Karen, Kachin and Shan join South Sudanese, Vietnamese and Mexicans
By Anna Daniels
Over forty percent of City Heights residents are foreign born. La Maestra, which operates health clinics in City Heights, recently provided a memorable introduction to some of our foreign born neighbors when over a dozen residents took to the fashion runway wearing traditional clothing. Their poise belies the fact that many arrived in this country with little more than hope and determination. It is easy to understand why the fashion show is described as the highlight of La Maestra’s gala fundraiser.
La Maestra Cultural Fashion Show August 2013
Burma comes to City Heights Many readers may be unaware that Peruvians and Guatemalans and Somalians live among us or why, but there is a basic awareness of the existence of those countries. But what do we know about the Karen, Kachin, Shan And Chin-Mizo beyond the fact that their traditional clothing is beautiful? These are tribal peoples from Burma who started to be resettled in City Heights in 2006. They are also City Heights’ second fastest growing refugee population after Iraqis.
New country, no country The video also introduces us to a smiling couple from South Sudan. On July 9, 2011, when Sudan’s southern provinces became a newly independent nation, an impressive celebration was held in City Heights. Now that this new country has been established, there has been a call for refugees to return to their homeland. This adds a unique possibility to the immigrant task of redefining the term “home.”
While many of our formerly Sudanese refugees ponder the meaning of a new country, the Hmong have existed as a people without a country of their own. They are part of the Southeast Asian diaspora that occurred with the fall of Saigon in 1975. The majority of the Hmong refugees in San Diego were historically from the highlands of Laos. Many of them were born and raised in Thai refugee camps before being resettled here.
One thread that joins all of these peoples, and they don’t represent the complete list, is that they came here as refugees, forced to flee conflict or persecution in their home countries. The other common thread is that they are our neighbors.
Meet Your Neighbor