BOGOTA – Some 9.5 million people of Chinese descent across the Americas are preparing to mark the start of the Chinese New Year, a traditional, colorful festival that in 2020 comes amid concerns about the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
According to the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Metal Rat that will kick off on Jan. 25, 2020, is to be one of profound changes and mark the start of a new 12-year cycle.
The United States is the country with the largest Chinese immigrant population (nearly 2.5 million) and will be one of the main focal points of this annual celebration, particularly in cities such as New York and San Francisco.
In the Big Apple, preparations are being made for 15 days of festivities to mark the transition away from the Year of the Pig.
Around 560,000 people of Chinese descent are expected to turn up for colorful parades, fireworks and folk performances in Manhattan’s Chinatown, as well as in the New York City boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn.
The main events will take place on Saturday in Chinatown, highlighted by a cultural festival featuring dragon dancing and a fireworks display.
But Chinese New Year festivities also will take place in different parts of Latin America.
This is due to the presence of Chinese communities as far south as Argentina and also to the fact that strong trade ties between China and several Latin American countries since 2010 have led to a burgeoning interest among the people of that region in other aspects of the Asian giant, including Chinese culture, language and philosophy.
In Peru, people of Chinese descent - who are known as “tusanes” and make up between 5 percent and 10 percent of that South American nation’s population - are preparing to take part in a traditional lion dance as part of a lively music and fireworks festival in Lima’s Chinatown.
Chinese New Year celebrations also will take place in the city of Quevedo, Ecuador, where the Chinese community’s presence is particularly notable. Chinese people first settled 170 years ago in Ecuador and now number roughly 50,000, according to unofficial statistics.
In Argentina, where the Chinese community now numbers 120,000, the focal point of the Chinese New Year festivities, also known in mainland China as the Spring Festival, will be Buenos Aires’ Chinatown. Located in the Belgrano neighborhood, that capital district will become a sea of red during the celebrations.
Neighboring Brazil also is home to a sizable Chinese population of between 250,000 and 300,000 people, many of whom live in Sao Paulo’s Asian district of Libertade, which once again will be the focus of Chinese New Year activities.
The Chinese New Year is known as a time of family reunification, with millions of Chinese taking advantage of this holiday period to return to their places of origin - in what has come to be known as the biggest human migration on the planet.
But in 2020 the arrival of the Year of the Metal Rat comes at a time when the world is on alert to check the spread of the coronavirus.
China has confirmed more than 900 cases of the new virus and 26 deaths; authorities there have responded by shutting down transportation in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and other cities in Hubei province.
The virus also has spread to other nations in Asia and to the US, where two cases have been confirmed. Latin America, which has put protocols in place amid the New Year festivities, has ruled out any infections thus far.