by Ross Killion, AsAmNews Contributor
Nearly 500 people gathered outside the Chinese Culture Center in Southeast Albuquerque on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The celebration involved a series of cultural performances including the dragon dance, traditional skits and a special performance by the Albuquerque Chinese American Citizens Alliance Dance Team.
Students of the Chinese Culture Center also performed a variety of martial arts.
“We start practicing a few months before. We have done this every year without fail, even in the snow, and during COVID, we hosted a virtual performance,” Donald Fennema, a Tai Chi instructor who has been with the center since 1990, said in an interview with AsAmNews.
The 2023 celebration marks the 33rd annual Chinese New Year celebration since the Albuquerque Chinese Culture Center was established by Master Charles Chang-wei Lin and his wife Synthia Lin in 1988. The Lins, both Taiwanese immigrants, dedicated the center to the preservation of Chinese arts, language and culture with a special focus on kungfu, taichi, qigong and other martial arts.
According to the center’s website, Charles began his kungfu studies at the age of ten and moved to New Mexico in 1974 with Synthia after graduating from the College of Chinese Culture in Taipei. The center is involved with community events throughout the year including celebrations for the Lantern Festival and performances showcasing Chinese culture in honor of Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month.
The Sunday celebration was one of several Lunar New Year celebrations over the weekend that took place throughout the Albuquerque area. Besides the annual event at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Talin Market, a local Asian supermarket, hosted three celebrations on Saturday and Sunday. The celebrations, which attracted around one hundred attendees each, hosted dances, music and firecrackers while red envelopes were handed to children.
Talin Market, considered to be a staple of the local Asian American community since its founding in 1978, is located in the Little Saigon neighborhood, a Vietnamese enclave formed by refugees from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The store is active in the Asian community and has sponsored cultural events such as the Festival of Asian Cultures in collaboration with the City of Albuquerque.
“These events are really important because they can help educate the community on the cultural practices of the Lunar New Year and its significance to many Asian cultures,” Oscar Garcia, a graduate student at UNM who has been working at Talin Market for over a year told AsAmNews. “It feels important as adults that we educate young minds about other cultures. How are we expected to grow if we don’t water our roots?”
Lunar New Year celebrations were held every day of this week at various locations throughout Albuquerque and other cities in New Mexico. A Vietnamese Lunar New Year Celebration, organized by the Holy Ghost Catholic School, attracted several dozen local families, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The Quang Minh Lion Dance Team, which performed at a local Buddhist temple and at a casino in Sandia Pueblo (a nearby Tiwa Native American reservation) earlier in the week, is scheduled for a final performance to mark the end of festivities on Sunday, January 29 at the Sante Fe Folk Art Museum.
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