End lines: The map - World in motion
Why is Chinese food so good in Peru? And how did Uruguay get so skilful at football? David Goldblatt charts some strange migrations. Illustration by Joe Magee
Saturday 22 May 1999
From rice paddy to coffee field With the abolition of slavery in 1850, Brazilian coffee plantation owners found themselves short of ultra-cheap labour and so turned to the harsh system of "colono", a form of indentured labour. Desperately poor labourers were brought from Europe and Asia to work the plantations, paying off the huge debts incurred to fund their sea passage. In the early 20th century, as Japanese agriculture became modernised, landless peasants were shipped to Brazil. By 1936, 180,000 Japanese people had made the crossing. Among the poorest and most insular of Brazil's modern immigrants, the Brazillo-Japanese have steadily improved their economic standing, but with only 18 per cent marrying out they remain socially apart from the Brazilian mainstream.
La trata amirilla One of the earliest records of Chinese immigration in the Americas was a petition to the governor of Mexico City, written by the city's barbers in 1653, protesting against Chinese barbers undercutting their rates. In the mid-19th century, as slavery was abolished, the so- called la trata amirilla (the yellow trade) started up. Chinese peasants sold themselves into the debt of indentured labour to escape the grinding poverty of Qing China. By 1875 nearly a quarter of a million had made the crossing to Peru and Cuba. Over the 20th century this substantial and often persecuted minority has moved up the social scale and into the cities. Lima now boasts a barrio chino and Chinese cafes, or chifas, are present in every town.
Hard labour in paradise Between 1836 and 1916, driven by poverty at home and the Empire's insatiable demand for cheap labour, over a million Indians migrated to distant British colonial outposts and plantations in Natal, Mauritius, the Caribbean and Fiji in the South Pacific. Between 1879 and the First World War, the Australian Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which owned most of Fiji's fertile land, imported 70,000 indentured Indians into one of the harshest plantation regimes in the world. The Fijian Indian population equalled that of indigenous islanders, and the post-colonial history of the island has been marked by bitter conflict, coup and counter-coup between these ethnic groups.
Naples on the River Plate Why is it that a tiny Latin American nation - Uruguay - should have won the World Cup twice? A bit of migration history may be revealing. Uruguay began life as the desolate southern tip of the Portuguese Empire in Latin America. Its separation from Brazil and its emergence as an independent state was largely the result of British diplomacy seeking to put a buffer state between Brazil and Argentina in the 1820s. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, southern Italian migrants began to stream to Uruguay's capital Montevideo. Inland, Uruguay's soil was unproductive, so these migrants remained in the city where they formed the urban majority, and pursued the game which was to become a national obsession, just like back home.
Ancient and modern The largest Greek-speaking urban population outside of Athens and Thessaloniki is Melbourne. Greeks make up a significant part of Australia's 20th-century migrations and helped save the country's diet from the baleful impact of Anglo-Celtic dominance. Greeks began going down under in the early 20th century. Together with Italian immigrants they dominated the catering business. While never on the receiving end of racism as virulent as that which has been directed at Aboriginal Australians, the "anti-dago" riots of the Depression years saw Greek communities attacked and Greek- owned properties burnt.
Back to Mother Russia Since the 15th-century creation of the Moscovy Empire, Russians have been migrating from the core territories. In the 18th and 19th centuries they poured into the Steppes and Siberia, the Ukraine and the imperial offices of the Baltic. In the 20th century, Russian migration intensified: communist technocrats, bureaucrats and Red Army officers were implanted across Central Asia and the Caucuses. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a reverse migration is gathering pace: local nationalisms and ancient discontents have made life uncomfortable for Russians in Central Asia and the Caucuses, while new language and citizenship policies are actively excluding them in the Baltic.
Land and freedom Liberia, or what is left of it, is a unique state. It was the first African Republic, founded in 1847. But unlike the European-dominated states of southern Africa, Liberia was settled by a black African-American elite. Freed slaves from North America made the return journey to the philanthropically established capital of Freetown. This urban immigrant core established dominance over the 95 per cent of the Liberian population who were indigenous Africans. Americo-Liberian dominance was shattered by popular riots and a military take-over in the Eighties which descended into bitter civil war and the displacement of Liberians and their war into Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast.
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