Starting in 1975, Los Angeles attracted what would become, within a decade, the largest concentration of resettled Vietnamese refugees in the United States. A combination of legacies led to the concentration of Vietnamese in Los Angeles: decades of U.S. involvement in Vietnam; Cold War foreign policy; domestic urban planning; and public housing policies born of the city’s history of racial segregation. These structural forces also drew many other immigrant groups to Los Angeles during the same period, as Koreans, Thais, Mexicans, and Central Americans likewise concentrated in L.A., each developing their own distinctive enclaves in the same districts and neighborhoods as the Vietnamese refugees. Refugee resettlement in Los Angeles in the 1970s and ’80s meant that the Vietnamese benefited from services and institutions established earlier for prior immigrant and refugee groups who had made their way to L.A., but also competition and conflict over space, markets, services, and resources, as well as cross-cultural cooperation and convergence. However, unlike some other newcomer groups, Vietnamese refugees had access to specific government-funded resources and opportunities, in addition to personal, professional, and military-related connections, that stemmed from the United States’ decades-long imperialist project in Vietnam. This article examines the settlement and placemaking experiences of Vietnamese refugees among other immigrant groups—overlap, similarities, and differences—in Los Angeles in this era.
No “Little Saigon” in L.A.: Vietnamese Refugees in a Multicultural Los Angeles, 1975–1990
Elwing Sương Gonzalez is an educator and historian who focuses on Los Angeles immigrant and refugee histories. She has taught in public secondary school for over fifteen years and teaches history at Rio Hondo College. She has a degree in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley, and master’s and doctorate degrees in history from California State University, Los Angeles, and Claremont Graduate University. She has published articles on demographic changes and Vietnamese community placemaking in Los Angeles. She is currently working on histories of the role of mutual aid associations and community organizations in immigrant and refugee settlement in Los Angeles.
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Elwing Sương Gonzalez; No “Little Saigon” in L.A.: Vietnamese Refugees in a Multicultural Los Angeles, 1975–1990. California History 1 November 2021; 98 (4): 30–58. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2021.98.4.30
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