Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hmong International Village in St. Paul Minnesota!

Populating the city of St. Paul, Minnesota is one of the largest populations of Hmong people in the United States. According to the 2000 census there were 171,316 Hmong people in our country, primarily concentrated in Southern California and Minnesota. The Hmong are of Asian descent and were aligned with the US war effort against the Viet Cong rebels and North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. Today, the Hmong make up the largest Asian group in the state of Minnesota.

Behind a tall fence on a busy St. Paul street sits a small parcel of land that feels a long way from Minnesota and from Tucson for that matter. From the potholed parking lot of the International Marketplace its cluster of warehouses, tents, and open-air sheds seems rather unremarkable. But inside, the tropical produce, colorful Hmong costumes, Asian music videos, and scent of spicy food make the market seem almost indistinguishable from those halfway around the world.

On weekends, especially, the market's aisles are packed as densely as the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. There are piles of pastel padded bras and rows of smiling Buddhas. There are soup bowls, bedding, and cooking utensils; backpacks, tiger balm, and sandals; ginseng, arcade games, and gold-colored jewelry. And at the far end of the west building there's a food court where vendors ladle up murky brown soups and bright orange curries. Diners point to the prawns, sausages, and chicken wings displayed behind plastic shields, passing dollar bills and speaking in Hmong. Curious Caucasians are as scarce as spoken English.

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