San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Lays First Stone Of San José’s Chinatown

On the esplanade of San José’s La Soledad Church, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the mayor of Costa Rica’s capital city and the mayor of the Chinese capital of Beijing met last week to lay the first stone of Costa Rica’s future Chinatown.

The project will take root along the Paseo de los Estudiantes, between Avenida 2 and 14, in a downtown area that already boasts a variety of Chinese-owned businesses, restaurants and shops.

These 8,300 square meters will receive an architectural makeover to resemble what Arias called “a tiny China,” the latest in a string of gifts that have come from the Asian giant since the countries established bilateral relations just over two years ago.

The Chinese Embassy in Costa Rica will donate $1 million to the project, while the San JoséMunicipality will pick up the remainder of the cost, estimated at $300,000, according to the newswire EFE.

“San José’s Chinatown will be much more than just a festive corner of the capital city; it will be a demonstration that we’re ready to receive the message of China, receive its friendship and its marvillous lessons hidden in its history,” Arias said.

The Barrio chino will feature “symbols belonging to Chinese culture, displayed in harmony with colors that reflect its identity,” according to a government news release. Large, ornate archways will mark the entrance to the new barrio; the street will be a pedestrian-only promenade.

Renovated storefronts, streetlights and benches also will lend the area an “unmistakable” air of a Chinese village, the release said.

Yet some local business owners might need more convincing. Daxiang Lin, who owns a variety store called Daxiang Lin Limitada, said business is doing fine without an official Chinatown and fears that a pedestrian walkway might even hurt sales. “People won’t buy big things if cars can’t pass here,” he said in an interview after the idea was launched last year (TT, Sept. 26, 2008).

San Jose’s Chinatown is expected to be completed by June 2010.

–Alex Leff


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