San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Barrio Chino opens in San José

Dragons tore their way through the middle of San José Wednesday only to be greeted by an applauding crowd full of flashing cameras and smiles.

The dragons, made of ribbons, poles and other decorations, were part of just one of the many performances at the official inauguration of the “Barrio Chino” on Paseo de los Estudiantes, Calle 9, between avenidas 2 and 14, in the central part of the city.

“The Chinese people have had a lot to do with the development of this city,” said Francisco Lee, Shifu at the Shaolin Temple, a martial arts school in San José. “This is a recognition of all the people have done for this country.”

The first Chinese immigrants came to Costa Rica to work on the Panama Railway in the mid-19th century. Soon after, a large Chinese community emerged in Puntarenas, eventually flowing over into other parts of the country, including San José.

The inauguration celebration played host to schools and associations from around the country including the Chinese Associations from Puntarenas, Nicoya and Santa Cruz as well as the national association. Each group contributed some kind of Chinese performance ranging from xylophone music to choreographed martial arts. 

The pet project of San José’s Mayor Johnny Araya was first proposed in 2009, and with a $1 million donation from the Chinese government, construction began the same year. Three years later, the six-block, $1.4 million pedestrian walkway is done, complete with a Tang Dynasty-style archway overlooking Avenida 2.

The Municipality of San José invested an estimated $400,000 in the project in hopes of drawing tourism to the city.

“There are many cities around the world with China Towns,” said inauguration organizer Lylian Quesada, with the culture division of the Municipality of San José. “We want to show that San José is a destination with activities for tourists.”

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