Individual Stories
Fabiana Chiu Chris Huie A gift from Madera to Kaiping
Fabiana Chiu

Fabiana ChiuThrough her own personal research, Fabiana believes that descendants of her family were among the early coolie workers sent to the Americas. Her great-grandfather voyaged from Nam Hoi, China to Peru. Fabiana, her sisters and her parents remigrated as adults to the US.

She reveals to us what that experience of being a China/Latina /American has meant to her personally. Fabiana appears in ANCESTORS IN THE AMERICAS, Part One "Coolies, Sailors, Settlers."

Excerpts from CHINA LATINA By Fabiana Chiu-Rinaldi

Growing up in Lima, I remember how uncomfortable I used to get when the history teacher would discuss the only chapter in Peruvian history where we Chinese are mentioned. There we were, frozen in time as indentured servants or "coolies", and there I was, suffering from a seemingly community-wide amnesia, with no known connection to a history no one wanted.

I became determined to uncover a more personal history that would help me explain a period that started with but moved beyond the "coolie" chapter. So I began to look into my father's photographs, family albums, letters and diary journals he had saved for over 50 years.

Although it had been Dad's original intention to go into the radio repair business, he decided to put his life's savings toward what already was an established family business. His robust, tall and China born uncle Augusto Yipmantin, had founded the "Instituto Fotografico Yipmantin" in Lima.

"Jackson Studios" got its name from Dad's feeling that an American sounding name would carry extra cache and bring in more business.

A conversation with Fabiana ChiuFirms such as the Grace Company, Dupont, Sherwin Williams, Kodak and Sears Roebuck established solid footholds in Peru. Film companies like Warner Brothers, Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Twentieth Century Fox owned lavish movie theatres in Lima. Life magazine, Popular Mechanics and Reader's Digest offered dad a glimpse of progress "American style".

For now, "Jackson Studios" became the perfect place to implement his own vision of prosperity as shown on a December 1952 photo where a large sign he made wished his customers "Muy Felices Pascuas y Prospero Ano Nuevo, Desean a Ud. Jackson Studios", a "Very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year, from Jackson Studios."

He photographed weddings, social dances, baptisms and many store openings. While at it, he witnessed a whole generation of Chinese Peruvians getting married.

As fate would have it, that's how Mom and Dad met. While taking pictures at Julio Kuangfung's wedding, Dad fell in love with Maria Leonor Cheon Salas, one of the maids of honor and the bride's youngest sister. Dad figured that if he took beautiful pictures of this shy twenty-year old, she would fall in love with him. It worked. Mom's story echoes those of many other Chinese Peruvians. Facing a deficit of China-born women in Peru, many of the single Chinese formed families with local Peruvian women.

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