Buenos Aires Celebrates the Money in the Year of the Monkey

By Xiumei Dong

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Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a day that’s typically filled with celebrations, cultural activities and quality family times. When the traditional holiday is imported to a foreign country like Argentina, it is the golden period for small Chinese vendors to boost their revenues.

“We were very busy on that day. There was a line when we opened the restaurant in the morning, it went until 1 a.m.,” said Agustin Cao, in Chinese, a waiter at Restaurant Chinatown in Buenos Aires.

Thousands gathered at the Chinatown of Buenos Aires. (Xiumei Dong/MEDILL)
Thousands gathered in the Chinatown of Buenos Aires. (Xiumei Dong/MEDILL)

Although the actual Lunar New Year was on Feb. 8, the party started in the capital of Argentina on the weekend of Jan. 30, in which thousands gathered in the five-blocks-long Chinatown of Buenos Aires. The neighborhood is said to have over 100 Asian-owned businesses and 15,000 visitors every weekend.

“It takes about 30 minutes to cross the street,” added Cao.

Jhony Zhang, an owner of a small gift shop in Chinatown, also speaking Chinese, said his revenue grew six-fold during the New Year Celebration.

Chinese New year Sale
Customers shop for accessories in Jhony Zhang’s gift shop. (Xiumei Dong/MEDILL)

“According to my observation. They are buying things with Chinese characteristics, that are rare to see in their lives,” said Zhang. “For example, the things I sell, such as Chinese decoration accessories, fun toys, and Fengshui related things.”

Music and live performances were held at the Plaza Parques Nacionales, where the crowd watched the dragons parade and touched the Lion head for good luck.

“They all know these things will bring good luck. People are taking part in the Chinese New Year for good fortune,” said Zhang.

The Chinese community is the fastest growing non-Latin American immigrant population. At present, there are more than 120,000 Chinese immigrants in Argentina, according to the 2010 census.

Over the past few years, the Chinese community has grown in significance in Argentina through Asian-themed promotional events such as Chinese New Year. However, when some were asked how much they know about Chinese New Year, they said: “poco, muy poco.”

Lion dancers Hector Gracia and Juan Varani perform Chinese Kung Fu. (Xiumei Dong/Medill)

“It doesn’t mean anything important,” said Juan Varani, a Lion Dance performer who has been practicing Kung Fu for almost ten years. In fact, Varani said his interest in Chinese culture was sparked by a Japanese comic, “Dragon ball”.

Even if most Argentine still have no clue what the holiday commemorates, it has become a day of celebration across much of the country.

2016 is the Year of the Monkey, the ninth animal in the Chinese Zodiac cycle.

Photo at top: Chinese New Year celebration at Plaza Parques Nacionales in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Xiumei Dong/MEDILL)