In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Asian-Peruvian Literature

  • Introduction
  • Studies on the Chinese in Peru
  • Studies on Sino-Peruvian Literature
  • Studies on the Japanese in Peru
  • Studies on Japanese-Peruvian Literature
  • Other Ethnicities

Latin American Studies Asian-Peruvian Literature
Ignacio López-Calvo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0082


In the early twenty-first century most people of Asian descent in Peru are of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean origin. The Korean community is by far the smallest of the three, with approximately two thousand people living in Lima and surrounding areas. Since there appears to be no significant Peruvian author of Korean descent, this article will only consider authors of Chinese and Japanese origin. Chinese indentured workers arrived in Peru in 1849 and progressively replaced slave labor (although they often worked side by side with Black Africans) in cotton and sugar plantations as well as in guano fields. By the time the Treaty of Tientsin (1874) officially abolished the so-called coolie trade, 100,000 contract laborers had arrived in Peru. A key episode in their history was the War of the Pacific (1879–1883), when Chile fought Bolivia and Peru over the nitrate-rich Atacama region and approximately fifteen hundred Chinese indentured workers sided with Chilean forces in the siege of Lima. Subsequently, many of them were massacred by Peruvians. As a replacement for Chinese indentured workers, who eventually moved to urban areas, the first Japanese farmers arrived in 1899. Unlike the desperate indentured workers, they enjoyed stronger protection from their government. With massive immigration waves ending in the early 1970s, Peru’s Nikkei population has been reduced to approximately fifty thousand persons, as many migrated as dekasegi (temporary workers) to Japan after 1988. Like the Chinese before them, they achieved great economic success thanks to their work ethic, business skills, and mutual aid strategies. Also seen as the “yellow peril,” 1,771 of them were deported to internment camps in the United States during World War II, and numerous Japanese-owned businesses and homes were sacked in May 1940. Another important moment in their history was Alberto Fujimori’s victory in the 1990 presidential elections. In the early-twenty-first-century Peru is the Hispanic country with the largest Asian population and boasts the largest Chinese and Japanese communities in Latin America after Brazil. Not surprisingly, during the first migration waves, it became a contact zone where Eastern and Western worldviews interacted, producing a fertile process of transculturation. The cultural heritages of Asian immigrants have undoubtedly enriched Peru’s cuisine, art, language, music, and literature. Although people of Asian descent only represent about 1 percent of the total population (approximately 250,000 persons of a total of almost 30 million inhabitants), their cultural production and their literary production in particular have been disproportionately influential. Yet until the late twentieth century, the literature by Latin American authors of Asian descent was surprisingly overlooked. Asian-Peruvian authors see literature as a vehicle to articulate their claim of “belonging” in the national project, to negotiate ethnonationalist politics, and to explore issues dealing with identity. Literature therefore becomes a privileged site of representation and production of new Asian-Peruvian identities.

Primary Sources

There are many more historical studies on Asian populations in Latin America and the Caribbean than studies on cultural production by Latin Americans of Asian descent. Although many other texts could have been chosen, this section includes studies dealing with different aspects of the Chinese and Japanese communities in Peru, including economic ties with China, the Japanese and Latin American governments’ attitudes and policies toward immigration, the oppression of Asian immigrants, key moments in immigrants’ history, and immigrant survival strategies, immigrant economic and political success, migrant networks, and cultural exchange. These studies also show that, despite the differences, the Chinese and Japanese experiences in Peru share several common denominators (both were exploited and conceived of as “yellow peril,” eventually achieved socioeconomic success, remigrated, etc.) as well as similarities with the experience of Asian coolies and immigrants in other Latin American and Caribbean countries. Most works in this section therefore deal with a historical and sociological overview of the Asian presence in the region in general rather than just in Peru. Others are concerned with both the Japanese and the Chinese in Peru.

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