San Jose’s new Barrio Chino is not without its unhappy critics

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Andrew Rulseh Kasper Marité Valenzuela displays photos of historic homes in her neighborhood as equipment nearby awaits the go-ahead.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the construction to create San José’s Barrio Chino, brought acclaim from many excited residents but also criticism.

The construction will turn 600 meters of Calle 9 into a pedestrian-only boulevard lit by Chinese-style lamps. The project also will erect a Chinese-style archway over the start of the new walkway, which begins at the Plaza de Los Artes. The work will begin Friday, take roughly one year to complete and will cost 700 million colons, about $1.4 million. The Chinese government donated around 70 percent of the cost, the Municipalidad de San José said. Mayor Johnny Araya is a big promotor of the plan.

The remodeling of the street is being done in the year of the Chinese dragon and is meant to create a cultural space for the many Chinese immigrants who have settled and opened businesses along Paseo de los Estudiantes.

A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper Neighborhood women protest with signs opposing the creation of a Chinatown.

But the so-called improvements aren’t seen as improvements by everyone.

One owner of a shop located on the Plaza de los Estudiantes worried how the construction and reduced car traffic would affect his business. He said the last large project done years ago to construct the first walking-only boulevard that runs into the plaza from the west along Avenida 4, nearly put him out of work.

He said it can take several years for the clientele and businesses to adjust.

One group of residents protesting at the inauguration complained the idea to make the area Chinese in appearance will change the Costa Rican history. Marité Valenzuela said the Chinese facade will compete for attention with the nearby Iglesia de la Soledad, the plaza and other buildings in the neighborhood.

Ms. Valenzuela manages the Casa Santo Pancracio, an old house on the list of Costa Rican historical places. The building sits on the corner at the start of the proposed boulevard. She also said she manages two other historically significant buildings that are adjacent to the Casa Santo Pancracio. They will sit in the shade of the flamboyant Chinese portal structure once it is built.

“It’s going to change more than 100 years of history,” said Ms. Valenzuela.

Ms. Valenzuela said at least the city agreed to keep the name of the street as Paseo de los Estudiantes after she said she and a few others raised a big stink. She is still fighting to have the portal moved 100 meters away from the plaza and her properties, which seemed like a lost cause. Construction equipment was parked next to her house Thursday, and city officials and representatives from the Chinese community stood just meters from her door and watched the ground-breaking

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.