Chinwa “The Untold Story of Chinese-Haitians” by Kreyolicious

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Two generations of the Fungcaps of Haiti pose for a family photo in 1965. Photo: Essud Fungcap Private Collection

Here is another very education article from one of my favorite Haitian bloggers Kreyolicious,

Chinese presence in the Caribbean is concentrated mostly in Jamaica, but did you know that at one point there was a trickle of immigration from China into Haiti? With last names like Wu, Wah, Wawa, Fung, Fong-Ging, Fungcap, the first known Chinese families arrived in Haiti in the late 1890s, fleeing crumbling dynasties.

Guy Fong-Ging, whose father King Fong-Ging adopted Haiti as his permanent home, says: “Fong Sam, Fong Wong, They came in groups. They were all [mostly] from the same family.”

Some like Soud Fungcap arrived in Haiti in the Twentieth Century. Fungcap was on his way to Brazil, fleeing a revolution in China, when he accidentally landed in Haiti in 1915 and made his home there. Like other newly arrived immigrants from China, Soud kept in touch with the folks back home in Canton, China, and his son joined him in Haiti in 1928.

Sergo Wawa in a childhood photo. Courtesy Sergo and Simone Wawa.

Sergo Wawa in a childhood photo. Courtesy Sergo and Simone Wawa.

The Chinese didn’t integrate fully into Haitian society—at first, according to Soud Fungcap’s son Essud Fungcap. Some who were in Haiti in the early 1910s had to contend with anti-foreign sentiments that were being flamed by influential Haitian and non-Haitian business magnates alike. Historian Carlo A. Desinor, in his study of Haitian newspapers, pointed to editorials in the early 20th Century discouraging foreign takeover—including Chinese—of Haitian commerce.

Others who are Haitians of Chinese heritage remember the stories well from their parents and grandparents.

“They used to live in that area in Grand Rue, what is calledanba mache [downtown],” explains Essud Fungcap. The newly arrived and slept on the sidewalks sometimes, and when they had the financial mobility to do so, bought buildings along that business street in Haiti, and they slept upstairs and had their stores downstairs. Sometimes they had to make cultural and religious concessions to fit in with Haitian society. Soud’s son for example, changed his name to Pierre and converted from Buddhism to Catholicism in the 1940s.

Jacques Wawa cherishes his Chinese roots. “Being born and growing up a Haitian of Chinese descent only brings back positive memories for me,” he contends. “My friends were either from school, our neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, from the provinces, [or] from the Boy Scouts. Although time has separated us over the years in the USA or elsewhere, they knew me as Jacques and needless to say we are still excited whenever we see each other in New York, at a party or any other social event.”

The Fungcaps had one of the biggest bakeries in Port-au-Prince, and a string of other lucrative businesses that included a commercial laundry chain and a Chinese restaurant Nu-Canton, founded in the 1940s at the corner of Rue des Miracles and Grand Rue, a major cross street in Haiti, according to Essud Fungcap. Continue Reading At Kreyolicious 

The storefront of one of Haiti’s first Chinese restaurants in the early 1900s. Photo Credit: Peanoupoulous via Georges Michel.

The storefront of one of Haiti’s first Chinese restaurants in the early 1900s. Photo Credit: Peanoupoulous via Georges Michel.

All Pictures via Kreyolicous

3 comments

  • I met the Fungcap artist about ten years ago while attending a art exhibit in Philadelphia. His wife heard me speaking to my husband in Kreyol and reached out. We all had great conversation and I have a beautiful and signed print that my Haitian American children will inherit.

  • Very interesting!

  • interesting read!

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