Cambodian Migration to the City of Long Beach
Currently, the city of Long Beach is home to the largest Cambodian population outside of South East Asia. It is believed that Long Beach is home to about 20,000 Cambodian-Americans.1 I had the opportunity to interview one of my colleagues who is a 3rd year UCLA student majoring in Psychobiology. Allen Taing is Cambodian-American and proudly represents the city of Long Beach. Through him I was able to learn more about how this population has contributed to the city, how the history of the people intertwines with that of the city, and what their labor experiences have been like.
Cambodians came to the city of Long Beach as refugees who were trying to flee the Cambodian Genocide in the 70's. They settled in the city of Long Beach and they quickly set up a Cambodian community mostly on Anaheim and Atlantic St. Since then, a new culture of Cambodian-Americans sprouted in the city, setting up businesses all around East Long Beach. The community was able to successfully make the city of Long Beach recognize their community on Anaheim St as Cambodia Town, in 2007.The picture and video below display how the Cambodian community celebrated and commemorated the official 'Cambodia Town' sign.
Cambodians In Long Beach
In this Book by Susan Needham and Karen Quintiliani, who are both professors at California State University Dominguez Hills and Long Beach have compiled a history of the large and abundant Cambodian community that has established itself in Long Beach. The book offers a very rich history because Cambodians have played such an important cultural role in the city, and it is being recognized in literature and more than likely taught at the universities to inform the local scholars.
Aside from establishing Cambodia Town in Long Beach, community members have been able to establish organizations like the Cambodian Community of Long Beach that allows the Cambodian Community in Long Beach to come together and have the ability to have a voice on issues that are affecting their communities. There are also other organizations like the Cambodian Community History and Archive Project that hopes to achieve a preservation of their culture.
Bringing Cambodia to Long Beach
Preserving such a rich Cambodian culture in Long Beach has not been an easy task for Cambodians for this community but there have been many ways that the community has tried to bring a little bit of home to their current city. There has always been an annual celebration of the Cambodian New Year in the city, and this allows for much celebration for its Cambodian residents. Allen describes the time of the New Year as a time were family and friends enjoy each other's company through food and culture. Recently, there has also been an implementation of a Cambodian Cultural Parade, and while it does not receive much funding, it really shows how much the Cambodian community wants to bring a little bit of their culture to the very diverse city of Long Beach. The video below shows an example of the ways that the Cambodian community still tries to incorporate its culture into the city.
The East-Side of Long Beach
Cambodian-Americans mostly reside in East Long Beach, and many attend Long Beach Polytechnic High School, like Allen because of the area where the school is located. Like most minority communities who suffered from the effects of colonization Cambodian-Americans, suffer from living in very low socio-economic conditions. There are many Cambodians that are subject to the gang life in the city. The socioeconomic conditions for this minority group is very low because this population was barely decolonized and after facing the pressure of leaving their motherland, Cambodians had to try to assimilate to a new culture. While the Cambodian-American community has made a very big and important effort in preserving its culture, there has also been a new culture that has established itself in Long Beach and that is of the Cambodian-American youth. With the help of community programs and their own self-determination there has been an increase in the admittance of Cambodia- Americans into the university system. While many Cambodian-Americans are becoming the first ones to attend college in their families there is now also a population that has been inspired by the 'LBC' culture like Cambo Cypher which is displayed below. They represent a new generation of Cambodians who like to represent their hometown, and that embrace the American culture that they have also grown up with.
Cambodia Town is filled with local business owners that have set-up a tightly knit professional community. While there are many Cambodians that are business owners, a lot of the population works in the informal sector as domestic workers. Most of the older generation did not have the opportunity to gain a university education in neither Cambodia or the United States so they are often forced to work low-paying jobs. The video below shows the Long Beach business community that was mentioned about Cambodia town, and how prominent these small businesses are in the street. While there are thousands of Cambodians in Long Beach, Allen described the community as being very tight-knit because of the desire to hold on to culture, therefore most Cambodians work in the same places and for people that someone in their family may know.
Through media, it is very evident that the Cambodian-American community has made an impact in the city. From forming very important community organizations to being able to form the first official Cambodia Town, Cambodians have taken great steps in letting their voices be heard in the city. Through cultural parades and exhibitions, the community has brought a little bit of home at their home away from home. Long Beach has bee able to enjoy the privilege of enjoying entertainment from such a historic community.
1.Cambodian Town, Long Beach
Population. Wikipedia 23 January 2014
2.Wolrd Without Genocide. Cambodian Genocide worldwithoutgenocide.org
Background Image: Cambodia Town Image
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