The Chinese Community in Latin America

Throughout their history, the Chinese community has survived by building strong family, neighborhood and district benevolent associations. Membership in these organizations was based on surname, clan, language, village, region and country of origin.

In the early 1900s, Salt Lake City’s Chinese community revolved around Plum Alley and later expanded to north Grant Avenue. These businesses included stores, laundries and restaurants.


The Chinese community in Latin America grew rapidly during the early 1900’s. Today Peru has more than 60,000 Chinese residents, Venezuela 50,000, Paraguay 40,000 and Brazil 200,000. Throughout the region, they have made significant commercial and social contributions.

Chinese immigrant communities were formed in response to harsh conditions in China, including economic distress and labor exploitation. They faced discrimination and prejudice, both from the government and society at large. They were often isolated in specific neighborhoods, which became known as Chinatowns. They gathered to work and play together, but also sought to preserve their culture.

Family and district benevolent associations provided political, economic, cultural and social support for their members. In addition, they were a critical part of the economy of Orange County in the late 1860’s. They built the irrigation canals, drained swamps and cultivated agricultural pursuits. They also opened laundry businesses and plied their merchandise from horse drawn wagons throughout the county. They accounted for most of the county’s celery production and the country’s apple, peach and orange trade.


The Chinese have made significant contributions to the societies in which they live. With austerity, toughness and a low profile, their work ethic, enhanced by family ties, has allowed them to build business and industrial empires in tropical countries like Latin America.

The earliest immigrants to the United States arrived in the 1850s attracted by the California gold rush and to help build railroads and other infrastructure in the West. Despite legal discrimination, including the Exclusion Act of 1882, which prevented them from bringing families with them, Chinatowns in cities across the country grew.

Most of these early Chinese were single men. By the mid-1900s, a new type of family migration to America began, and by the 1960s many Chinese Americans had become naturalized citizens. This helped to change the perception of Chinese as an “Other.” By that time, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) was one of the most established community organizations in Chinatown.


In China, the Confucian philosophy of obedience and adherence influences the way Chinese think about morality and their sense of duty in society. This is especially evident in their behaviour, as they tend to be less protective of personal space and have a very public demeanour.

Chinese people are alert to climate change risks, as they frequently experience natural disasters and related health and travel issues. For example, residents in the city of Zengbu had to cope with annual flooding long before infrastructure improvements were made.

Huang Yingxin believes that questionnaire-based surveys can better capture how communities identify and communicate their vulnerabilities. She also believes that the government should give local communities greater leeway in their decisionmaking and experimentation. This is especially important in a country as large and sparsely resourced as China. The country is also ecologically, economically and socially diverse. In fact, what benefits one region may harm another. This is why China’s approach to climate adaptation must be holistic and inclusive.


In the face of racial discrimination and economic challenges, Chinese people developed their own form of social autonomy. Known for their austerity, toughness and low profile, they are a strong and vital group of people that contributes greatly to the societies where they live.

One reason for their success lies in the concept of guanxi (), which is an exchange of connections and favours. This ties friends, family and even business colleagues together and if broken can have consequences.

Many Chinese people feel that their culture is under threat and that traditional values are being lost. This view can be seen among older generations and rural Chinese. On the other hand, Chinese youths and urban dwellers are more likely to embrace progressive ideals. They also tend to take a more pragmatic view of change and are less concerned about cultural preservation. Urban residents are also more likely to have access to health services. These factors may explain why urban Chinese are healthier than their rural counterparts.

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