagonist and his girlfriend Gisela, who happens to be the landowner’s daughter, leading the exodus in hopes of creating the new man some day and somewhere else.

Even more prolific is Carlos Francisco Changmarín (he blends his two surnames, Chang and Marín, to express his mixed Chinese and Criollo heritage; 1922-), who was born in Los Leones, Santiago. His works often deal with nature, revolution, social justice, land ownership in the countryside, class struggle (his Chinese-Panamanian father’s wealthy family always resented the latter’s marriage to a peasant Criolla), or the recent history of Panama (including the U.S. invasion and the construction of the Panama Canal, in which he worked in his youth).[17] Punto ´e llanto is, for the most part, a collection of intimate love poems with a popular tone and atmosphere. However, some of them deviate from the norm. We find, for example, “Por las lomas negras” (On the Black Hills), which describes an inebriated black man who rapes and kills a young girl, and then flees when he hears her father’s voice and dogs. In a poem reminiscent of César Vallejo’s solidarity with human suffering, “Llanto del interiorano acabangado” (Weeping of the Melancholic Provincial Man), he feels empathy for the underprivileged. In turn, in “El hijo que quiero tener” (The Son I Want to Have), the poetic voice defends mestizos by explaining that although he had always wanted to have a white boy, he now has changed his mind. As we see in the last stanza, the poetic voice professes a sort of reverse racism nuanced by a questionable identification of mestizaje with gratuitous violence. The poem never clarifies what has made him so ashamed of his white son as to reject nothing else than his ethnicity.[18]

Moving on to another Central American country, perhaps the most well-known Sino-Nicaraguan poet is Juan Chow. He was born in Managua in 1956.[19] Chow’s first book, Oficio del caos, includes surrealist poems with long, often prosaic, verses and lists of oneiric and hallucinatory images. Poems such as “En defensa de Georgette Vallejo,” imagine Latin American poets such as Rubén Darío, Vicente Huidobro, or César Vallejo in the bars and cafés of Paris. In other poems, these literary references give way to the reflection on the tragic civil war in his native Nicaragua, as we see in “Epigrama de un asesinado a su novia también asesinada” (Epigram of an assassinated man to his girlfriend, also assassinated) and “Reflexiones de un dios acabado” (Reflections of a finished God).

         Óscar Wong is a Sino-Mexican poet, fiction writer, essayist, literary critic, and journalist. He was born in Tonalá, Chiapas, in 1948, and now lives in Mexico City. He serves as sub-secretary of culture and recreation of the government of the State of Chiapas. In a speech he read during an event in Mexico City that commemorated his thirty years as a poet, Wong expressed his pride of being of Chinese descent: “It is true that I feel grateful to life for my lineage, for my dynastic origins, especially because I had a father that saw the world, not with the coarse and even rude optic of Westerners, but with the millenary wisdom of Chinese ancestors, with the diligence and discipline that forge universes and discover the infinite multiplicity of the ten thousand things that integrate the Cosmos.”[20] He praises his father hi poem: “My father was an incredulous wise man.”[21] In Poética de lo sagrado. El lenguaje de Adán (Poetics of the Sacred. The language of Adam, 2006), Wong describes the poet a sort of priest who interprets the secret of existence. The “sacred” in the title of the book reveals—against the grain of current literary theory, we must say—poetic inspiration as a divine puff and the poet as an mystic or enlightened person.
This peculiar way to understand poetry is reflected in his collections of poems. For example, in Enardecida luz (Flushed Light), which is divided in seven different sections, we find poems, such as the one that open that opens the collection, or “En las fauces de lo oscuro” (In the Jaws of Darkness), “Sobre la ira estoy” (I am over the wrath), “Encabritado corazón” (Reared up heart), and “Ahora muerdo la lengua” (Now I bite my tongue), where a self-deprecating poetic voice turned into a sort of deity, threatens all those who deride him expresses his wrath and angry despair. Toward the last sections of the poem, however, the poetic voice has found harmony in the beauty of women and love, as we see in “Como una gota” (Like a drop), “Rumor del sol” (Rumor of the sun), “Tras la piel titubeante del otoño” (After the hesitating skin of Autumn), and other poems. In another collection, Razones de la voz (Reasons of the Voice), Wong includes erotic poems such as “Espuma melacólica,” “Piedra que germina” and “Ceremonial para Leticia,” combining them with pantheistic chants to nature like “Resaca devorando el arrecife” (Undertow Devouring the Reef). Other poems establish an intertextual dialogue with Jaime Sabines, Octavio Paz, Remedios Varo, and other Mexican writers and artists. But perhaps the most intriguing and successful poems are those in which Wong explores metaphysical realities, such as “La noche yace aquí” (The Night Lies Here) or “Herida brutal de los sentidos” (Brutal Wound of the Senses). 
          Finding themes and topics that are common to the writings of all these Sino-Latin American authors is not an easy task since the sociopolitical circumstances that surround them are obviously extremely variegated. Therefore, any generalization runs the risk of falling into essentialism, reductionism, or homogenization of a clearly diverse corpus of works. At any rate, it is clear that, in many cases, texts dealing with Chinese characters and topics tend to explore the migrants’ reasons for leaving China and the different degrees of suffering, assimilation, or social agency enjoyed in the adopted country. They also reflect their uninterrupted contact with the sending communities. As previously mentioned, despite the large number of authors listed here, the story of the Chinese diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean basin has been narrated, for the most part, by non-Chinese authors. But regardless of their ethnicity, many of these writers focus on the cultural differences as well as on the hybridity, liminality, and transculturation that characterize daily life in the Chinese and Sino-Latin American communities (or “colonies” as they are called in the region.) These works also reveal the inevitable mixture of Sinic and Latin American cultures, despite the Chinese immigrants’ reputation, throughout Latin America, for preferring isolation from mainstream society. In other cases, however, the same authors that contest the stereotype highlight this very insularity in their works. For example, Siu Kam-Wen seems to feel a sort of claustrophobia in the demanding world of Chinese shopkeepers and in the traditionalism of strict kinship norms, while at the same time representing numerous cases of hybridity, particularly in autobiographical passages. These feelings, along with sociopolitical adversities, have made re-migration another important literary topic. With each of these migrations, and with the passing of time, feelings of nostalgia may also find their way into the writing. Besides migrations and re-migrations, some of these books reflect the tradition of returning to mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macao to look for a young wife.
          Perhaps one of the most important overarching leitmotifs in Sino-Latin American cultural production is the presentation of the Chinese communities as an integral part of the nation. In fact, a narrative of “belonging” is often the latent or overt theme of the work. The justification may vary: from the participation of the Chinese in the wars of independence (as is the case the chinos mambises in Cuba) to the partial or complete unfamiliarity with Chinese cultures and languages, many other reasons are cited. As previously stated, the Chinese presence in national literatures as both characters and authors challenges the constructed dualism of the black/white or Indigenous/Criollo discourse. By contrast, in other cases, texts offer a diasporic version of national identity, which shields itself from Eurocentric hegemony or “Criollo-centric” narratives of the nation. Another crucial overarching leitmotif is the realization that, with the freedom and social agency sometimes provided by flexible transnationalism, mobility and deterritorialization, often comes a great deal of marginalization, uprootedness, suffering and victimhood (including imprisonment): indentured servitude, slavery, xenophobia, and Sinophobia are also recurrent topics in these works. While multiple displacements may allow Chinese subjects to flee repressive regimes and social customs, they can also make them fall into equally oppressive and dictatorial regimes.
Works Cited
Changmarín, Carlos Francisco. Punto´e llanto y Arcoiris en doce colores o
        Poema de un pueblo. Panamá: Imprenta nacional, 1948.
Chong Ruiz, Eustorgio A. Después del manglar. Panama City: Incude,
---. Techumbres, guijarros y pueblo… Panama: Ediciones del Ministerio    
       de Educación. Dirección Nacional de Cultura, 1964.
Chow, Juan. Oficio del caos. Managua: Unión de Escritores de Nicaragua, 
       Asociación Sandinista de Trabajadores de la Cultura, 1986.
Chuffat Latour, Antonio. Apunte histórico de los chinos en Cuba. Havana
        Molina, 1927.
The Cuba Commission Report: a Hidden History of the Chinese in Cuba
        Ed. Denise Helly. BaltimoreJohns Hopkins University Press, 1993.
Helly, Denise. “Introduction.” The Cuba Commission Report: a Hidden
        History of the Chinese in Cuba. Ed. Denise Helly. BaltimoreJohns
        Hopkins University Press, 1993. 3-30.
Kuan Veng, A. Mey Shut, poemas en prosa. Lima: Lux, 1924.
Mayer de Zulen, Dora. La poesía de Zulen. In Memoriam. Lima: n.p., 1927.
Pedroso, Regino. El ciruelo de Yuan Pei Fu. Poemas Chinos. Havana: P.
         Fernández compañía, 1955.
---. Nosotros. Havana: Letras Cubanas, 1984.
Villanueva Chang, Julio. Elogios Criminales Mexico: Random House
         Mondadori, 2008.
---. Mariposas y murciélagos: crónicas y perfiles. Lima: Universidad
        Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), 1999.
Wong Kcomt, Julia. Historia de una gorda. Trujillo, Peru: Libertad, 1994.
---. Los últimos blues de Buddha. Lima: Noevas Editoras, 2002.
Wong, Mario. El testamento de la tormenta. Madrid: Huerga Fierro
        Editores, 1997.
Wong, Óscar. Enardecida luz. Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de
        México, 1992.
---. Poética de lo sagrado. El lenguaje de Adán. Mexico: Coyoacán, 2006.
---. Razones de la voz. Mexico: Práctica Mortal, 2002.
Yun, Sui (Katie Wong Loo). Cresciente. California: n. p., 1977.
---. Rosa fálica. Lima: Loto, 1983.
Zulen, Pedro. El olmo incierto de la nevada. Lima: n.p. 1930.

[1] Part of the information included in this essay was published in my book Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008) and in the article “Sino-Peruvian identity and community as prison: Siu Kam Wen’s rendering of self-exploitation and other survival strategies” (Eds. Evelyn Hu-deHart and Kathy López. Afro-Hispanic Review 27.1 [Spring 2008]: 73-90).
[2] “El refinamiento de la raza blanca” (15-16). “Civilizarse” (16).
[3] “Hat Min Gan Ga / Toy pok ton un hay yan / Sen mai mon / Go sion ni chi yau / Tun lin / Go sion ni fac tak / Chiok Fi / Shi Chung Chay / Chan sen pen tan / Chi yau-Chi yau / Go shion.” (89).
[4] This collection included poems from previous books such as CLAT Whitman en las 
bacanales, El poema sin nombre, El poema de una lágrima, Así habló una azucena, 
and El errante. Zulen is also known as a pro-indigenous activist.
[5] “Sus ojos artísticamente rasgados me miraban tiernamente” (n.p.).
[6] “Si como antaño las calles de Lima se bautizaran según los oficios que predominara en ellas—Bodegueros, Espaderos, Mercaderes—, el jirón Cailloma sería hoy Prostitutas, y Quilca, la popular calle Borrachos” (122).
[7] Siu Kam-Wen had to migrate to the United States when he realized that, without a Peruvian passport, he would never find a job in Lima. The problem was that, as he explains, they would not give him a passport if he did not have a job.
[8] The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Julia Wong Kcomt studied Law and Political Sciences at the University of Lima and Humanities and Social Sciences at the Catholic University of Peru. She has also studied at different universities in Germany and Macau, China. Since 2006, she organizes a festival of Peruvian-Argentine poetry in Buenos Aires.
[9]  “mi apellido;” “no preciso llamarme Julia / puedo enseñar un sello;” “he soñado un barco enorme cruzando el Pacífico / (mi abuelo murió sin su trenza de culí y con hábito morado);” “duerme chinita;” “por mi piel negrísima / y un agujero sobrante en las costillas / que no concuerdan con la estética occidental.”
[10] “Me llamas / (¿a mí, / Te refieres a mí? / Una mujer china siempre está plagada de dudas.”
[11] “Como gruesa de lápices / amarrada con cintas brillantes / así somos las mujeres / así somos las mujeres chinas.” Likewise, in “Harnero” (Sieve) she states, “Like a bundle of pencils / Tied with shiny tape / That’s how we, women, are / That’s how we, Chinese women, are” (6-9).
[12] “Porque hay que entender chino, / para saber por qué las rayas del tigre / están pintadas por hombres ricos.”
[13] Sui-Yun was recently invited to represent both China and Peru during the Giornata Mondiale della Poesia (World Day of Poetry), which took place in Frascati, Italy. She lives between Peru and Europe and, in consonance with one of the main themes in her poetry, she devotes part of her time to ecological preservation.
[14] “y el recuerdo de faroles chinos.”
[15] Mario Wong was born in Lima to a Chinese father and a Criolla mother, studied Economics at the University of San Marcos, and lives in Paris since 1989. He collaborates with the Mexican magazine Archipiélago and with the Peruvian journals such as Maestra Vida and Ciberayllu. He also participated in the anthology Cuentos Migratorios, 14 escritores latinoamericanos en París (2000).
[16] Born in Los Santos in 1934, Chong Ruiz received a B.A. in Philosophy and History from the University of Panama, a Diploma in Social Sciences from the Universidad Nacional de Honduras, and another Diploma in Cinematography from the Cinematographic Institute in California. He has published several collections of short stories, often dealing with life in the countryside: Con los pies en la tierra  (1958), Del mar y de la selva (1962), A la luz del fogón (1963), Techumbres, guijarros y pueblo (1964), Otra vez, pueblo (1966), Canción del hombre en la ventana (1980), Diario de una noche de camino (1987), Y entonces, tú (1991), and El cazador de alforja (2001). He has also published a collection of poems entitled Poemas, the plays Detrás de la noche (1966), Después del manglar (1973), and Yaya (1981),study Los chinos en la sociedad panameña (1993).
[17] He has published the following collections of short stories: Faragual y otros cuentos (1960), La mansión de la bruma, Cuentos de la cárcel (1965), Nochebuena mala (1995), Las mentiras encantadas (1997), and Cuentos para matar el estrés (2002). He has also published two historical novels: En este pueblo no mataban a nadie (1992) and El guerrillero transparente (1982). He has also published the followoing collections of poems: Romance de la niña perdida (n.d), Punto ‘e llanto (1942), Poemas corporales (1956), Socabón. Décimas para cantar (1959), Dos poemas (1963), Versos del pueblo. Décimas (1972), Versos para entrar al canal (1979), Crónica de siete nombres memorables (1980), Las tonadas y los cuentos de la cigarra (1987), El gallo de las horas (1993), Cantadera. 130 décimas para cantar (1995). Changmarín has also tried to deliver his social message through children’s literature, publishing the novels El cholito que llegó a general (1978) and the semiautobiographical Las gracias y las desgracias de Chico Perico (2005), and the collections of poems Versos de muchachita (1974), Las tonadas y los cuentos de la cigarra (1975), and La muñeca de Tusa (2001). He has also published five essays about poetry and international politics: Base social de la décima en Panamá (1965), Algunas áreas folclóricas de Veraguas (1975), Panamá 1903-1970 (1979), Victoriano Lorenzo, primera víctima del canal norteamericano (1980), Vigencia de la décima en Panamá, en itinerario de una nación 1903-2003 (2003).
[18] Among other Sino-Panamanian writers worth mentioning are the following: César Young Núñez, Carlos Fong, Elida Wong Miranda, Gloria Youmg, Luis Wong Vega, José Chen Barria, Berta Alicia Chen P., Lucía Kusial Singh, Arnoldo Díaz Wong, Carlos Wong, José Young, Camilo Siu, Lucy Cristina Chau, Moisés Chong, and Dagoberto Chung.
[19] Juan Chow has worked as a journalist for the journal Barricada. His first collection of poems, Oficios del caos (1986; reedited as Oficios del caos y otras versiones, 2005), was influenced by surrealism and daily rationalism. His other collections of poems are La inteligencia del alacrán y otros boleros (2001), Retórica del seductor (2001), and El amor razonado (2004). Chow has also published the book of criticism La paja en el ojo 1995-2002 (2003). His playful and ironic poetry has been compared to that of the Salvadoran poet and revolutionary Roque Dalton (1935-1975).
[20] “En verdad que me siento agradecido con la vida por mi linaje, por mis orígenes dinásticos, sobre todo porque tuve un padre que veía al mundo no con la óptica burda y hasta grosera del occidental, sino con la milenaria sabiduría de los ancestros chinos, con la constancia y disciplina que forjan universos y descubren la infinita multiplicidad de las diez mil cosas que integran al Cosmos” (n.p.).
[21] He has published the collection of short stories La edad de las mariposas (1990) and the collections of poems: Si te das al viento (1978), Fragmentaciones (1979), En un lugar del mundo (1981), Cántiga para la hermana Esther (1982), He brotado raíces (1982), Vuelta al camino (collective book) (1983), No creo que las rosas cambien (1986), El conjuro del druida (1992), Enardecida luz (1992), Vocación de espuma (1993), A pesar de los escombros (1994), Ritual de ausencias (1994), Espejo a la deriva (1996), Cantares del escriba (1999), Espuma negra (2000), Razones de la voz (2000), Piedra que germina (2001), Fulgor de la desdicha (2002), and Rubor de la ceniza (2002). Wong has also edited several anthologies and has published the following essays and collections of essays: Eso que llamamos poesía (1974), Una indagación sobre el hombre. Muerte sin fin, de José Gorostiza (1982), La salvación y la ira (1986), Entre las musas y Apolo. Presencia y realidad de la poesía mexicana (1992), Hacia lo eterno mínimo. Otra lectura de Muerte sin fin (1995), La pugna sagrada. Comunicación y poesía (1997), El secreto del verso (2001), Jaime Sabines. Entre lo tierno y lo trágico (2005), and Poética de lo sagrado. El lenguaje de Adán (2006).

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