Do you know your neighbors?
By Pam Stranahan, Friends of the History Center (FHC)
We sometimes miss connecting with those nearby.
The current exhibit at the History Center will introduce you to many familiar faces in a different way. FHC interviewed neighbors from Vietnam who now live in Aransas County. Their stories of escape, immigration and resettlement is told in the first person – their interviews are on the AV screen for viewing at the History Center through April.
You already know many of these people. Ho Bui and Daisy Aquino greet you at Flower’s Bait Stand on Market St. Their first port after escaping from Vietnam was Hong Kong. Father Tung Tran, pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, was sent away with an uncle so he could seek a better life. Tammy Nguyen’s travels to Aransas County included Arkansas, Michigan, Fort Worth, New Orleans, and Biloxi. Lee Liem, proprietor of Mai’s Oriental Market, escaped on a South Vietnamese naval vessel after being trained in electronics by US forces. Hong Tran (Rose), previous owner of the Silver Anchor Restaurant and 301 Bar and Grill, had a difficult journey to a resettlement area as a child but is happy with her life in Texas. Mo Tran, the face you know at Mom’s Bait Shop at Rockport harbor, spent months on the island of Guam waiting for papers to emigrate to the US. Many of the families found sponsors through the Catholic Charities that arranged travel to be repaid by the immigrants.
Leah Oliva wrote a fictional story, “Growing Up with the Boat People: The Vietnamese on the Gulf Coast of Texas.” It tells of her escape, living in a refugee camp, reuniting with family already in Fulton, learning a new language, and new ways of living.
There are additional interviews of people who knew and worked with the refugees when they first arrived in our county. Bubba Casterline, Nancy Arispe, Sherre Ernster and Mike Probst contributed their thoughts and insights to the series at the History Center.
The central themes running through the interviews are the necessity to escape, dangers of the journey, hardships in resettling and gratitude for the opportunities they found once they settled. Their stories are an inspiration to us all.
You may view the exhibit and interviews through April 24. The interviews are playing on the AV screen as part of the exhibit “Vietnamese Culture” at the History Center. The Center at 801 E. Cedar St. in Rockport is open Fri. 10-2; Sat. 1 – 4; Sun. 1-4; and Mon. 10-2. Learn more about activities and events – upcoming and past - online at www/hcfriends.net.