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Feature: Havana revamps Cuban-Chinese soldiers' monument

(Xinhua)    11:29, December 23, 2019

HAVANA, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- An imposing black-granite column towers over a small, leafy plaza in Havana's central Vedado district, as a dozen workers put the finishing touches on a revamped monument to Cuban-Chinese soldiers.

The eight-meter-tall pillar was originally erected in 1931 in tribute to the soldiers who bravely fought in Cuba's two wars for independence from Spain, in 1868-1878 and 1895-1898.

A bronze plaque on the base bears the famous words reportedly spoken by independence leader Gonzalo de Quesada to highlight their contribution to the independence movement: "There wasn't one Cuban-Chinese deserter. There wasn't one Cuban-Chinese traitor."

Redesigning and restoring the monument "is part of a group of projects underway in the city to revitalize sites with links to Chinese culture," Yoandry Alonso, an adviser to the local government, told Xinhua.

Three Cuban artists were tasked with redesigning the plaza to better reflect the Chinese roots of its principal structure.

The plain benches positioned along the edges of the triangular plaza have been replaced with new ones that are reminiscent of China's Great Wall, painted red and with an undulating silhouette. Meanwhile, the floor of the plaza has been imprinted with a scaly pattern to evoke a mythical Chinese dragon.

Chinese started to immigrate to Cuba in 1847 when they set sail from Guangzhou aboard the brigantine Oquendo to toil for meager wages, especially in the sugar cane industry.

Some ended up returning to China, after saving enough money to pay for the return voyage. But many settled in Cuba, assimilated into the local culture while infusing it with their own beliefs and traditions.

According to the 1872 census, some 34,050 Chinese were living in Cuba, with only 57 of them being women. Many of those immigrants joined the island's struggle for independence from Spanish colonial rule.

In the 1874 Battle of Las Guasimas, well known to Cubans, there were 500 Chinese infantrymen among the 1,300 Cubans who succeeded in defeating 3,000 Spanish troops.

Havana's Chinese Cemetery is the final resting place of Lt. Col. Jose Bu Tack, who fought in both independence wars and became the personal bodyguard of Maximo Gomez, commander in chief of the armed forces during the second war.

"We are already in the final stage of the project," said the monument's supervisor Alexis Rondon, adding workers are preparing to plant greenery around the plaza.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year to coincide with annual celebrations marking the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution on Jan. 1.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Shi Xi, Bianji)

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