The Chinatown in Lima, locally known as Barrio chino, is centered on two blocks – 7 and 8 – of Jirón Ucayali (Ucayali Street) in downtown. The barrio chino was founded in the mid-1800s by Chinese immigrants, but it was heavily damaged in the late 1800s by the War of the Pacific and further declined in the following decades. It experienced a revival starting in the 1970s and is now a thriving resource for Chinese-Peruvian culture.
In the 1850s, Chinese immigrants started to cluster in the area around the Central Market, then called La Concepción. During the Spanish Colonial period, the area was known as Calle Capón, as it was the location of the market for castrated pigs.
The consolidation of an ethnic Chinese neighborhood was spurred by the presence, from the 1860s, of large commercial houses established by Chinese import companies from Hong Kong and California. These included the Wing Fat Co., the Wo Chong Co., or the Wing On Chong Co. Small businesses catered to the Chinese population, such as laundries, shoe shops, restaurants, and small grocery stores (bodegas).
Within a short time Chinese immigrants had established a number of benevolent societies and temples, often according to place of origin. For example, the Ku Kong Chao Association was established in 1868 by immigrants from rural Guangdong, the Pun Yui Society by Cantonese immigrants in 1887, and the Tungshin Society in 1898 by Hakka immigrants. The Chinese Central Benevolent Society, or Tonghui Chongkoc, was formed in 1882 to provide members with legal counseling, burial insurance, and the establishment of a Chinese school.
Like the rest of Lima, the area of Chinatown – not yet known to Limeños as the barrio chino – suffered destruction and looting in 1881-1883 by invading Chilean military forces during the War of the Pacific. This left the quarter in economic disarray, in which only a handful of large enterprises were able to survive.
As the neighborhood's fortune's declined, it became the target of critiques by the Lima elites intent on cleaning up the city and of mobs incited by political candidates and racist stereotypes. In 1909 the government demolished part of the quarter, and the neighborhood was again attacked during the labor riots of 1918.
The ethnic face of the neighborhood also changed. A several-decade ban on Chinese immigration resulted in increasing intermarriage with Peruvians of non-Chinese descent and integration into the general society. This was coupled with an increase in migrants from the country's Andean highlands, who moved into Lima's downtown.
In the 20th Century, Chinatown had shrunk but nevertheless maintained a distinct ethnic character. In 1971, an archway was gifted from the people of Taiwan; it was erected at the corner of Ucayali and Andahuaylas to mark the entrance to Chinatown. Streets in the neighborhood were so crammed with stalls and street sellers that they were essentially impassable to vehicles. The crowding also made the area a notorious haven for pickpockets and cutpurses.
In 1999, Chinatown was overhauled in preparation for the 150th anniversary of Chinese immigration to Peru. Calle Capón was cleared, closed to vehicles, and paved with over 30,000 red bricks bearing the names of donors and benefactors. Several panels were included depicting animals of the Chinese zodiac and, in the center of the new pedestrian mall, the ideogram for "Double Happiness".
Since the 1970s, along with this physical renovation, the rescinding of the ban on Chinese immigration contributed to a demographic and cultural renewal of the barrio chino.
Today, barrio chino occupies several blocks around Jirón Ucayali to the east of Avenida Abancay in the historic district of Lima known as El Centro or Cercado de Lima. Its heart is the pedestrian-only block called Calle Capón, located on Ucayali between Andahuaylas and Paruro, but businesses like restaurants spread along the adjoining roads.
The Calle Capón promenade is open every day of the year as a cultural and tourist attraction.
Like Chinatowns in other countries, Lima's Chinatown is a source of Chinese ingredients and a hub of Chinese cuisine. Lima boasts over 6000 Chinese restaurants, called "chifas". Some of the most renowned and venerable of these are located in Chinatown. The San Joy Lao, for example, was first established before 1920. Other notable chifas in the neighborhood include the Salón China, Wa Lok, and Sala Capón.
Lima's Chinatown is still headquarters for several of the Chinese associations. There are also several temples and oracles, such as the oracle of Guangong at the Kuan Tai Kung Temple, which is administered by the Pun Yui society, and temples to Guangong and other divinities run by the Ku Kong Chao and Tungshing associations.
Several Chinese-language journals are based here. La Voz de la Colonia China ("The Voice of the Chinese Colony") is published every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Ch'iao Pao is published thrice weekly and is also circulated to other Peruvian cities. Man Chin Po, the Americas' oldest Chinese-language newspaper, was published there on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting in 1911, but it ceased publication in 2002.
- "Calle Capón: Barrio Chino en el Centro de Lima" [Calle Capon: Chinatown in Downtown Lima]. Asociacion Peruano China. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- Lausent-Herrera, Isabelle (2011). "The Chinese in Peru and the Changing Peruvian Chinese Community(ies)" (PDF). Journal of Chinese Overseas 7: 69–113. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- "Comida China - Vamos al chifa" [Chinese Food - Let's do chifa]. Asociacion Peruano China. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- Asociacion Peruano China webpage. Retrieved 22 January 2012.[not in citation given]
- "Barrio Chino: Jr. Ucayali between Andahuaylas and Paruro, El Centro". Lima Sights. Fodor's Travel. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- "Chinese in Peru: Soul food". theCOMMISSION (International Mission Board). November 2002. Archived from the original on 23 April 2007.
- "Nuestra historia". Chifa San Joy Lao. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- La Aventura Culinaria television program; episode: "La Aventura del Chifa Especial" (Lima, 2010?)
- Aledm (14 May 2007). "Our Lima Perú Restaurant Reviews". CHOWHOUND > Latin American & Caribbean. CHOW. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- Fodor's Peru. New York: Fodor's Travel. 2008.
- "Oraculo de Kuan Tai Kung". Sociedad Pun Yui. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- Webmaster (30 January 2008). "Voceros de la Colonia: Registro del Devenir de la Comunidad China en el Perú" (in Spanish). Asociación Peruan China. Archived from the original on 16 October 2008.