When I was in the South of Brazil, couple of people asked me if I’m Argentinian. Argentinians, by the way, are known for looking “European”, having blond hair, tall physique, etc. That’s because many of them have Italian, German, or Spanish descent; there are pretty much no indigenous or African people in Buenos Aires. Therefore, in Brazil, I assumed that there must be a fair amount of Asian Argentinians in Argentina – Brazilians probably thought that I speak Portuguese with an accent, therefore I must be from a Spanish speaking country.
When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I actually initially did not observe many Asians on the streets. Those I did see, are as we call “fobs”, folks that still speak Chinese to each other and probably from the immigrating generation. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye.
First of all, there is a “Barrio Chino”, Chinatown district in Belgrano, which is about 3 streets worth of cheap Chinese grocery stories, and restaurants, including Taiwanese restaurants! It also has the stereotypical arch that marks a Chinatown.
Second of all, I stayed at a Taiwanese Argentinian’s place in Colegiales. One day I accidentally stumbled into the room the cat is staying in, and realized in the dark that it was a little supermarket! I realized that my host’s parents’ business is Chinese supermarket.
From then on, I’ve peered into all the little supermarkets I’ve walked past, and half of them are owned by Chinese people. Even playing Chinese music as you browse the aisles.
A couple days ago, I heard about this cheap buffet place next to the hostel, and went and got a 18 pesos buffet meal… damn!! Looking up at the cash register, I realized the cashier is Chinese. Ah.. that’s why it’s so cheap. Later that day, I peered into all the buffets in the area, and all the owners are Chinese.