Wushu martial arts enthusiasts perform during celebrations in Havana, Cuba, on May 30, 2017. (Xinhua/Joaquin Hernandez)
The renovation work is part a 15-million-Cuban-peso renovation project to restore the neighborhood to its former glory in the lead up to this year's 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana on Nov. 16, 1519.
HAVANA, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- A traditional Chinese celebration, complete with dragon and lion dances, marked the presentation of Havana's renovated Chinatown, following several months of restoration work.
The changes are visible from the revamped Paifang, a traditional Chinese archway gate that adorns the entrance to the neighborhood and leads to a string of refurbished restaurants, a new tea house, and a beautiful bonsai garden. Colorful Chinese motifs and lights provide a festive atmosphere that harks back to the district's heydays.
Havana's Chinatown is home to some 13,000 residents. Though few of them are descendants of the Chinese immigrants who came to Cuba 170 years ago, the area is a repository of the legacy they left behind.
The renovation work is part a 15-million-Cuban-peso (15 million U.S. dollars) renovation project to restore the neighborhood to its former glory in the lead up to this year's 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana on Nov. 16, 1519.
"The provincial government of Havana has done a wonderful job to preserve the historical fusion between the cultures of the two countries," Chinese Ambassador to Cuba Chen Xi said during the unveiling ceremony.
"I hope that the restoration of this neighborhood will further enrich the Cuban culture and help the economic development of the city," Chen said, referring to a government plan to turn Chinatown into a tourist attraction.
"This is going to be one of the most beautiful, and therefore one of the must-see places in Havana," said Roberto Vargas Lee, head of the Cuban School of Wushu.
Vargas has close ties to Havana's Chinatown and is thrilled by the initial restoration work, which will eventually encompass the district's 22 blocks.
"People come here looking not just for Chinese food, but also (the chance) to walk through these traditional streets that preserve an incredible history," said Vargas.
When completed, the renovation scheme hopes to showcase China's traditional cuisine at various restaurants, as well as ceramics, house decorations and other goods at area shops and boutiques.
A central square serving as a cultural hub and a studio-art gallery for Chinese Cuban painter Flora Fong is in the works. Other landmarks including Chinese community newspaper Kwong Wah Po's offices and old drugstores will also be restored.