Crossing East

This piece was written by Mary Stucky, founder of Round Earth Media, before the Next Generation Journalism model was established. To read more about the model, visit the main site here.

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Originally published on November 5, 2009
The Chinese Teahouse restaurant in Plymouth, MN.  |  Photo: Mary Stucky

The Chinese Teahouse restaurant in Plymouth, MN. | Photo by Mary Stucky

Mary Stucky is proud to have been a contributing producer to this Peabody award-winning documentary series about the history of Asian-American immigration to the United States.

The Hmong in America

Hmong

Photo by Mary Stucky

The capital of Hmong America is St. Paul, Minnesota, where a bustling market covers more than a city block, crowded with shoppers. Nearly 200 thousand Hmong people live in America. Some have just arrived from camps in Thailand—they are the last Hmong refugees allowed into the U-S. Others have lived here for almost 30 years. In Laos the Hmong were peasant farmers. During the Vietnam War, the Central Intelligence Agency recruited the Hmong to gather intelligence in the borderland between Vietnam and Laos. At the height of the war, there were 30 thousand Hmong soldiers. They suffered horrific losses and helped to save many American lives. After the communist take-over of Laos, the Hmong fled to refugee camps in Thailand. Nearly a third of the Hmong population in Laos eventually migrated to the United States.

Teahouse Restaurant

teahouseRotated

Photo by Mary Stucky

For many immigrants from China, running a restaurant has often been the only way for families to earn a living. The first Chinese restaurants started in California in the mid 1800s. Now go to any city or small town in the U-S. Chances are you’ll find a Chinese restaurant. Chinese restaurant families are an American tradition. After the 1965 Immigration act, new arrivals from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China followed the path of immigrants before them, starting family restaurants. In Plymouth, Minnesota, near Minneapolis, two sisters run The Tea House Restaurant. Yolanda Wang and Melissa Ho arrived in the late 80’s from Anqing, [ahn-ching] in east central China. The sisters had completed college when they arrived, along with their mother, father and four other sisters. Sadly, within a year of arriving, their father died of cancer. Yolanda and Melissa found that running a Chinese restaurant was their best hope of earning a living.