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THE CELEBRATION OF THE INTI RAYMI

Lima's Barrio Chino, or Chinatown, has been refurbished after decades of neglect.

An archway, eight meters high and thirteen meters wide welcomes. "Calle China" ("China Street") is the message concealed in some ideograms below the culmination of the entrance; hiding on the other side, behind, is the maxim "Bajo el cielo todos los hombres somos iguales" (All men are equal below heaven).

Philosophies and shades of the Orient glued in the middle of the city. The Chinese archway or facade is the doorway leading on to a part of the city of singular enchantment embracing Capón street (blocks 7 and 8) and 'jirones' Andahuaylas (blocks 7 and 8), Paruro (blocks 7, 8 and 9) and Huanta (block 9).

Until mid 1997, the imposing pagoda-style facade, doorway to Chinatown To Related image to the Multimedia Gallery, designed by engineer Carlos Lock Sing and donated by the Government of Taiwan, languished, solitary yet upright, heedless to the proclaims and shouting, the coming and going of a lethargic city which couldn't care less that its bases be hidden under a mantle of dust or that its columns, sturdy and imposing, dirty and covered with papers.

In Chinatown, the brilliance and color had vanished. The elder Orientals remembered when back in 1971, when the facade was inaugurated, the dragons and lions, colorful and fierce, went through the streets of Lima in their snake-like walk as far as the Main Square (Plaza de Armas) itself. It was a true celebration where men and women of Oriental descent filled the city with the radiance of their ancient traditions.

They also recalled that the streets all had lanterns in the Oriental style and that the sidewalks bore carvings of ideograms wishing "long life and happiness" to passersby; furthermore, here stood the best Chinese restaurants to be found in all Lima. Among these, those more visited were the Ton Qui Sen, San Joy Lao, Men Yu, Kuong Tong and Tong Po.

All seemed lost forever. But on July 20, 1997, the neon lights on the facade lit up once again and the columns shone spotless. Chinatown was reborn after years of oblivion. Once again, lions and dragons filled the streets under the astonished gaze of the 'limeños" and their Mayor, Alberto Andrade, the promoter of its recovery.

Chinatown is recovering its past splendor.Once again, one can walk through its streets without fear of being run-over by the army of street vendors which had taken over its sidewalks. Once again, one can enjoy the tea-rooms on 'calle' Capón and the Chinese restaurants ('chifas') on 'jiron' Paruro. "Long life and happiness"; only now does the message make sense.


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