HAVANA, April 9 (Raimundo Urrechaga) Havana’s Chinatown is being restored to its former glory as restoration work on the district in downtown Havana began several weeks ago.
The restoration is part of celebrations in November marking the 500th anniversary of the founding of Cuba’s capital.
Currently, with the aim of renovation, heavy machineries were brought in to dig up streets and sidewalks, expose pipes and cables, as well as prevent the usual hubbub of cars and pedestrians.
Nearly 13,000 residents of the district, many of Chinese descent, will also benefit from upgraded electrical and gas lines, as well as water supply networks.
“Our goal isn’t just to achieve the physical transformation of the neighborhood, but to complement it with more Chinese traditions and elements as a way to also show how that country has developed over the years,” Luis Gongora, vice president of Havana’s local government, told Xinhua.
This investment in the area is part of an ambitious state-plan to restore the city’s landmarks and monuments in the lead up to the country’s celebrations.
The plan includes Chinatown’s 22-block area, iconic local pharmacies and markets, schools, community clinics, as well as state-owned and privately-owned Chinese restaurants.
“It is a significant investment that exceeds 15 million Cuban pesos (about 15 million U.S. dollars),” said Gongora.
“It is also a way to enhance the union between Cuba and China, which is based on a historic friendship between our peoples,” he added.
To highlight the contribution of Chinese culture to Cuba’s identity, officials are planning a cultural route through the neighborhood.
“In the initial stage, it will include an art gallery and continue on to a multipurpose plaza that will serve as the historical and cultural epicenter of Havana’s Chinatown,” said Teresa Lee, director of the local House of Chinese Arts and Traditions.
The neighborhood will soon have a bazaar selling Chinese handicrafts and a theater, while the iconic local newspaper Kwong-Wah Po is also to be revived.
“Newly created places, such as an organic farm, Chinese services like dry cleaners, florists and fruit sellers, traditional medicine pharmacy and a market will also open,” Lee added.
Already, the portico that welcomes visitors to Chinatown is decorated at night with new LED lights.
Once considered the most important Chinatown in Latin America where thousands of Chinese migrants settled in the mid-19th century, this corner of Havana will soon reflect its past glory as it faces a brighter future.