Friday, July 12, 2013

The most Khmer city in the U.S.

The metropolitan sprawl of Los Angeles and Long Beach is certainly home to the largest number of Cambodian-Americans, but that leaves those with a Khmer background lost in almost 13 million people.

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Though you wouldn't think that on Anaheim Street.

So let's ignore the obvious leader (the Los Angeles and Long Beach metro area would come in at 13th on this list). What other U.S. cities have a significant Khmer minority?

1. Stockton, Calif. — With 12,557 people who identified as full or part Khmer in the 2010 Census (the source for all the demographic data in this post) out of 696,214 metro residents, this city in Central California is 1.8 percent Khmer. That might not sound like a lot, but it's far and away the densest concentration of Cambodian-Americans in a metro area in America. If you randomly put 56 Stockton residents in a room, one would be of Cambodian descent. (Those are better odds than Street 240 in Phnom Penh.) The local temple's even achieved tourist trap status.

2. Rochester, Minn. — The home of the Mayo Clinic has 187,612 residents, so the 1,688 Cambodian-Americans propel it to second place with 0.9 percent. Oddly enough, I lived here as a child and have distinct memories of being terrorized in grade school by a boy named Rath, who I thought was Vietnamese. Large numbers of Vietnamese (and as I now know, Cambodians) fled to Minnesota during the 1980s, but as a fourth-grader I had a tenuous grasp of Southeast Asian demographics. Today I would recognize him as Khmer and know how to say "at vai kyom!"

3. Modesto, Calif. — The home of George Lucas is also home to 3,934 Cambodian-Americans, comprising 0.76 percent of its 518,522 residents.

4. Fresno, Calif. — 5,618 Cambodian-Americans live in Fresno, 0.6 percent of the city's 942,904.

Fresno, where pages turn themselves and house Cambodian-Americans.

5. Seattle — The greater Seattle area is home to 19,240 Cambodian-Americans, 0.55 percent of the metro's 3.5 million. And they all appear to live in White Center, right around Queen's Deli and Golden House Donuts and Deli. The Wing Luke Museum has had exhibits on Cambodia and the Cambodian-American experience.

6. Thomasville and Lexington, N.C. — Before starting on this list, I had never heard of this place, but its 891 Cambodian-Americans win it 0.55 percent of the 162,697 residents. Statistics! The winning comment on the video below: "Saw HAlf My Family In This Video !!"

I'd prefer the paintings over the prahok.

7. Boston — You may have heard of Lowell, Mass. The town known for its historic garment factories accepted a wave of refugees from a country now known for its garment factories, and that pushed the metro area's Khmer population to 24,528. (That's 0.53 percent of the 4.6 million metro population.) Lowell has a Cambodia Town and a Khmer society.

Tea, soup and dancing is all you need.

8. Providence, R.I. — This metro area includes parts of Massachusetts and 8,135 people of Khmer background. They make up 0.51 percent of 1,600,224 residents. There appears to be a lot going on here.

9. Holland and Grand Haven, Mich. — These small cities are 20 miles apart, but have provided a home to 1,243 Cambodian-Americans, that's 0.47 percent of 266,300. Apparently, the only thing to do there is fish.

Khmer Boy Fishing in Holland, MI. YouTube officially has a video of everything.

10. Olympia, Wash. — I used to live here, too. You can see Cambodian martial arts bouts put on by the United Southeast Asian Cultural Association. The Chams have established a religious center here.

Dishonorable mention: Pittsburgh — The least Khmer city in the U.S. is Pittsburgh, with 166 Cambodian-Americans out of 2.4 million people. That works out to 0.007 percent. This is why you should fill out the Census forms.

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