The Vietnamese American community
The following is a reprint of an article entitled "Vietnamese in U.S. Take Stock of Community," written by
Erin Texeira of the Associated Press, originally published on April 24, 2005 and syndicated by several newspapers
and media outlets around the country, including Newsday, Wired News, and many others. It is an interesting
overview of how the Vietnamese American community has developed and flourished in the 30 years since the end
of the Viet Nam War.
Reflecting in the past, Moving Toward the Future
As bombs pummeled Saigon, Hai and Son Nguyen escaped the city with a few suitcases and piles of worthless
Vietnamese cash. They came to America and for years did domestic work as they started life anew. Three decades
later, they are successful entrepreneurs, and their American-born daughter, Linda, is a city council candidate. If she
wins, she will become the first Vietnamese American ever chosen for a citywide office in this Silicon Valley city.
The Nguyens' is a classic American immigrant tale of hard work and prosperity, one replicated often among
the more than 700,000 Vietnamese who became refugees to the United States. But, a generation later, not all have
been so successful.
Making up one of the biggest refugee groups in U.S. history, most Vietnamese arrived unprepared, with
few resources. Today, even as many still struggle with isolation, high poverty rates and persistent crime, particularly
among low-income youth, some in the community are increasingly making their voices heard outside their ethnic
enclaves -- and becoming more a part of the nation's fabric.
In coming weeks, those enclaves will host "celebrations of how far we've come and how far we have to
go," said Hien Duc Do, a sociologist at San Jose State University. "There are college students and professionals, and
we've made headway. But a lot of us are not doing well -- that's what we need to discuss more. "It's time to turn in
on ourselves and ask, 'How do we want to construct this community?'"
Prosperity and Poverty
Of the 1.2 million Vietnamese Americans counted in Census 2000, one in three lives in California. They also have a
strong presence in neighborhoods from Houston to Alexandria, Va. San Jose, population 900,000, has the biggest
concentration of Vietnamese of any American city: Nearly one in 10 residents has roots in the southeast Asian
nation that has been in turmoil since the 1950s, when a communist government seized power. (Orange County, in
southern California, has the most Vietnamese Americans of any county: 140,000).
Some Vietnamese residents have participated in the prosperity. In Santa Clara County, which includes San
Jose, Vietnamese residents own more than 5,000 businesses, according to De Tran, publisher of the weekly Viet
Mercury, the only Vietnamese-language newspaper in the nation published by a mainstream news company, the San
Jose Mercury News. Those businesses are no longer mainly mom-and-pops: The Viet Mercury's biggest advertisers