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Lion dancers perform during the Chinese New Year celebrations in Lima, Peru. Photo: Martin Mejia/Associated Press
Lion dancers perform during the Chinese New Year celebrations in Lima, Peru. Photo: Martin Mejia/Associated Press

Lunar New Year in Latin America

Chinese immigrants have been coming to Latin America for hundreds of years. Their impact is seen through the region’s biggest Lunar New Year celebrations.

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While Lunar New Year kicks off in the U.S., and nearly five million Chinese Americans celebrate across the country, the same is happening on a smaller scale throughout Latin America to welcome the Year of the Pig.

The Chinese have long been one of the biggest migrant groups to Latin America, but documentation has been sparse. Based on many institutional and independent estimates, there are approximately 3 million people in Latin America of Chinese descent. The countries with the biggest populations are Peru and Brazil, but many other Latin American countries boast vibrant Chinese communities, where some of the best Lunar New Year celebrations take place.

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Peru’s capital of Lima hosts Latin America’s biggest Lunar New Year celebration. This year is the 170th anniversary of Chinese immigration to Peru, where Chinese immigrants first came to work on plantations and in mines during the 19th and 20th centuries. The country is home to approximately 1.3 million people of Chinese descent, and Lima has 6,000 Chinese restaurants. It is also the epicenter of chifa - a fusion Chinese-Peruvian cuisine that incorporates traditional Chinese dishes and cooking techniques with Peruvian ingredients.

In Brazil, celebrations take place in most of the country’s major cities like São Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. Of the 300,000 of Chinese descent that reside in Brazil, about 200,000 live in São Paulo, making it host to Brazil’s biggest celebration of the Lunar New Year. However, Rio is a close second and illuminates its Christ the Redeemer statue in red to honor the holiday. The Chinese have been in Brazil for more than 200 years and in 2018, its government recognized the first National Chinese Immigration Day on Aug. 15.

Other Latin American countries that have major celebrations are Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela. Argentina’s Lunar New Year bash takes place in Buenos Aires and has grown from 60,000 attendees in 2011 to more than half a million for its 2019 edition.  

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