In his highly incisive book, The Old Patagonia Express , describing his journey south by rail from Massachusetts  to Tierra del Fuego , Paul Theroux portrays a litany of places one might want to avoid. But Costa Rica  is different.
One of his characters sums it up. Freshly arrived in San José , the capital city, Theroux finds himself talking to a Chinese man in a bar. The Asian—a Costa Rican citizen—had left his homeland in 1954 and traveled widely throughout the Americas. He disliked every country except one.
“What about the United States?” Theroux asked.
“I went all around it,” replied the Chinese man. “Maybe it is a good country, but I don’t think so. I could not live there. I was still traveling and I thought to myself, ‘What is the best country?’ It was Costa Rica—I liked it very much here. So I stayed.”
The Chinaman would today feel even more at home.
On Wednesday, December 5, 2012, Costa Rica formally opened the world’s newest Chinatown.
Stretching along six blocks (between Avenida 2 and 14, and Calles 7 and 11), Barrio Chino adds a splash of cultural color to downtown San José as part of Mayor Johnny Araya’s plans for sprucing up and improving the city, including installing its first-ever city-wide street signs (see blog post ).
Dragon dancers and costumes characters paraded beneath the Tang Dynasty -inspired arch erected in 2012 at Avenida 2 and Calle 14 (“Paseo de los Estudiantes”). Newly cobbled and pedestrianized, the Paseo boulevard anchors the district, which is lined with Chinese restaurants and retail stores selling oriental medicines and other products.
The project, initiated in February, was funded by a $1.5 million gift from the Chinese government.
Chinese Community president Isabel Yung, Chinese Ambassador Li-Hua Chan, Beijing mayor Guo Jinlong, and even former president Oscar Arias  were on hand for the official ceremony.
This is the latest in a string of Chinese strategic moves to strengthen its influence in Costa Rica, after the latter broke ties with Taiwan  in June 2007 (see blog post Costa Rica’s National Stadium opens with major events ).
Approximately 60,000 Chinese heritage live in Costa Rica, including a recent flood of Taiwanese immigrants.
For complete practical and background information to Costa Rica, buy the latest edition of Moon Handbook Costa Rica .
If you're traveling only to San José and the Caribbean, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to the beaches of Nicoya, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to Arenal and/or Monteverde, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Arenal&Monteverde  pocket guide.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker