Chinatown, Mexico City
Mexico City’s Chinatown, known locally as Barrio Chino, is located in the downtown area of Mexico City, near the Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is the most important cultural center in Mexico City as well as the rest of the country of Mexico...

. It is very small, encompassing only two blocks on Dolores Street and consists of a number of restaurants and businesses that import goods. Despite this, it is considered the nucleus of the approximately 3,000 families with Chinese heritage in Mexico City.

Chinese immigration to Mexico and Mexico City

The history of Chinese immigration to Mexico and Mexico City
Chinese immigration to Mexico
The history of Chinese immigration to Mexico spans the decades between the 1880s and the 1980s. Between the years 1880 and 1910, during the term of President Porfirio Díaz, the Mexican government was trying to modernize the country, especially in building railroads and developing the sparsely...

 spans the decades between the 1880s and the 1940s-1950s. Between the years 1880 and 1910, during the term of President Porfirio Diaz
Porfirio Díaz
José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was a Mexican-American War volunteer and French intervention hero, an accomplished general and the President of Mexico continuously from 1876 to 1911, with the exception of a brief term in 1876 when he left Juan N...

, the Mexican government was trying to modernize the country, especially in building railroads and developing the sparsely populated northern states. When the government could not attract enough Western European immigrants, it was decided to allow Chinese migrant workers into the country. At first, small Chinese communities appeared mostly in the north of the country, but by the early 20th century, Chinese communities could be found in many parts of the country, including Mexico City.

Establishment of “Barrio Chino”

A census done at the very end of the 19th century shows only 40 people registered as Chinese in Mexico City, but by 1910, that number had grown to 1,482. With the beginning of the Mexican Revolution
Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

, many Chinese in the northern states headed south to the city, both to escape the fighting and to escape nativist sentiment which had been particularly aimed at the Chinese. This culminated in 1913, with 303 Chinese massacred in Torreón
Torreón is a city and seat of the surrounding municipality of the same name in the Mexican state of Coahuila. As of 2010, the city's population was 608,836 with 639,629 in the municipality. The metropolitan population, including Matamoros, Coahuila, and Gómez Palacio and Lerdo in adjacent Durango,...

. The Chinese in Mexico City congregated on Dolores Street one block south of the Alameda Central
Mexico City Alameda Central
Alameda Central is a public municipal park in downtown Mexico City, adjacent to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, between Juarez Avenue and Hidalgo Avenue.-Description:...

 and the Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is the most important cultural center in Mexico City as well as the rest of the country of Mexico...

, in the historic center of Mexico City
Historic centre of Mexico city
The historic center of Mexico City is also known as the "Centro" or "Centro Histórico." This neighborhood is focused on the Zócalo or main plaza in Mexico City and extends in all directions for a number of blocks with its farthest extent being west to the Alameda Central The Zocalo is the largest...

. They were basically businesspeople, opening restaurants, laundries, bakeries and lard
Lard is pig fat in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard was commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or shortening, or as a spread similar to butter. Its use in contemporary cuisine has diminished because of health concerns posed by its saturated-fat content and its often negative...

 shops. While initially, this population was confined to this particular neighborhood between 1910 and 1930, Chinese-owned businesses appeared in a number of other parts of the city, especially in the historic downtown. The number of Chinese-Mexicans in the city reached its peak during the 1920s and 1930s. when the Mexican government attempted to expel all ethnic Chinese (Mexican-born or not) from the country, managing to deport more than 70% between 1930 and 1940.

Barrio Chino today

Barrio Chino today is only two blocks along Dolores Street and extends only one block east and west of the street. Other than the expulsion of the Chinese in the 1930s, another reason for this is that the Chinese population of Mexico City has mixed with the native population and is spread out in the city. According to the government of Mexico City, about 3,000 families in the city have Chinese heritage. In many parts of the older sections of the city, there are “cafes de chinos” (Chinese cafes), which are eateries that serve Chinese and Mexican food. However, Barrio Chino remains the symbolic home for many of these Chinese-Mexicans, who congregate there for camaraderie and to pass on their culture. The buildings here are no different from the rest of the city, but businesses here are either restaurants or importers. Most of the shops and restaurants here had abundant Chinese-style decorations and altars, but statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe , also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe is a celebrated Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary.According to tradition, on December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, a simple indigenous peasant, had a vision of a young woman while he was on a hill in the Tepeyac desert, near Mexico City. The lady...

 and San Judas Tadeo (a popular saint in Mexico) can be seen as well.

Chinese New Year in Mexico City

The main Chinese-Mexican organization here is the Comunidad China de México, A. C., which sponsors festivals and cultural events to preserve and promote Chinese-Mexican culture. By far the largest festival sponsored is the annual Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year – often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar – is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration...

’s celebration, which has as cosponsors organizations such as the borough of Cuauhtemoc
Cuauhtémoc, D.F.
Cuauhtémoc, named after the former Aztec leader, is one of the 16 boroughs of the Federal district of Mexico City. It consists of the oldest parts of the city, extending over what was the entire city in the 1920s. This area is the historic and culture center of the city, although it is not the...

 and Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke...

. It is generally held on the weekend closest to the actual date of new year’s and crowds squeeze into the two-block stretch of Dolores Street to see Lion dance
Lion dance
Lion dance is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture, in which performers mimic a lion's movements in a lion costume. The lion dance is often mistakenly referred to as dragon dance. An easy way to tell the difference is that a lion is operated by two people, while a dragon needs many people...

s, fireworks and other traditional new year’s traditions and eat traditional foods such as steamed buns and roast suckling pig
Suckling pig
A suckling pig is a piglet fed on its mother's milk . In culinary, a suckling pig is slaughtered between the ages of two and six weeks. It is traditionally cooked whole, often roasted, in various cuisines...


For the 2009 New Year’s festival, celebrated on 30 January of that year, there were various festivals and events planned both inside and outside of the Barrio. In addition to the traditional celebration in Barrio Chino, the Mexico City government and the Chinese embassy held a number of events. The Chinese Embassy in Mexico had a gathering of its citizens who reside in the country to demonstrate Chinese cuisine
Chinese cuisine
Chinese cuisine is any of several styles originating in the regions of China, some of which have become highly popular in other parts of the world – from Asia to the Americas, Australia, Western Europe and Southern Africa...

 and products at the Monument to the Revolution. Later there was a parade from the Angel of Independence to the Monument to the Revolution along Paseo de la Reforma
Paseo de la Reforma
Paseo de la Reforma is a wide avenue that runs in a straight line, cutting diagonally across Mexico City. It was designed by Ferdinand von Rosenzweig in the 1860s and modeled after the great boulevards of Europe, such as Vienna's Ringstrasse or the Champs-Élysées in Paris...

. The Teatro del Pueblo had a Gala Night with Chinese opera
Chinese opera
Chinese opera is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back as far as the third century CE...

, displays of martial arts
Martial arts
Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat, practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental and spiritual development....

 and a parade of people wearing traditional Chinese dress
Chinese dress
Chinese dress may refer to:*Han Chinese clothing, the historical clothing of the Han Chinese people*Qipao, a body-hugging one-piece dress for women*Changpao, a body-hugging one-piece dress for men...


The Chinese Arch

A new monument called The Chinese Arch was unveiled on 16 February 2008 as part of an effort to convert the small neighborhood into a tourist attraction. The arch was inaugurated by Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard
Marcelo Ebrard
Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón is the current Head of Government of the Federal District since December 5, 2006. He is a Mexican politician affiliated to the Party of the Democratic Revolution who served as Secretary-General of the former Mexican Federal District Department, minister of public...

 and Chinese ambassador Yen Hengmin to pay tribute to Chinese immigration into the city as well as to improve relations between the city and the country of China. The arch is located at the Santos Degollado Plaza, one block east of Dolores Street. The arch is made of steel-reinforced concrete, covered ceramic, granite and marble, and is decorated with two large statues of lions on each side.

See also

  • Chinatown, Mexicali

External links

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