Arts and Culture

St. Paul’s Hmong Cultural Center celebrates 30 years

Hmong funeral
The Hmong Cultural Center is celebrating 30 years in St. Paul this week.
Nikki Tundel for MPR News

For 30 years, the Hmong Cultural Center in St. Paul has been educating visitors about the history of Minnesota’s Hmong community. On Thursday, the center commemorates its three decades with a celebration. 

The Hmong first began coming to Minnesota as refugees in the mid-1970s. According to Wilder Research’s Minnesota Compass there are nearly 90,000 Hmong people living in Minnesota, one of the largest Hmong populations in the U.S.

The Hmong Cultural Center, located on University Avenue in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, has provided critical services to immigrants and refugees through free English classes and citizenship classes.

The center also created a museum and online classes to teach other Minnesotans about Hmong history and culture. Executive Director Txongpao Lee says its progress is important to recognize.

“In the beginning it took a lot of time, energy and resources to create this agency,” Lee said. “We are so proud that we were able to stay for 30 years and see the steady growth. We have added a lot of programs for the community and we want to celebrate.”

The Hmong Cultural Center has also become a resource for Hmong people in Minnesota and across the country to learn more about their heritage, with visitors coming from as far as Missouri, North Carolina and Florida to visit it.

"It's good that we have this, the cultural center, to provide our history to younger and older people who never knew that we have this, the knowledge of learning who they are,” said Lee.

Just after debuting its museum last summer, the Hmong Cultural Center was hit with white supremacist vandalism that also targeted adjacent businesses, including a Hmong-owned grocery store.

But organizers at the cultural center say they have not let the setback stop them from providing important resources to the community. They hope visitors will come out to celebrate the cultural center’s impact over the past three decades and continue learning more about the local Hmong community. The celebration will also feature cultural performances and dances.

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