Culture

Love bridges cultural gap

When I first met my boyfriend’s mother, Mee, she looked at me in disgust. It wasn’t because of the way I dressed, talked, or even acted, but because I was not Hmong like her.

I come from a dirt-poor, steaming hot country called Paraguay in South America. My mother, Susan Covey, adopted me. Beyond that, I know next to nothing about my background or heritage. I’m an American girl, but dating Seng Thor has opened up a foreign world to me here in Minnesota – the Hmong world.

Complex laws confuse immigrant fishermen

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has done a lot to reach out to immigrants who like to fish and hunt. But some immigrants still find state rules and regulations confusing.

State officials have translated the rules and regulations into different languages, hired Hmong officers and stocked lakes with ample numbers of white bass, a popular catch among Hmong fishermen.

Even with significant efforts to educate immigrants, following state fishing rules and regulations can still be confusing.

Latino business, culture enhance Twin Cities

It’s hard to miss the green, white and red exterior of Don Panchos Bakery. The sweet aroma of freshly baked conchas greets you at the door of the shop on St. Paul’s west side.

In the back, Efrain Perez squeezes frosting into two-inch pink roses on a Tres Leches cake. He cuts bolillos and puts them in the oven. He chats with customers as he bags bread.

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Two cultures, one family

Like hundreds of Twin Cities couples, Laura Lee and Abe Knudson are trying to raise their kids, hold two jobs, pay their bills and manage to find a little time for themselves.

What they are also doing is blending two cultures that stretch 8,000 miles from Minnesota’s Iron Range, where Abe grew up, to the highlands of Laos, where Laura’s parents were born.

Despite schools' attempts, immigrants continue to struggle

In Minnesota, the immigration population has been rising. They come from the lush hills of Laos, from the dust-covered streets of Somalia, from the quaint villages of Mexico, and for many of them their destination is the state of Minnesota.

A lot of those new Minnesotans are children who need to go to school. And when their first language is Spanish, Hmong, Laotian or Somali rather than English, there are challenges to integrating them into predominantly English-speaking schools.

Mac-n-cheese or ugali? This teen eats both

Having parents who don’t really understand your culture can be hard. I’ll have a conversation with my dad that goes like this:

“Hey, Dad! Can I go to the mall today?”

“You go to the mall all the time and it’s such a waste of money. Back in my day, we didn’t have a mall to go wander around in. We chased grasshoppers instead and we were so happy!”

“Um, Dad. Pretty sure if there were a mall in the middle of the village, the kids would rather go there instead of chasing grasshoppers.”

Twin Cities: vibrant with diversity

In the heart of Minneapolis on Riverside Avenue, Somali men gather on the white plastic chairs outside Starbucks.

The strong aroma of freshly made coffee hovers around them. Mohamoud Hassan publicizes his upcoming soccer tournament, in which he’ll be a coach. Abahualah Tama explains the security he feels living here: “Home is where you feel safe. I feel safe in Minnesota.”

Immigrants transforming the Twin Cities

Twenty years ago, city planners and politicians in the Twin Cities were worried about the future of University Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis. There were too many vacant storefronts, too few customers and too much violence.

Today that picture has changed thanks to dozens of new businesses that reflect the growing diversity in the Twin Cities. From a Hmong grocery to a Latino Mercado to a Cambodian curio shop, the streets are changing.

Many fear Hmong culture is fading away

A box of red, white and blue cupcakes is set on the table. In broken English and heavy accents the group of Hmong elders at the Hmong American Partnership sing “Happy 73rd Birthday” to Kia Vang.

Since arriving in the U.S in the 1970s the Hmong have attempted to adapt to western culture. They have encouraged the younger generation to learn English, go to college and even run for political office.

But at the same time, some fear that their traditions are fading away with each generation.

AUDIO STORY: Neighborhood of St. Anthony Main is where Minneapolis began

An antique cobblestone main street.
Tales of a red-light district.
A short-lived shopping area.
St Anthony Main is home to the first main street in Minneapolis. The area has a turbulent history unknown to many Minnesotans.

St. Anthony Main’s history can be traced down the river to Fort Snelling back in the early 19th century. The area known today as St. Paul became the government and trade center of the area when people settled there. But St. Anthony offered something Fort Snelling and St. Paul didn’t have – power.

AUDIO STORY: Tribe from Cameroon carries on traditions in Minnesota

John Akam was a farmer from Cameroon. He moved to Minneapolis in 2004 and died eight months later with a serous heart problem, after surgery.

Akam was Meta, an ethnic group of Cameroon. In meta culture, those who die must be buried where they were born.

Sendng Akam’s body back to Cameroon would have been too expensive, but the Meta Cultural and Development Association, or MECUDA, helped his family.

Shootings in Somali community can't be ignored

It is 3 a.m. and my uncle, his son, his daughter, and I are in the family van on our way to the Masjid, or mosque. We are on our way to the late night prayer that Muslims perform on the last ten nights of Ramadan, the holy month of Islam, during which Muslims fast from sun up to sun down.

It is a peaceful night and it feels like our car is the only car on the road. It is dead quiet except for the prayer tape that we are listening to. The breeze feels as if it has been sent straight from heaven. It is cool, yet warm. Blessings quench my spiritual thirst, like lemonade on a hot summer day. This night is so peaceful and amazing that I can hardly hold back tears. Then my uncle breaks in, and asks if we have heard about the young Somali man who was killed in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis. The other kids say yes, but I ignore him. I really don’t want to think about it.

Religious teens balance beliefs and pop culture

When Tiffany Trawick arrived as a freshman at DeLaSalle High School from a strict Christian school, she found so many things offensive: twerking, swearing. But she quickly understood she couldn’t reject all of her peers’ culture without them rejecting her.

Your Turn -- Teens advise the new president on what youth need

September’s Your Turn writing contest asked teens to give their opinion on what the next president could do for American youth. Here is a collection of the advice they have for President Barack Obama.

Lesson from China's Great Leap Forward: Don't blindly follow leaders

My grandpa Yue Zhou was a 27-year-old college instructor in communist China at the time of the Great Leap Forward, which took place from 1958 through 1963, and it was a time of extreme hardship for the people of China.

ThreeSixty reporter Paris Porter featured on MPR

In March, ThreeSixty writer Paris Porter wrote about his family’s move to St. Paul back in 1996 to escape the violence and poverty of Chicago’s South Side. This summer, Paris and Minnesota Public Radio producer Sasha Aslanian produced a powerful radio documentary about his family’s experience and the controversy the inflow of poor, black families from Chicago caused in Minnesota in the 1990s. Listen to the radio story and read his original story here.

Immigrant or native-born: We are all equal

As a Somali immigrant at a predominantly white and black school, it hasn’t always been easy for me. I have always been criticized because of my clothing, accent, manners and values. I really mind the stereotypes that people have about immigrants.

Coming to America, land of obstacles and opportunity

On February 19, 2004, 15-year-old Jaewon Cho stepped out an airplane
at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, dazed and tired from a gruesome
14-hour plane ride. Some 6,220 miles away from everything he knew, he stepped
onto the unfamiliar ground of a new country while looking to his parents and older sister for support.

“I felt strange and weird that I was in different country – half excited and half nervous,” Cho remembered.

This New Life in India

Alarm clocks all across America are going off. Many teenagers groan, roll out of bed, throw on whatever they can find, grab a bite to eat, and rush out of the door to go to school.

This not the case for 17-year-old Adia Singh. Each morning, Singh wakes up promptly at 8 a.m., sits down to eat her breakfast with her family, and goes off to school — not to learn but as a volunteer helping feed malnourished children.

She then goes back to her home and gets ready for school.

St. Paul girls learn to love their skin -- whatever its color

A bustling hallway led to a room full of framed photographs of African American girls from St. Paul whose messages declare that they are “lovin’ the skin they’re in.”

As girls in bright orange t-shirts handed out flyers, they asked passing visitors “Are you lovin’ the skin you’re in?”

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