New York Travels, Episode 2, Manhattan's Chinatown



from são paulo city >

my experiences with expatriates

I am a big fan of significant foreign communities overseas. In my hometown, são Paulo city, you can find the world's largest Italian population outside of Italy (#2 argentina, #3 usa, #4 venezuela, and #5 france), as well as the world's largest japanese community outside of japan (USA comes right after as #2, then #3 the philippines, #4 united kingdom, and #5 peru).


foreign communities: bela vista

São paulo city is the world's largest italian community outside italy. bela vista (beautiful view) is the largest italian neighborhood in são paulo.


são paulo is a huge cosmopolitan city, a melting pot. it is the largest city in the americas, with 21+ million people (metro area). since i was a little baby, i have a close relationship with foreign people living abroad: i was born in an italian neighborhood named bela vista. meaning, i was surrounded by italians all the time. my parents had plenty of italian friends and even the first book i have read ever (a gift from my dad when i was eight years-old) was about an italian story: "cuore" (heart in italian). I love that book. i got used to eat pasta every weekend – and pizza during the week.

I remember when a friend from rio de janeiro (my parents' hometown) asked me what would be the typical food from são paulo. I answered:

– "Huuum... gnocchi, fusilli, lasagna, polpetone..."

That was my conception of typical food from são paulo, and i was not totally wrong.


"rua 13 de maio" (may 13 street). bela vista, nickname "bixiga": you will find a huge concentration of italian cantinas and trattorias.


foreign communities: liberdade

a few years later, when i was in high school, i was surrounded by japanese people. my school was right in the heart of liberdade, in the world's largest japanese community outside of japan. it was such a great time in my life. i did learn so many things about the japanese culture. i remember i loved to spend hours in a comic magazines shop in that neighborhood and also ask about food ingredients to those wonderful japanese people that weren't even able to speak portuguese well – which i think it was not important at all. they were kind enough to make me understand everything they were saying. i have learned many many important things from the japanese.


Liberdade (freedom), the japanese neighborhood in são paulo city


very good times when i used to go have lunch in my friends' house and their parents were preparing authentic japanese food for us. at that time, i started to admire and think about how an immigrant was able to live in a different country. i also started to grow a lot of respect for their stories. perhaps the curiosity seeds were planted in my mind at that time, making me hungry to experience a new country myself. and here i am in new york city, united states of america, experiencing the other side of the "counter" – now as an expatriate myself.


Hana-matsuri Festival in Liberdade, São Paulo | © Tomomarusan/Wikimedia CC


> to new york city

manhattan's chinatown, new york

New York City has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia. to make this transition from big foreign communities in sao paulo, brazil, to big foreign communities in new york, usa, nothing better than... soccer (football). Cheers!


the best of chinatown is not canal street

first things first: if you think chinatown is all about canal street, well, think again. to experience the real authentic chinatown, you have to head west on mulberry street. you will find lots of restaurants, herbs shops, exotic fruits stands, chinese candies, and history – a lot of history. also, do not miss the opportunity to feel the chinese atmosphere under the manhattan bridge. it is the best part of chinatown.


five points

Though this park feels distinctly Chinese, it wasn't always the case. The area where the park stands now and the surrounding streets was known as Five Points, an infamous, crime­ ridden slum depicted in the book and movie “Gangs of New York.” The area earned the name of Five Points because five of its streets converged at one point, on the site of what is now Columbus Park. you might be interested in checking out this great visual story about five points.

Image: courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York


City officials decided to raze most of the neighborhood in order to eliminate this hub of gang warfare, violence, poverty and crime. The park was built where the streets once existed in 1896.


signs ans stores in manhattan's chinatown: you have the feeling that you are in a real chinese town. (photo: Lucas compan)


Of the original five streets, only three remain: Worth (formerly Anthony) Street on the south, Baxter (formerly Orange) Street on the west and Mosco (formerly Cross) Street on the east.


mulberry street connects two different cultures and countries: china (chinatown) and italy (little italy), just across canal street.


There are a number of great finds in New York City's Chinatown that few people actually know about. Check out the video below to see an old tunnel tied to gang violence, a museum in a freight elevator, the photograph of your aura, the tallest Buddha statue in NYC - and much more.


download a guide to how to get and enjoy all top secrets in chinatown, new york city: click here to get your PDF guide


explore more about chinatown in films and books

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