The Korean Diaspora Project: Koreans in Cuba

To many it may come as a surprise to learn that there are Korean Cubans.  The ancestors of Koreans in Cuba came from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in search of a better life.  Cuba was never a destination for Korean laborers leaving their homeland (Chosun as Korean was known back then) at the the beginning of the 20th century.  1,033 Koreans set sail from the city of Incheon and arrived in Yucatan in 1905.  Upon arrival, instead of riches they had dreamed of, all they found was slavery-like conditions as henequen cutters, toiling from sun-up till sundown in the harsh Mexican sun.  No way to return to their homeland, most of them had no choice but to settle there as field hands.  Three hundred of them set sail for Cuba in search for a better life.  They arrived in Cuba on May 25, 1921.  The Koreans’ arrival coincided with a generally favorable economy in Cuba mostly due to sugar but soon sugar prices dropped drastically and there was no work.  Land that had formerly grown sugar was now converted to growing henequen, and employed Koreans as cutters.  Factory work was reserved for Cubans, and it was natural for the Koreans, who brought their henequen-cutting skills from Mexico, to once again toil in the henequen farms. This is the history of Koreans in Cuba.

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