Barrio Chino

Angela Peralta, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX

Most major cities in the world may speak different languages, have different topography, some are ports, some are found way inland, and some are rich and some are poor, but most of the real megalopoleis around the world appear to have at least one thing in common: they all have their area known as Chinatown, and Mexico City is no exception. Even though not as large as the Chinatowns found in, say, San Francisco or New York, the place is still an interesting destination. Its small size may be in part due to its young nature, as it was founded fairly recently, during the XX century, when many of the Chinese immigrants had to flee the northern states of Mexico of Sinaloa, Sonora, and Baja California, (where they normally reside) because of civil resentment and racism derived from accusations of unsanitary ways of living and of spreading disease. They came to Mexico and settled in and around the streets of Dolores and Luis Moya, where in the 1930s it was common to see the streets lined with laundries and cafés owned by Chinese families.

These Chinese cafés are found all over the city, by the way, and are known for their inexpensive biscuits, choux buns, and freshly steamed bread; but visitors to the Barrio Chino back then had to communicate at the cafés with looks and glances and some hand signs, as it was a real rite of the city to visit the area for good coffee and bread but no Spanish (or English for that matter).

The Barrio Chino still exists today and it sometimes hosts special events that highlight the customs and culture of the Asian country, in 2020 for example, during the year of the “metal rat”, there was in January a special gastronomic exhibition, along with a show containing drums and the traditional dances of the Lion and the Chinese Dragon. The whole Barrio Chino is localized entirely within Dolores street in the historic center of the city, and it has the 3 archways or paifangs (a Chinese architectural tradition that represents a gateway), and it’s still worth a visit (and to snap a few pictures for Instagram) and a good meal at Hong King, which is the oldest restaurant in the area and is a good place to try the succulent Beijing duck (formerly the Peking duck) or the lacquered duck.


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