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News > Cuba

Horror in the Caves: The Vengeful Screams of the Chinese

  • Chinese workers in the mines of the epoch, March 22, 2024

    Chinese workers in the mines of the epoch, March 22, 2024 | Photo: Archive

Published 22 March 2024
Opinion

"The Union" to this day remains the resting place of souls abandoned under the mine 

Cuba’s history is rife with legends, myths and fables, yet many fairy tales are based on a reality darker than the same fiction at times.

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Among the most horrific stories of the Cuban camps is the Union mine, in Pinar del Rio, the tomb of an entire community of Chinese culies, who were exterminated by the exploitation and greed of the colonizers.

More than 150 Chinese worked in the Union, who had fled the wars in Asia, these people did not possess identity under the laws of the time. They were illegal migrants so it was common for them to be exploited in past works almost as slaves.

"The Union mine was the closest thing to a prison of forced labor, the Chinese being foreigners, poor and not even having basic means to live were confined to an almost slavery in the caves", said Enrique Pertierra Sierra, historian of the municipality of Mantua and one of the oldest researchers on the subject.

The business was going well, but changes in the mining market would force the mine owners to incur almost unpayable debts. For this reason, they resort to smuggling and trafficking of Chinese in slave ships.

Drowned in debt and fearful that the Spanish authorities would know about the smuggling and trafficking of people carried out there the owners of the mining company "Suárez Agudín y Compañía" decided to dissolve the association in 1865 and close the cave in 1868.

The end of the culies

The decision was already made: they would blow up the mine so as not to leave traces of business or the culies after all, the Chinese came from the other part of the world and were more slaves than workers.  Foremen and others of confidence placed the explosive charges, and at sunset, when the workers continued in the galleries, they detonated them.

"Thus, were buried the culies workers, far from their homeland, among the fumes of dynamite, rarefied oxygen and the furious and useless blows of beak that only served to weaken them and accelerate the inevitable".

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