From 1847 to 1874, as many as 125,000 Chinese indentured or contract laborers, almost all male, were sent to Cuba. This is no small number, considering the time span of just 27 years. Eighty percent or more were destined for the sugar plantations. The Chinese were imported while African slavery was still in effect though undergoing "gradual abolition," and worked alongside this traditional form of plantation labor. (During this same period, Peru also imported Chinese coolies - about 95,000 for its sugar plantations. In the case of Peru, however, slavery was being abolished just when coolies were being introduced, essentially supplanting slave labor on the revived coastal plantations, although initially they did work with or under free blacks.)

Was coolie labor another form of slavery, or was it a transition to free labor? This paper will examine La trata amarilla [the yellow trade] from its inception to its dissolution in light of these apparently opposing propositions of free labor or neoslavery.