Between Two Worlds
There is a certain mysterious air surrounding the Hmong community from an outsider’s perspective. It is a time-honored culture yet without a nation. Their peaceful ancestry home in the green highlands of Southeast Asia turned into a battlefield because of the Vietnam War. Many of them lost everything and must start their perilous journey to seek refuge all over the world, especially those who had supported the United States in the war. In 1976, Hmong refugees began to emigrate to America. The three states which are home to the largest Hmong populations are California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Minnesota today has about 70,000 Hmong, which constitutes the largest share of Asian American in the state. However, Hmong comes last compared to their Asian American counterparts in per capita income and attaining high school or higher degrees in education; their statistics actually resemble more closely those of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, than Asian Americans in aggregate. Despite the belief that Asian Americans, the so-called “model minority,” enjoy impressive academic achievements, upon closer examination, a disproportionate number of Hmong have found it difficult to succeed. Meanwhile, the majority of them no longer make a living by farming. Many do not even speak their language at home, as the second and third generations are educated in English. Indeed, most Hmong nowadays are living between two worlds, trying to maintaining their own history, tradition and belief while embracing the American dream, custom, and culture. The endeavor to better understand these two worlds forms the central thread of this on-going project, through which their unique stories and experiences can be shared.