As you may or may not know, San Jose, California has one of the largest Vietnamese-American populations in the United States (approximately 100,000 Vietnamese-Americans -around 10% of San Jose’s population). There has been a brewing debate within the Vietnemes-American community to designate a section of San Jose “Saigon Business District” vs. “Little Saigon”, as reported in The San Jose Mercury article: “ ‘Saigon Business District’ wins – San Jose Council’s Name for Retail District Angers ‘Little Saigon’ Advocate“:
“ In a dynamic and dramatic scene before one of the largest crowds to ever gather at City Hall, the San Jose City Council on Tuesday designated a busy hub of Vietnamese-owned businesses “Saigon Business District,” enraging several hundred people who stormed City Hall demanding the name “Little Saigon.”…The proposal, which might seem innocuous to non-Vietnamese-Americans, set off a firestorm of controversy within the Vietnamese community here and around the country. [San Jose city council member Madison] Nguyen, who fled Vietnam in 1979 with her family, has been bombarded with criticism for her unwillingness to support the “Little Saigon” name. Nguyen said the area should have its own identity – separate from other Little Saigons. And business owners prefer that the name have “business district” in it. “Little Saigon” is opposed by the Story Road Business Association and the San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has members in the area. “Little Saigon” supporters have accused Nguyen of turning her back on her constituents in order to appease the business community.”
Personally, with very little knowledge of this whole controversy, “Saigon Business District” sounds a bit stodgy to me. I mean, I’ve heard of Little Taipei, Little Italy, Chinatown, Koreatown, Japantown, etc… but a moniker with “Business District” sounds very sterile to me. I wonder if this issue alone will cause San Jose council member Madison Nguyen to lose re-election in the future…? In November 2005, Nguyen won a historic race to fill a vacated San Jose council seat in a special election, running against another Vietnamese-American woman, Linda Nguyen.