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Feature: Havana's Chinatown gradually returns to normal

(Xinhua) 13:17, November 19, 2021

HAVANA, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Havana resident Mariana Ramirez, 45, recently returned to the city's Chinatown some 20 months after the COVID-19 pandemic brought nearly everything to a standstill.

Red lanterns swinging in the breeze and the aroma of Chinese dishes wafting through the streets are part of what makes this neighborhood so special, she told Xinhua.

"This is a wonderful place, full of charm and history. I very much enjoy the unique atmosphere. I have been waiting for this moment for a long time," she said.

Ramirez is among the hundreds of local and foreign visitors returning to Chinatown as it returns to normal from lockdown.

Teresa Maria Li, director of the House of Chinese Arts and Traditions, said more cultural activities are taking place in Chinatown as the neighborhood gears up for Lunar New Year celebrations.

Chinatown's local leaders have organized handicrafts bazaars, sales of ornamental plants, and Chinese cookbook launches, among other events. A new gallery is scheduled to be inaugurated in Chinatown as part of the 14th Havana Biennial of Fine Art.

"This is an essential part of the city," Li said, adding that "we have taken solid steps for Cubans and foreign visitors to learn more about Chinese culture."

According to Gertrudis Ortiz, the Cuban author of a book on Chinese cooking, these initiatives greatly contribute to spreading knowledge about not only Chinese cuisine, but also culture.

Visitors to the popular neighborhood have enjoyed the first street performances by students and instructors of the Cuban Wushu School, which reopens after the island emerged from lockdown.

Roberto Vargas Lee, director of the school, said that while the neighborhood was still far from reaching its pre-pandemic hustle and bustle, many businesses were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"It is very important for businesses and restaurants to resume operating after being closed for so long due to the virus," Vargas Lee said.

"Everybody is welcome here," he said, adding "the Lion Dance is back again." 

(Web editor: Shi Xi, Liang Jun)

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