Homeliness in Fresno, California

Homeliness in Fresno, California

Fresno, a sub-city in California, is occupied by a majority of people without homes. About 65 percent of the resident sleeps in the streets, and it’s surrounding areas that are not intended for human residence. Nevertheless, the status of the poverty in Fresno does not hinder the resident to carry on their traditions, cultures, and social life. I draw specific of the way of life of a sub-community in Fresno, the Hmong to identify their singularity and culture amid a stricken poverty population. This paper writes an ethnography of the Hmong American of Fresno from the perspective of my observations, interview, and use of questionnaires.

The Hmong ethnic community originated in China more than 3,000 years ago (Pfeifer, 2003). At present, the community of about 8 million people still exists in South West china. Moreover, another group of about 4 million live in Southeast Asian in Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos where they migrated after persecution in China around the 19th century. However, the Hmong migration to the United States came in 1975 after the regime change of Laos and Saigon as a result of Communist navies (Pfeifer, 2003). Because the Hmong were pro-American in the anti-communist struggle, they were subjected to severe retribution making them escape Laos to other countries for refuge. After about 56,000 Hmong sought refuge in the US, they were dispersed around the country through voluntary resettlement programs (Pfeifer, 2003). Therefore, it is as a result of this program that the first Hmong came to Fresno, California. One noticeable thing among the American Hmong is that they were almost settled in the poor and predominantly populated area with African American regions.

The Hmong were predominantly farmers, and this has not changed with their coming to the US. In California, for example, the Hmong still practice agriculture in the California’s Central Valley. Nonetheless, others have embraced the service industry and are now working in American factories. In addition, I could notice a dozen among the Hmong carrying out on their small businesses in the town of Fresno.

As I interacted and interviewed a few of the Hmong of California including Vang Pao, I realized that they like other communities had belief systems. However, for the Hmong and many of the societies in Asia, their beliefs are based on animism, healing, the use of shaman and other religious ceremonies. According to Vang Pao a resident of Fresno, religious beliefs are an essential part of the Hmong community (personal communication, November 8, 2015). He argues that since they migrated to the US they have been able to unite in religious ceremonies, and this has made them preserve their culture.

Pao also informed me that the shaman is respected among Hmong community (personal communication, November 8, 2015). Pao argued that were it not for the services of the shaman, many Hmong would not be alive today and the population would not as large as it is currently (personal communication, November 8, 2015). He argued that the shaman is a modern medicine man equivalent of a doctor in other communities. His roles comprise conducting a ritual to sick Hmong and offer spiritual healing. According to Pao, the shaman is more than a doctor as he has the power to intervene and play for the community (personal communication, November 8, 2015).

Moreover, through the interview with one community leader, Dia Cha I came to understand that the Hmong are divided into clans. For instance, the America Hmong have 18 clan, but all recognize a single ancestral origin. I could notice that apart from their usual name, the Hmong called each other with their clan lineage name. Their entire third name indicates to specific lineage one is from. For example, Chi is the third name Mouanoutoua indicating that his grandfather name was Nao Toua Moua and thus his clan lineage is referred to as Mouanoutoua. It was noticeable that the family unit unites a specific lineage. This is because family from the same lineage tend to be close and help each other in birth, marriage, and death rites (personal communication, November 6, 2015).

Dia Chi also informed how one becomes a member of a given clan. For example, he became a member of Mouanoutoua clan right after birth (personal communication, November 6, 2015). In addition, Chi informed that other become members of a clan through marriage (personal communication, November 6, 2015). For Hmong, clanship is a social designation and a social category as ancestors to which clan are named watch over them. Moreover, marriage between Hmong partners is done outside of once birth clan. People are not allowed to marry within the clan.

My experience when I attended the Hmong Cultural Practices and Ceremonial Immersion was fascinating. I learned different cultural practices from the Hmong. The event is an annual convention that brings together all Hmong from lawyers, Judges, doctors to the community leaders. The ceremony was conducted in English, but with an instance of Hmong language. I could notice that the older among the Hmong talked in Hmong dialect, but the young Hmong preferred English over Hmong.

I was pleased to know about their diet which comprised of herbs and a lot of spices. Foodstuffs such as ginger, chilies, garlic were all included in their meals (Hmong Culture, n.d.). I learned through interaction that the Hmong just like many other communities in America has three meals in a day, but for them every meal included a portion of white rice. This was noticeable even in the event dishes. In addition, the meals also included a small bit of meat and some vegetables. Compared to other dishes, Hmong foods seemed more delicious and healthy. I could taste that the food was either boiled, stir-fried, or steamed. I realized that what I had studied is true of the Hmong that they carry on with their true cultural practices like their native in Laos.

The Hmong have a distinct culture from food, clothing, to their ritual ceremonies. For example, I was informed that the Hmong do not celebrate Christmas, but have events that mark the beginning of the New Year. For instance, in New Year’s celebration, the Hmong engage in extravagant competitions that include beauty pageants, sports tournaments, and skateboarding. Moreover, as Pao said, the Hmong also sacrifices for their gods and designate this function to the community shaman (personal communication, November 8, 2015). This is a tradition that has existed among the Hmong.

The Hmong have a strong political relation to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) (Vang, 2011). This is evidenced as almost all mature Hmong in America can tell of the happening in their country of origin. Pao attests to this fact (personal communication, November 8, 2015). However, for them they have no benefit or influence other than to understand what is happening to their colleague in offshore continents. In addition, the Hmong are not much into the American politic not unless on an issue that affects their lives. Chi says that for them they only engage the government n matter that concern community members (personal communication, November 6, 2015). Through this, they advocate for their representation in positions of leadership and in public jobs.

Chi also informed that the Hmong conduct soccer competition to bring all the Hmong together across America (personal communication, November 6, 2015). I learned that this event with is conducted in every July drew more half a million spectators around the United States. Though, I have never attended the soccer event, I was glad to learn from Chi (personal communication, November 6, 2015). The event does not include football alone, but include other sports such as volleyball, top, and flag football. In addition, Chi informed that they encourage all event attendant to wear Hmong attire to celebrate its culture (personal communication, November 6, 2015). This year event marked the 35th Anniversary.




Carrera, N. (2014, Dec 10). Christmas Tree Lane: Three ways to enjoy a Fresno tradition. Retrieved from http://www.fresyes.com/family/christmas-tree-lane-three-enjoy-fresno-tradition/

Hmong culture. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hmongculture.net/hmong-foods

Vang, N. N. (2011). Political transmigrants: Rethinking Hmong political activism in America. Hmong studies Journal, 12, 1-46.

Pfeifer, Mark E. (2003). “Hmong Americans.” Retrieved from http://www.asian-nation.org/hmong.shtml


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