Architecture in Chinatown Today
Known as the "Barrio Chino," Chinatown lies in the heart of the capital city in the southern part of "Old Havana."
BUILDINGS AND STREETS
If you happen to pass by Zanja and Dragones Streets, you'll be welcomed into a place of cultural familiarity. Havana Cuba has been noted to have the largest and most important Chinatown in Latin America.
One particular block in Havana has at its entrance a large arch with the street's name in Spanish and Chinese. This particular street is flanked with gaudy Chinese restaurants whose sole aim is to attract tourists.
This street remains a haven for tourists and not as a place for the Chinese to live or to interact with other Chinese.
Restaurants are lined side by side and fully decorated with paper lanterns, dragons, ying-yang symbols, and banners of good fortune and luck. Workers at these restaurants are dressed in the traditional clothing of the Chinese: fancy silk outfits embroidered with dragons and flowers and lined with gold thread.
Although this area is a tourist attraction much like Havana's historical district, many are not aware that Chinatown extends beyond the tourist section into a area of dilapidated buildings and streets which blends in with the rest of older Havana.
These areas constitute the poorer districts of Havana. Through Havana's Chinatown Promoter Group, efforts are continuously being made to renovate these areas and to improve the living conditions for the residents.
One of the most colorful spots in Havana is the Barrio Chino, and the most colorful and delightful places in the Barrio Chino are the restaurants.
The Barrio Chino has one or two restaurants with grandiose interior decorations and spacious tables and chairs. The most delicious Chinese food, however, is found in a small restaurant with 6 or 7 tables inside and 3 outside in the fresh air. It is called the Tien Tan Restaurante right in the center of the Barrio Chino.
Ushered in by flamboyantly dressed waiters and waitresses, you will be surprised to find some most authentic Shanghai style soups and entries.
This small restaurant also harbors rich and intricate human stories as well as geo-economic-political history. The waiters and waitresses seem unaware that they appear to be in a time warp since the costumes represent an era dating to the demise of the Qing dynasty.
THE MARKET PLACE