Hmong American Cultural Outreach (HACO) led Gustavus in a celebration of the Hmong New Year on Nov. 13 and 14.
HACO kicked off the celebration last Friday when they held Open Mic from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Courtyard Café. The main event was held Saturday night in Alumni Hall, from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday night consisted of Hmong food and a variety of entertainment provided by talent from on and off-campus.
Doors opened at 4:30 p.m. Saturday for an enthusiastic crowd of young and old. Admission and food were free and the audience got engaged through a raffle. The food was advertised as “popular Hmong food”. The menu included egg rolls, sticky rice, sausage, and vegetables. The entertainment started at 5 p.m. and ran for close to an hour before everyone took a break for food, ball tossing, and a photo booth. The entertainment resumed at 7 p.m. and ran for another hour.
“We do not have a lot of Hmong students and this is a way from them to feel connected in a sense.”
— Du Xiong
Students and guests took over the stage. HACO members danced, sang, and modeled Hmong clothing in a fashion show. The attire had quiet bells and loud colors that drifted across the stage with the performers. Among the guests were musical artists David Yang and Pong Vang, the dance group Nkauj Hmoob Vam Meej, and the first Hmong councilmen of Maplewood, Tou Xiong.
The Hmong New Year is generally celebrated throughout the month of November. This year’s festivities held special significance as it has been 40 years since the first Hmong person came to Minnesota. In the United States, Minnesota stands second to California in terms of Hmong population.
The significance of this anniversary was observed throughout the night. Xiong said he broke down in tears when he was campaigning door to door and he was told by an elderly woman that he was like a son to her because he was representing the Hmong community.
HACO performed on the stage but they also worked hard off the stage to put this event together. HACO is part of the Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) and consists of about 20 students. The group is open to all students but tends to be a group for the Hmong community of Gustavus.
“Anyone can join, though it is mostly Hmong students. I think this is so because we do not have a lot of Hmong students and this is a way for them to feel connected in a sense,” Junior Sociology and Anthropology major Du Xiong said.
The Hmong New Year is the largest event put on by HACO but they are active throughout the year.
“We plan monthly events for our club, after the New Year we will be having our Christmas gathering and before this we had our Halloween lock-in,” Junior Psychology major Jamie Xiong, who is the secretary of HACO said.
The group needs funding for these events, but that is not the entire picture for a cultural group on campus according to HACO President Samantha Van.
“We plan monthly events for our club, after the New Year we will be having our Christmas gathering and before this we had our Halloween lock-in.”
— Jamie Xiong
“We’re part of DLC, so it helps us with the big financial part, which is a big thing for doing events. In terms of like welcoming, I’m not really sure. I don’t know what to say because not a lot of people know about Hmong students. We are kind of invisible but what should the administration do?
Hire a Hmong faculty or some staff,” Vang, a Senior with a double major in Political Science and Communications, as well as a Japanese minor said.
The festivities for the Hmong New Year will continue at the Saint Paul RiverCentre November 27-29.