The Chinese new year always starts with the new moon and ends with a lantern festival 15 days later on the full moon. For this calendar Tuesday marks the beginning of the year of the snake. Despite popular western tales that describe the snake as deviant and evil, persons born of the snake are said to possess great intelligence, gracefulness and materialism.
According to the Association Chino de Costa Rica, the traditions are to eat good luck dishes such as whole fish and chickens prepared with the head and feet intact, thoroughly clean the house with old brooms, decorate with reds, pay debts and launch fireworks to ward off bad luck.
In Costa Rica the Chinese chamber in conjunction with the San José municipality will invite residents to celebrate while they work to break a world record by preparing the largest pot of fried rice Tuesday.
The Centro Cultural y Educativo Costarricense Chino will follow with Chinese movie afternoons Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m.
The scheduled movies are “The Message,” a story of government assassinations and espionage, “Ocean Heaven,” about a terminally ill man, played by Jet Li, who works in an aquarium and takes care of his son, and The Piano Factory, a depiction of a man who wants to make his daughter’s dream of owning a piano come true.
Entry to see the movies are 1,000 colons, about $2.
The cultural center will also have a big celebration Feb. 23 in the Calle Chino walkway off Avenida 2 beginning at 10 a.m. On the program is the lion dance, traditional Chinese music, Tai Chi, Kung Fu and Chinese calligraphy.
Representatives from Templo Shaolin Costa Rica, Puño del Loto Blanco and Choy Lee Fut Hung Sing Gwoon Costa Rica will provide marshal arts and tai chi demonstrations as well as a brief class for visitors.
“We want to be able to share the Chinese culture mainly through the language and cultural customs,” said Juan Paul Da Bosco, cultural gestor.
For the cultural center this will be the first activity of its campaign called ChineArte. The name comes from the verb chinear, which means to care for, cuddle or nurse a child. It was chosen to represent the history of Chinese immigrants in Costa Rica, said Da Bosco.
According to Da Bosco, the Chinese came to work on the railroads in the late 1800s, however laws prevented both Asians and Africans to move toward the Central Valley. Despite this, Chinese women were sought after for domestic labor. The phrase consigue una china para que chinea tu bebe, became popular, he said.
“Chinese women were what Nicaraguan women are now,” saidDa Bosco. “Something that kept clicking was if you needed someone to take care of your child, call the Chinese.”
The word ChineArte works to encompass that history and also play on the words Chinese and art for a cultural aspect. The goal is to bring awareness to the Chinese influence through expositions, paintings, music, theater and cultural courses. The hope is also to open the Chinese residents up to sharing their traditions.
“People from China who live in Costa Rica have a closed culture,” said Da Bosco. “They are not used to sharing. They speak Chinese to each other and learn minimal Spanish. There are families that have lived here for 50 years and don’t know more than three words of Spanish.”
The Costa Ricans are just as guilty, he said.
“For Ticos each Chinese person is a copy and paste of the other,” he explained. “They see them all as Chino, but don’t stop to ask who is this person? What is his name? What is his story? Does he even eat what he sells me?”
Da Bosco is working to change this and build a communication bridge between the two worlds, something he thinks is important especially with the high density of Chinese restaurants and stores in the country.
“Now we are in a critical point, looking for funding,” he said. “But if this works, ChineArte will have activities every month.”