Most friends don’t even know his real name, which is Ken
Ken Chu, 28, who was born in Belén to Taiwanese immigrants, says his reasons for wanting to leave are simple.
“I’ve been known as Chino my entire life,” Chu said in a press conference at the Taiwan donated Puente de la Amistad in Guanacaste. “My friends, everyone I work with, my teachers at school, even Guachimen. Everyone calls me Chino. I’m not Chinese! I’m Tico!”
Chu’s parents immigrated to Costa Rica 35 years ago and gave birth to him and three sisters. The family runs a successful pulperia next to the Musmanni in downtown Belén and keeps meticulous accounting records on tiny receipts printed from calculators.
Working at a pulperia has only furthered the misconception that Chu is Chinese, he said. Though he speaks impeccable Spanish, his first language, he cannot recall one day when he has not been called Chino or Chinito, given his small stature.
“Every day it’s ‘Chino regalame un paquete de Derbys’ or ‘Chinito, tiene cigaros sueltos?'” He said. “Even my closest friends don’t know my name. When I graduated high school, I was announced as ‘El Chino Chu’ when I got my diploma.”
Chu said his attempts to explain that Taiwan is not part of mainland China are largely ignored. When he uses the example of ‘that’s like saying Nicaraguans are Costa Rican’, his friends usually respond with ‘no seas tonto, Chino’.
“When I tell people that everyone from Asia is not Chinese, Ticos look at me confused like I just told them that rice and spaghetti don’t belong on the same plate,” he said.
Chu also said he suffered abusive years in high school when older boys thought it funny to give him “calzone chinos” by pulling his underwear up and out the back of his pants.
“Why is it even called a calzone chino? That doesn’t even make any sense,” he said. “It’s like they couldn’t think of a name for it and just threw “Chino” on the end, just like those fruits called mamones chinos. They’re from Indonesia!”
Mr. Chu says he’s not alone on the matter. He’s started a Costa Rica Facebook group called “NO SOY CHINO” where other Koreans, Thais, Vietnamese, Philipinos and Ticos with narrow eyes can come together to share their stories and hardships.
“We’ve had enough and we’re sick of these erred misconceptions and stereotypes,” said Chu in a telephone interview as he crossed three lanes of traffic without signaling.