The Hmong have been in Minnesota for 40 years. Which aspects of a culture does a people bring to a new land? Which do they leave behind? And which aspects of the local culture does one adopt when entering a new land?
These are the questions I’m asking in an article I’m working on. And I’ve discovered that one aspect of Minnesota culture that the Hmong have adopted is fishing.
You don’t see many Somali, Indian, or Latino guys out on the lakes trying to catch lunkers. Yet this morning at 5:30am on Lake Minnetonka, a normal sight: a friendly, seven boat bass tournament organized by some Hmong fellas from St. Paul.
Organizer Mark Xiong, 37, said he’s been fishing since growing up poor in California.
“I started with a can and string,” he told me as we stood on the dock.
A couple of days ago, I spoke to another participant, the man who invited me out here. Khai Xiong, 28, said to me from his work office that five years ago he was newly married and had to leave the party life behind. A cousin invited him out fishing, and it awoke something in him.
“I’d practice casting in my yard,” he said of the days following his first fishing experience.
Now fishing is his passion–in all seasons.
“What gets me through the winter is ice fishing,” he said.
Back on the dock, the guys talked and readied for their tournament’s 6:00 start time. After speaking with them a few more moments, they roared off in their boats in the order they drew.
Ten minutes later while I was still standing on that dock enjoying the sunrise, a Toyota Tundra backed a boat into the water. It was another Hmong foursome.
“I just talked to some other Hmong guys heading out for a tournament,” I said to them as they loaded their boat.
“We love this lake,” one responded with a grin. And off they went.
Of course, leisure is just one aspect of life a culture includes. I’ll be sharing about others–religion, music, romance–and the ways in which these aspects have meshed/clashed with the rest of Minnesota, in this upcoming piece as well.