Many of the immigrants that moved to Hawaii worked on the plantations. However, the Vietnamese came as refugees who were forced to leave their homelands. Some were persecuted or feared of being persecuted on the account of their ethnic, religious or political affiliations. Many were really not prepared to migrate. They had no ideas where to go. Their only thought was to escape. This was often at great risk to their lives. Many left everything behind such as their home, country, family, friends, work, and material belongings. Additionally, many believe that they could never return to Vietnam without risking imprisonment or even death. The people from Vietnam are diverse. There are fifty-four distinct ethnic groups. The largest group in Hawaii is known as the "Viet" or "Kinh."
The Vietnamese arrival came in waves. The first wave occurred when Saigon fell in 1975. The second wave was when the ethnic Chinese of Vietnam left between 1978 and 1979. The third and largest wave was those who escaped by boat between 1978 and 1982. The fourth wave was intermittent and smaller. These were asylum seekers who came between 1983 and 1989. Lastly, the fifth wave included those who arrived from Vietnam during of first asylum after 1989. After this year, the new arrivals had to be evaluated for refugee status under a new international agreement called the Comprehensive Plan of Action. Those who were given a refugee status were entitled to be considered for resettlement in the United States. Those who were denied, had to return to Vietnam. In addition to these five waves of immigration, many came from refugee camps.
Many came not as refugees, but as legal immigrants who often were sponsored by close relatives. Before 1980, the Vietnamese refugees came to Hawaii under a special parole or refugee granting powers of the U.S. President and also through a special short-term legislation. Since that time, many Vietnamese have been admitted under the Refugee Act of 1980.
The Vietnam War affected people's views of the Vietnamese.
When the Vietnamese first arrived in Hawaii, they received a mixed reception. This was because of the Vietnam War.
Many people opened their arms to provide assistance to help these newly-arrived refugees. They wanted to support them in adjusting to Hawaii's culture. But some resented the presence of Vietnamese because of the unpopular Vietnam War. The war had cost America many lives and also deeply divided the nation. This war lasted from 1961-1975. The war involved South Vietnam and the U.S. and their desire to prevent North and South Vietnam from being united under communist leadership. Many Vietnamese came to Hawaii to protect their lives and family. They wanted a new life.
At first, obtaining a job was quite difficult for the Vietnamese immigrants, even though they possessed a high education and occupation status. However, the Vietnamese were hard workers. By 1977, according to the fifth Health, Education, and Welfare Survey, 95% of the men and 93% of the women were employed. Even those who did not speak English well found jobs. Of the few who were unemployed, more than a third were in school. Many who formerly held an elite status in Vietnam started off with jobs such as dish washers, day laborers, custodians, night watchmen, gardeners and newspaper carriers. However, within a few years, most had improved their incomes and upgraded their jobs. Many of the Vietnamese children excelled in school.
The Vietnamese placed a high value on nurturing and supportive families. They also valued education. In their history, their heroes were scholars as well as warriors. They take a deep pride for their history. For example, each year they honor Hung Vuong, a mythical first ruler of Vietnam who is said to have lived 4,000 years ago. They also honor the Trung sisters, who led a revolt against the Chinese nearly 2,000 years ago.
Many of the traditions and holidays from Vietnam carried over with the immigrants to Hawaii. One of the traditions and holidays that the Vietnamese celebrate is Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. In the year 2003, it occured on February 1. This year, the Vietnamese say, is the year of the goat.
People getting ready for the Tet celebration.
This is a moon cake that the Vietnamese eat on the Moon Festival
Another holiday in Vietnam is Tet Trung Thu, a Mid-Autumn Moon Festival as we refer to it in America. It is similar to the Moon Festival held by the Chinese. It is a wonderful, ancient festival that focuses on the children. It was originated so that parents and children can spend time together after the harvest year. This year Tet Trung Thu will be held on Sep. 2.
Pictures and information on moon cakes and the moon festival
Pictures and information on Tet, the Vietnamese New Year
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