Portuguese and Chinese

Portuguese and Chinese

The Portuguese were among the first indentured workers brought to Guyana. Portuguese indentured immigration began in 1835 and ended in 1882, with most of the immigrants having arrived by the 1860s. Most of the Portuguese came from the North Atlantic island of Madeira.

Economically successful in Guyana, the Portuguese nonetheless experienced discrimination. Even though of European origin, they were treated as socially inferior by the British plantation owners and officials because of their indentured past and Roman Catholic religion. Despite discrimination, by the end of the nineteenth century the Portuguese were firmly established as an important part of Guyana's middle class and commercial sector.

Indentured Chinese workers first came to British Guiana from the south coast of China in 1853. Relatively few in number, the Chinese became the most acculturated of all the descendants of indentured workers. The Chinese language and most Chinese customs, including religion, disappeared. There were no clans or other extended kinship organizations, and soon most Chinese did not trace their ancestry beyond the first immigrant. Because almost all of the Chinese indentured immigrants were men, they tended to intermarry with both East Indians and Africans, and thus the Chinese of Guyana did not remain as physically distinct as other groups.

Like the Portuguese, the Chinese left the plantations as soon as their indenture contracts were fulfilled. Many entered the retail trade. Other Chinese engaged in farming and pioneered wetrice production, using techniques they brought from China. The Chinese tended to live in urban settings.

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