chapter  13
Work, Politics, and Coalition Building Hmong Women’s Activism in a Central California Town
Pages 26

Hmong military assistance to American forces and to the Central Intelligence Agency during our “secret war” in Laos marked Hmong for reeducation or death after the communist takeover. To escape this end, most Hmong made the treacherous trek across the Mekong into Thailand refugee camps in the mid 1970s. Initially widely dispersed in this country by refugee resettlement policy in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, approximately one hundred thousand Hmong and other ethnic Laotians have made second and third migrations to the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. The valley region now has the largest concentration of Laotian Hmong refugees in the United States. Like a long line of agricultural migrants before them, many Hmong harbored the desire to farm in the rural valley (Viviano 1986; Kitano and Daniels 1988). It was the notion of family reunification (Finck 1986), and the corollary idea of work in the country’s most agriculturally productive counties, that inspired men and women who were once farmers in Laos to resettle in the San Joaquin Valley from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s. Only a relative few Hmong, however, could afford the investment required for a successful farming venture in California’s competitive agribusiness environment. In spite of a depressed job market and discouragement by government agencies, the migrations developed a dynamic of their own.