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Havana: Chinese Dragons in Cuba's Capital

The Chinese civilization, with thousands of years of history, expanded its branches beyond the frontiers of that Asian country, and even reached the Caribbean to stay forever in one of the neighborhoods of the Cuban capital.

Since times immemorial, migration from China to other regions of the planet, in search of adventures and with a marked economic interest, promoted the establishment of colonies of Chinese citizens in practically the entire world.

The new world, as the Spaniards called America, did not escape that trend, especially when the abolition of slavery led to the import of a labor force that was cheap and hard-working, being the latter a common characteristic of Asian people.

The Chinese imprint reached the most diverse spheres of Cuban society, from music to the presence of Chinese combatants in the ranks of the Liberation Army fighting for independence from Spain.

Cuba is also proud of its Chinatown, which differs from others in countries such as the United States - shown with a high load of violence - and it is a true attraction for both national and foreign tourists.

Located in the populated municipality of Centro Habana, Chinatown has The Portico that gives access to the area within Dragones, Zanja and Galiano streets, inhabited by most of the descendants from the Chinese immigrants who have come to Cuba since the 19th century.

The inhabitants in this area are very proud of their traditional cuisine, which includes a great variety of dishes prepared by Chinese cooks who have come from Beijing to offer their cooperation.

Each Chinese region has its own recipes, which have been transmitted from generation to generation to please the most demanding and varied tastes.

Restaurants such as "Tien Tan" (Temple of Heaven) are waiting for customers, with waiters who gladly offer an excellent service and wear typical Chinese clothes.

Many Cubans of Chinese origin still follow at home their ancestors' culinary traditions, transmitted from family to family, with an abundant presence of vegetables in their daily diet, small amounts of oil to prepare the food and the use of chopsticks instead of modern cutlery.

Dragons, flags and lanterns get together several times a year in a multicolor mixture to celebrate Chinese festivities such as the Spring Festival or the New Lunar Year, the Day of Clarity or the Qing Min (Day of the Dead).

Havana's Chinatown is also a zealous guardian of traditional medicine where establishments such as the Chung Wah pharmacy commercialize products directly brought from the country that gave birth to the Chinese civilization.

All this forms part of the efforts made by a people to preserve their traditions in a different cultural environment, an effort that has stopped being just a dream to become a reality.

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