The Hmong community of Fresno is the second largest Hmong settlement in the States. Earlier this fall a Hmong community garden created without permission 13 years ago on public land was threatened when the city decided to take back the land to build a police station.
are 20 gardeners feeding around 300 people from this 4 acre plot. Over
time the gardeners got grants and acknowledgment from organizations,
with the approval of parks and recreation, but no formal
permission. But then parks and recreation transferred the $750,000
parcel of land to the police, and the gardeners were supposed to be out
by November 1.
The community looked to a new parks director to help them and at first he was enthusiastic.
He envisioned a cultural center, a park, carving the garden into
smaller plots involving more people from all over the city, walkways,
statues. It would be called the National Hmong Friendship Garden. The
plans cost $2,500.
"He had plans drawn up. They were beautiful,
expansive," says Edie Jessup, director of a hunger nutrition project
with Metro Ministry. "We were all impressed. But then he said, 'By the
way, it's up to you to raise the millions of dollars.' "
course, the garden was partly about growing food for a community that
was "still struggl(ing) with poverty and food bills." City officials
said the police department served the community as a whole, and
that was that.
After protest and advocacy -- and the great article in the Fresno Bee I linked to above -- the city tried to arrange to move the police station to another site, but the plan was kiboshed when the city council tied on the vote. Now the garden has to move, although it hasn't yet.
Given the same state, and the same time frame, we have a much different second story: Curbed SF tipped me off to a new trend in China: organizing real estate trips to downturn-hobbled San Francisco, L.A. and Vegas to buy up foreclosed homes.
As we have learned, the combination of rising housing prices in China
and the appreciation of the Renminbi coupled with declining real estate
prices in the US and the depreciation of the US dollar, has already
become an impetus for Chinese investors to buy properties in the US.
Besides, due to the continuous appreciation of the Renminbi, it is more
cost effective to shop in the US. At the same time, the US sub-prime
crisis has forced the prices of some of the mortgaged houses to drop,
increasing the interest of some investors to go house hunting.
half these folks
plan to buy houses when the US housing market is at its low level
so that they can keep their children company when they study in the US.
"My daughter started school in the US in August this year. I might as
well buy a house if it is really cheap and I can visit her by the way,"
said ... one of the registered members.
Because of the decline of foreign students
from the Islamic world due to post-9/11 immigration difficulties, 57 perecent
of foreign students currently in the United States are from Asia.
Okay. On the one hand, we've got a classic immigrant grit story superimposed on a group of refugees from a botched American war. They are traditionally agrarian, they're poor and dispossessed, they've squatted government land, and their welfare is not considered to coincide with broader community welfare. On the other hand, we have our greatest fear: an Asian superpower rising to meet us at a moment when our economy is faltering and our military superiority isn't doing us any good; citizens of that superpower are replacing us in our very own, white-picket-fenced dream homes, and not even living there but using them as edu-dachas!
The first is an age-old enclosure of the commons issue updated to post-Cold-War racialization, where the enclosing force is actually public ownership of a more institutional sort. The second is a new (or is it age-old?) situation: the US as exploited, exploitable land. This will be
the first time since ... I don't know ... ever? ... that the US has
had foreign carpetbaggers coming in to take advantage of the mess we got
ourselves into. And our family homes are now being colonized by the very people the US colonized in the mid-19th century. Does this make them Asian Americans, or are they going to be something else, something new?
Are these just the same old themes playing out yet again? Are we seeing new trends in immigration, land, ownership, conflict? Are there similarities in these two cases?