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Saturday, July 2, 2022

The sights, sounds, and flavors of vibrant Chinatown in CDMX

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Mexico City’s Chinatown is crowded, frenzied, and chaotic — but in an oddly great sort of way.

Even on a Monday evening, Mexico City’s Chinatown can get extremely busy. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The neighborhood traces its origins in the late 18th century when Chinese immigrants began to arrive in Mexico en masse to work on railroads and other construction projects.

This the largest Chinatown in Mexico is right downtown on Calle Dolores, just around the corner from the famous Palacio de Bellas Artes on La Alameda. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

In years past Mexico City’s Chinatown had a bit of a bad reputation for pickpocketing and petty crime and as result, many folks chose to stay away. But thankfully in 2018, the area was remodeled and has been thriving ever since.  

CDMX’s Chinatown is fairly safe, but make sure to keep a tight grip on your belongings, just in case. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The main draw for most visiting Barrio Chino, as it is known, unsurprisingly is the food. Just about everywhere you look you will spot appetizing dim sum and dumpling joints. 

Chinese dumplings are among my favorite foods, and Mexico City’s Chinatown sure delivers. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But this being Mexico, the food on offer is not limited to restaurants, as countless popup shops and makeshifts stands offer up everything from ramen to Japanese edamame.

Be warned that despite being in Siracha bottles, the sauce offered up by Chinatown food stands in Mexico City is most certainly not Siracha, and is way spicier. Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But it’s not just Chinese food up for offer, as Japanese, Korean and Thai options are also plentiful. 

Other large Asian diasporas have long made up Mexico City’s vibrant makeup. Aside from the Chinese, one of these largest groups are made up of Koreans, some of whom can trace their family history in Mexico to over 200 years. 

The Korean pavilion in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park, just around the corner from the National Museum of Anthropology. Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If you are craving sweets, CDMX China Town has something for just about everyone, though I am not sure how authentic some of these offerings really are.  

One of the most popular times for sale appears to be colorful sweet buns, but alas, after my dumpling I was already way too full to try anything else. 

Colorful sweet buns for sale in CDMX’s China Town. Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Mexico City’s Chinatown covers an area of about four square city blocks and also features all sorts of stores and shops selling everything from stuffed animals, to action figures and video games. 

If you are on the market for a Maneki-neko, or good luck beckoning-cat vape pen, boy do I have good news for you. Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The area is also a popular meeting place for Otakus, which is to say aficionados of anime and manga subcultures. 

A group of young women poses in front of a vehicle, perhaps cosplaying some anime I am not at all aware of to attract customers. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Despite a large number of businesses, the area does have a couple of small parks which are a little more relaxed, including the Parque Santos Degollado.

A large Chinese-style good-luck arch stands in Parque Santos Degollado, Mexico City.  Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Perhaps surprisingly and perhaps not, it’s possible to find taco restaurants featuring both Chinese and Spanish signage here. 

I wonder if these taco joints in CDMX’s Chinatown would make you a dim sum taco if you asked. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

So next time you find yourself in Mexico’s largest city, make your way down to its historic Chinatown, and don’t be afraid to sample all of the sights and sounds it has to offer.

Chinese guardian lion near the entrance gate to CDMX’s Chinatown on Calle Victoria and Dolores.  Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If you go

For anyone in the area but not staying downtown, CDMX Chinatown’s nearest Metro stop is San Juan de Letrán, and ride-sharing apps are fairly inexpensive and plentiful, as well. 

If Dragon Ball Z’s Goku (a very popular manga/anime character) is not enough to entice you to try a ramen shop in Mexico City, I honestly don’t know what would be. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
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