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Humans have always demonstrated a remarkable ability to find comfort amidst adversity. Sometimes it is found in the sacred. Many churches in the United States experienced a growth in their congregations after September 11th. Sometimes it is found in action. A person might feel the need to get out and "get away" from pressure for a while so that upon returning the situation can be viewed fresh. And sometimes comfort is found in the most unexpected places. This is the case with the Hmong refugees from Indochina who began arriving in Wausau Wisconsin shortly after the conflict in Vietnam ended. Most Americans had never heard of the Hmong before and wanted to know why they had arrived. Tensions, misunderstandings and many challenges arose as the Hmong began new lives in an established and very different culture. Here, though, they have found some surprising tools to help them cope with these issues: camcorders, and the home video. In order to ease their cultural transition, the refugee Hmong have adopted video technology to continue their communal bonds, document their stories, and improve their public image among their new neighbors.
Hmong social units are large extended families, something like clans in their makeup. In the mountains of their home, Hmong village of a few hundred people each dotted the landscape and provided a structure for trade and social interaction. In her book New Pioneers in the Heartland, Jo Ann Koltyk tells us that when the refugees were moved to the United States, an attempt was made to spread them throughout various cities in order to ease their assimilation into the population. This dispersion separated many friends, and parted extended family units. In many cases, the Hmong people simply began a "secondary migration" within the United States, and trickled back together into larger communities. In many cases, though, this second move was impossible and many Hmong would have remained isolated had it not been for the "Hmong-made videos."
The Hmong tediously document all of their ceremonies and events. They seem to be fascinated by the capability to capture and preserve an event and then to show it to people who were not there and have them experience it also. Though the sharing of videos, a sort of "virtual community" can be maintained throughout separated settlements.
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"Cultural Transition of the Hmong Refugees." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Nov 2019
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