This essay interprets Chilean accounts of a loyalty oath by Chinese coolies to the Chilean army during the War of the Pacific against a broader social history of Chinese agrarian resistance in Peru and military experience in China. The essay argues that masculinity and labor were central to articulating divergent political agendas and defining national differences as racial differences. Chilean tales about emancipating Chinese slaves affirmed Chile's superiority over despotic Peruvians. Moreover, in stories about a Chinese oath, Chileans affirmed their civilizing mission by recognizing Chinese men as similar to themselves: brave warriors prepared to die for freedom and nation. For Chinese men, the oath was not about loyalty to Chile but loyalty to each other in an ongoing fight against bondage on Peruvian plantations. The ceremony enacted a Chinese fraternity of mutual protection and hierarchy that helped leverage Chile's invasion to replace coolie arrangements with Chinese-controlled subcontracting and free peonage.

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