Chinatowns in Latin America

From Academic Kids

Template:Chinatown Chinatowns in Latin America (Spanish: barrios chinos, singular barrio chino) developed with the rise of Chinese immigration in the 19th century to various countries in Latin America as contract laborers (i.e., indentured servants) in agricultural and fishing industries. Most came from Guangdong Province. The rest came from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Other migrants who settled in these Chinatowns included non-Chinese, particularly Japanese, and Koreans. These migrants often began to establish themselves in their adopted countries and did not return to China. Latin American Chinatowns may include the descendants of original migrants—often of mixed Chinese and Hispanic parentage — and more recent immigrants from East Asia. Most ethnic Chinese in Latin America are of Cantonese and Hakka origin. Japanese and Korean residents are often mistakenly called chinos (the Spanish word for "Chinese people"), and the Barrios Chinos of Latin America have become multi-Asian places. (Thus the term Barrio Chino is often misnomer in that these Chinatowns are now home to more than only Chinese.)

Unlike the Chinatowns of Anglo America and Europe, pure-blood ethnic Chinese are relatively few in number due to generally lower levels of Chinese immigration to some parts of Latin America. Residents of Latin American Chinatowns tend to speak a mixture of Chinese and Spanish. Latin America's Chinatowns include those of Mexico City, Havana, and Buenos Aires. Some of these Chinatowns mainly serve as tourist attractions and not as true, living ethnic communities. However, the degree of East Asian immigration the various countries of Latin America has variedly greatly. Many Thais and Vietnamese eventually came to settle in Latin America following World War II and the Vietnam War, as did many Vietnamese refugees — especially those of Chinese descent — who settled in Hong Kong after the Vietnam War and who sought to escape in advance of Hong Kong's return to mainland Chinese control.



The Belgrano district of Buenos Aires, Argentina, contains the largest and most active barrio chino in Latin America. It is centered around Calle Arribeños, Calle Mendoza and Calle Montañeses. Large numbers of recent Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese immigrants have settled in the area. Also included are ethnic Chinese from other parts of Latin America and East Asia, and East Asians of non-Chinese ancestry. [1] (


São Paulo, Brazil, has no permanent Chinatown, but the Chinese-Brazilian community is centered around the Liberdade district. Besides being an area famous for its strong Japanese presence, a significant number of Taiwanese immigrants settled in in Liberdade, and many Chinese immigrants have come to Liberdade following the Communist revolution in 1949. Many Cantonese from Hong Kong and Portuguese-speaking Macau — including some Macanese of mixed Chinese and Portuguese descent — also settled the place after their return to mainland Chinese rule in 1997 and 1999 respectively. These Macau immigrants can usually speak and understand Portuguese (its Creole, Patuá, is also spoken), allowing them to adjust more easily to life in Brazil. A very sizeable number of Chinese Indonesians settled the area as refugees when they were violently forced out by Indonesians of Malay descent in the 1960s. Today, Chinese Brazilians usually speak a mixture of Chinese and Portuguese. Japanese and Koreans who have also settled permanently alongside the Chinese community have truly made Liberdade a multi-Asian community.

Costa Rica

There is a sizeable Chinese community in the Limon area and San José. As evidence, the mainland Chinese television station CCTV-4 can be found in many standard cable TV packages in San José. Recent Chinese immigrants are coming from Taiwan, many of whom have established businesses in Costa Rica.


Unlike that of Argentina and other Latin American countries, the Chinese population of Cuba was once large, but the now-diminished Chinese Cuban community is today clustered around the largely dying Barrio Chino — called Barrio Chino de La Habana — on Calle Zanja, in Havana. After the successful Communist revolution and Fidel Castro's rise to power in 1959, many Chinese Cuban entrepreneurs fled the country and entered the United States. Today, only one Chinese-language newspaper, Kwong Wah Po, remains. Nonetheless, Havana's Chinatown was formerly among the largest in Latin America. Attempts have recently been launched to attract revitalization investment for the Chinatown from Mainland Chinese and overseas Chinese, particularly Chinese Canadians. [2] (

Dominican Republic

While Havana's Barrio Chino is struggling for self-preservation, a new bustling Chinatown in the Dominican Republic thrives, in that country's capital city Santo Domingo, on Avenida Duarte. While serving the local Chinese community with at least 40 immigrant-run businesses, it is also promoted as a tourist attraction. The development of Chinatown is now gaining momentum, and a new gateway arch is in development. The first Chinese, including other Spanish-speaking Chinese, came from other Caribbean islands. Other first-generation Chinese immigrants came from Hong Kong and Taiwan in 1970s. Chinese became the second-largest non-Latino community in the 1980s.


Missing image
Chinatown, Mexico City


The first Chinese immigrants to Mexico were Philippines-born and brought by the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. With the rise of anti-Chinese sentiment in Mexico in the 1930s under President Lázaro Cárdenas, many Chinese Mexicans — including individuals of mixed Chinese and Mexican descent — were forced out of Mexico and deported to China. Today, there are, fascinatingly, several Spanish-speaking Chinese-Mexican enclaves in China's Guangdong Province.

Mexicali, a historic Chinese outpost

The border town of Mexicali, Baja California, adjacent to the United States, contains the largest concentration of Chinese Mexicans in Mexico; its Chinatown, on Avenida Madero Calle Azueta, is called La Chinesca. Indeed, the city of Mexicali was founded in 1903 by early Chinese settlers who came to the United States and then eventually went south to Mexico to escape institutionalized anti-Chinese persecution in California. The largest number of new Cantonese-speaking Chinese immigrants came mostly from the Guangzhou area around 1919. At one time, the Chinese Mexican population outnumbered the Latino population. Mexicali had a local chapter of the Kuomintang. There is now a consulate of the People's Republic of China in Mexicali. The economic problems of Mexico in the 1980s led many Chinese-Mexicans to migrate north into the United States. Today, members of the multigenerational Chinese-Mexican community own and operate many businesses across the city. One of the oldest chinese restaurants, Restaurant 19, or named after one of the early Mexican chinatown corridors Alley 19 was opened in December 18, 1928 and eventually closed in Winter 1996. It was known to be one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Mexico. This restaurant was utilized by many U.S. and Mexican officials and celebrities thoughout the years; its end eventually came due to the the devauation of the peso in the 1980s and the new border crossing that takes tourist and locals away from the original heart of Mexicali. Currently there are more than 80 chinese restaurants in this city from small coffee shops (cafés de chinos) to huge 750 occupancy dining rooms. Some say there are more Chinese restaurants in this city than anywhere in the world outside of Asia.

Mexico City

Mexico City's small barrio chino is on Calle Dolores in Cuauhtémoc borough in the city center.

Netherlands Antilles

Netherlands Antilles's Chinatown can be found in the capital, Willemstad. Its Chinese immigrants came from neighboring Latin American countries, particularly Venezuela and Panama. Many of ethnic Chinese also went to The Netherlands. Like Chinese of other Latin American countries, they also speak Spanish as their additional language.


Managua has a small Chinese community. Bluefields reportedly has the largest Chinese Latino community in all Central America. The first Chinese settlers originated from the mainland, but there has recently been an influx of Taiwanese settlers; some Japanese have also started to settle the formerly all-Chinese area. However, many Chinese- and Japanese-Nicaraguans left the country in the 1980s to escape the Sandinista regime; most re-settled in the United States.


Panama's Chinatown, located in Panama City, is called Barrio Chino de Ciudad Panamá. Many Taiwanese and Cantonese-speaking immigrants from Hong Kong and Guangdong Province have settled in this barrio chino.

An emerging Chinatown is developing in El Dorado on Avenida B and Calle Carlos A. Mendoza.


Paraguay's Barrios Chinos are located in Asunción and Ciudad del Este. Many Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea settled these Barrios. Ethnic Chinese from neighboring countries have also re-settled here.


The main Peruvian Chinatown is located in Lima and is called the Barrio Chino de Lima, located on Calle Capón (Block 7 of Ucayali Street); it is one of the two earliest Chinatowns in the Western Hemisphere, along with that of Havana. In contrast to Cuba, the Chinese Peruvians, despite the problems of recent history in the country — including the dictatorial rule of Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975), which forced many of his Chinese Peruvian opponents to flee (mainly to the United States) — have still chosen to remain in large numbers.

Historical Chinese immigration to the Amazonian region of Peru is intriguingly documented in a small village named Chino several miles outside of Iquitos which according to local folk-history was settled by Chinese. While its inhabitants, in the main, are clearly native Amazonians, many bear striking genetic traits — markedly smoother facial structure, stereotypically Asian eyes, and straighter hair — which may mark the existence of a community of Chinese immigrants in the 19th or 20th century who intermarried and vanished, as mysteriously as they came, into the local majority.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico boasts a barrio chino in San Juan (Barrio Chino de San Juan). Since Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, Chinese-Puerto Ricans can also be considered Chinese Americans. However, many Chinese Puerto Ricans, to escape poverty, have moved to the mainland United States.


Venezuela is also home to one of Latin America's largest concentrations of ethnic Chinese. A lively Barrio chino can be found on Avenida Principal El Bosque in the El Bosque district of Caracas. Cantonese Chinese is widely spoken among Chinese Venezuelans, but there has been recent Taiwanese immigration, adding to the linguistic and cultural diversity. Chinese from other places of the world also settled in Venezuela, especially from the Philippines, where they were experienced persecution in the 1970s under Marcos, and Cuba, where Fidel Castro's communist regime seized their businesses.

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