When the People’s Republic of China kindly donated the design, materials and fine workmanship to build the new National Stadium of Costa Rica, a much talked-about topic of conversation revolved around whether the planned Chinatown neighborhood in San José would be an appropriate token of gratitude.
Alonso Mata Blanco is a sharp blogger and a scholar of all things pertaining to the lovable city of San José. He recently took a stroll through the very quiet pedestrian boulevard of Chinatown and saw major problems; namely:
- For a Chinatown, the neighborhood is not very Asian.
- For a commercial district, Costa Rica’s Chinatown is desolate to the point of merchant desperation.
- Flooding is rampant. It happens every time it rains, which means every other day during the green season.
- Rats have become quite comfortable therein.
If you read Spanish, or simply wish to see recent pictures of the flooded streets of Chinatown and its sizable rats jovially carrying on next to doves and pigeons, please click here. The analysis by Mr. Mata is masterful; what follows is but a synopsis.
Chinatown has major problems. We are not talking about Asian Triads, either -those are seemingly operating in other parts of Costa Rica. In a way, we can say that the most significant problem is the flooding, which sends shopkeepers scrambling to find brooms and mops in an effort to protect their merchandise. The problem is largely of perception; to wit: The National Stadium and its ultra-efficient drainage system.
Two recent major sporting events have tested the drainage system of the natural grass pitch of Costa Rica’s National Stadium, which Chinese engineers and construction laborers completed in record time. Just before the historic victory by the National Football Team of Costa Rica against their counterparts from the United States, it rained cats (rats?) and dogs on the Central Valley. The natural grass pitch at the National Stadium turned greener and prettier while the streets of Chinatown got flooded. The pitch at La Sabana drained in about 25 minutes while the water at Chinatown was ankle-deep.
A similar situation occurred more recently; during the hours leading up to El Clasico, the match between the First Division football teams Deportivo Saprissa and Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, it rained copiously over the Central Valley. Did any of the players slip on wet grass? Hardly; once again, the pitch drainage system worked like a charm.
What does the above say about Costa Rica’s attempt at being commensurate? Does Chinatown measure up to the National Stadium?
In his blog post about the situation in Chinatown, Mr. Mata explains that the Municipality of San Jose is well-aware of the big rats scurrying about the pedestrian boulevard and scaring tourists and passerby. These rodents would much rather remain in the underground pipe system, but they are not aquatic animals. Should they remain down there, they would surely drown; thus, they come up for air and enjoy the company of the pigeons.
Mr. Mata finished his thoughtful blog post with a glimmer of hope: The residents of Chinatown, predominantly non-Asian merchants, are fed up with the situation and have vigorously complained to the Municipality of San Jose. With former Mayor Johnny Araya as the shoo-in candidate to succeed President Laura Chinchilla, there is a chance that Chinatown will one day be an adequate token of appreciation to the People’s Republic of China.