Hmong community celebrates 40-year milestone

Hmong community holds annual New Year Festival

It’s been 40 years since the first Hmong refugees from eastern Asia arrived in America and an annual La Crosse festival is celebrating the milestone.

The Hmong community in La Crosse celebrated their new year with activities that reflect back on their culture.        

Mai Chor Lee has been in the United States most of her life.

“I came when I was 10-years-old, and ever since then I’ve been attending the New Year’s here,” said Lee.

Her adaption to American culture hasn’t always been easy.

“Me coming to the United States not knowing any English was very, very tough. We lived in the refugee camp in Thailand, and then coming to the United States, not knowing any English words other than yes or no,” said Lee.

For the second generation who grew up in the U.S this celebration is about looking back.

“Seeing all of this, it’s so heartwarming if you really think about it. I feel a bit emotional because we didn’t have all of this before. This is something new that has happened here, and we created this life for us,” said Mai Vang, board member of the Hmong Cultural and Community Agency.

While attendees of the event reflect on their past, it’s also about looking to the future.

“It’s good for our young people to know where they came from, so that they can feel a better sense of self-worth,” said Vang.

“We are adapting the American cultures, but yet maintaining Hmong cultures,” said Lee. “So we are putting both cultures together.”

Coming to America was a dream for Lee.

“To me, the American dream is having the freedom,” said Lee. “Girls have the right to go to school, women have the right to be a leader out there. So to me, it means freedom.”