MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A St. Paul neighborhood, rich in Southeast Asian culture, celebrated its growth Wednesday.
Neighbors gathered for the opening of Little Mekong Plaza along the Green Line. Mayor Chris Coleman was there, and operated a ceremonial silver water pump.
“We included the water because water is very important to a lot of cultures in this area, and obviously the Mississippi flows through St. Paul, and the district being called ‘Little Mekong’ after the Mekong River in Southeast Asia,” said Va-Megn Thoj, from the Asian Economic Development Association.
Surrounded by businesses and the Green Line, it is one of the only shared outdoor spaces for this community. Much like Wednesday’s festivities, they hope the plaza will encourage both cultural celebrations and community gatherings.
“We get to come together as threads in the community to create that story, so that years from now people can look back at those story cloths and it’s because of you coming together to build that narrative and to unite as one,” said St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thao.
And while it may be only an acre or so, Little Mekong Plaza has big meaning for the people who have grown up in the area and still live there.
“I couldn’t help but reflect back on when we first got here in the 1980s as refugees, and my family actually lived not too far down the street from here on Dale and Selby,” said Bao Vang of the Hmong American Partnership. “We would walk every day, you know, to the church down the street here. And at that time the buildings were all boarded up. And who would have thought that … forty years later that we remain and have a very strong presence here.”
Little Mekong Plaza is the first privately-owned public space in St. Paul, owned by the Hmong American Partnership. It is located near the intersection of University and Western avenues.