Barrio Chino - Chinese Neighborhood, Havana
While travelling abroad we've often found ourselves gravitating to the nearest "Chinatown" in the various locations we visit. My wife is of Chinese ancestry & it's always interesting to learn about these communities and explore the "Chinese neighborhoods"....mostly for a good restaurant with semi-authentic Chinese food! We once stumbled on a pretty impressive "Chinatown" in Lima, Peru & found authentic restaurants, shops, and a local Chinese-Peruvian community living & working there. This was not the case in Havana's old Chinatown. It's more of a monument of what was once a "Chinatown"..probably pre-revolution. Don't go there expecting to find an impressive cultural center or streets lined with vendors, dim sum, and seafood restaurants. There were a few o.k restaurants in this neighborhood but currently is populated with indiginous Cubanos selling clothing and trinkets in outdoor markets. Most of the original Chinese community had long ago left Havana....but walking its streets you'll encounter more recent Chinese immigrants blending in with the local population. Havana's Chinatown is still worth a visit...but keep it brief because there are so many more fantastic sites throughout this old city.
Havana has an active Chinese community which has spawned a good number of restaurants specialized in traditional Chinese cuisine. These private, family-owned establishments tend to be excellent in both quality and price, offering expeditious service to their customers. Diners can enjoy a full meal–apart from some of the more exotic choices on the menu–that will include a bowl of soup, fried rice, the main course and a drink at good prices.
At first, I didn't believe that it was really a Chinese neighbourhood: in Spanish "Barrio chino" means also a quarter where vice is very visible. But it certainly is: in XIXth century some Chinese people began to arrive in La Habana to work at sugar industry, where they were reduced to a practical slavery. Some of them got their freedom and they dedicated to cultivate some land in La Habana. The first mango crops of Cuba are said to have been grown there. After that, Chinese people began to arrive from California, and they opened the restaurants of the area. Now, it is a very deteriorated area of La Habana, but always colourful.
Al principio no crei que fuese realmente un barrio chino, sino mas bien una zona de prostitucion, tal y como suele llamarse en castellano. Pero en realidad lo es: en el siglo XIX algunos chinos comenzaron a llegar a La Habana para trabajar en la industria azucarera, donde fueron reducidos a condiciones cercanas a la esclavitud. Algunos de ellos consiguieron su libertad y se dedicaron a cultivar tierras en esta zona de La Habana. Se dice que los primeros cultivos de mango se obtuvieron aqui. Despues, mas chinos empezaron a llegar desde California y ellos abrieron los restaurantes chinos de la zona. Ahora es un area muy deteriorada de La Habana, pero siempre colorista.
The main street of Chinatown is marked by a small Chinese style gate with three Chinese characters that read "Chinatown" on it. Mostly restaurants line on both side of the pedestrian-only street. You can spot Chinese style lanterns and decorations, but rarely do you see a Chinese face or hear the Chinese language here due to the dwindling Chinese population. (See the next tip for more details.)
Of all the restaurants here, only one has chefs from China. That's where you should go if you want to taste authetic Chinese food. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but their sign says that they have Chinese chefs. And I actually met the chef personally.
Despite the autheticity of the food in most restaurants here, it is definitely a great place to eat especially if you are on a budget, as you can have a filling meal with US$3-4.
The entrance gate follows the design of Ming and Qing Dynasty, was a gift from China in 1999. It is the largest two-column gate outside of China, with a width of 19m and a height of 13m.
The main street of Chinatown, marked by a much smaller gate, is actually about two blocks northwest of the gate.
In many cities all over the world you will find
a "China Town" - so why not in Habana.
About 300 chinese families stayed in this Capital after the famous revolution.
The location is near El Capitolio - Calle Cuchillo.
In the 19th century about 130.000 Chinese people lived here - mostly males ( read slaves) coming from the chinese province "Guangdong" to work on sugar crane fields.
TIP Visit a few shops or restaurants like Restaurant "Pacifico
The best restaurant should be Pavo Real - in Vedado - the place we visited by mountain biking
Well, there is no much commends I can put here except this that I havent seen many Chinesee there. Anyway, building are unbelievable
China Town in Habana - near the Capitolio.
A nice place to visit and a special atmosphere
Only few Chinese people are living in Cuba.