BUENOS AIRES, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Chinese living abroad travel back to China by the thousands around the Lunar New Year, underscoring the holiday's role in strengthening family ties.
Travel to China peaks each year in mid-February, as the nation kicks off Chinese New Year celebrations, also known as the Spring Festival, and a large number of those flights originate in Argentina.
The South American country is home to some 180,000 Chinese people, representing Argentina's fourth-largest foreign community.
Each year, Buenos Aires resident Xue Wenqiang, a merchant, visits his hometown in China's southeast Fujian province to ring in the New Year, which this year falls on Feb. 16.
"Martin," as Xue calls himself in Spanish, arrived in Argentina's capital in 1999, as part of a wave of Chinese immigrants looking for work.
"In China, we spend most of the time away, whether it's in another country or province, for work reasons or other motives, that's why we take advantage of the New Year to return to our province and spend it with our family," said Martin, who travels accompanied by his wife and children.
As an immigrant and merchandiser who imports goods to sell at local markets, Martin says he has experienced the ups and downs of the economy, especially Argentina's devastating 2001 economic crisis.
After first arriving in Buenos Aires with his then young family, he invested their savings in a supermarket, which was looted around the time of the crisis, leading to heavy losses.
However, since 2005, the profits from their import business have steadily grown. Their wish for 2018, which according to the Chinese Zodiac is the Year of the Dog, is for the economy to maintain its current clip.
"I wish for Argentina's economy to be prosperous, to grow and for taxes not to rise too much. I hope for the best for Argentina, because it is like my second home, my second country," said Martin.
Before leaving for Fujian, Martin, his wife Xue Ying (whose adopted name is "Luisa"), and their two children inspected the five sales locales they have established in the capital's well-known Once district.
They met with their employees to leave them with instructions and bid them a temporary farewell until their return.
They also stocked up on local products to take back as gifts, including olive oil, powdered milk and propolis candy for soothing the throat, and drew up an itinerary of the people and places they will visit while back home.
It is a long 19,000-kilometer journey from Buenos Aires to Fujian, a journey that this year also includes Victor, Martin's newborn grandson, continuing the tradition of family gatherings during the most important annual holiday on the Chinese calendar.