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Opening Arguments

It's still a melting pot

The Fort Wayne Burmese community gets cover-story treatment in The Irrawaddy, a Burmese news publication based in Thailand. It's mentioned that many of the Burmese here haven't learned English in part because they don't have to: "Because Fort Wayne has a sizeable population of Burmese residents who live and work in a close-knit community, they can get along without knowing much English." But the same thing is apparently happening to the Burmese that happens to every immigrant community:

Though the majority of these immigrants have to work hard to make ends meet and have little time for leisure activities, they try their best to retain the cultural values of their homeland. May Myat Mon, for instance, always makes sure to take her children to the Buddhist monastery, where she goes regularly to donate food.

“I bring my son and daughter here so that they know what our culture is and are aware of our religious rituals,” she says.

Yet her son, Kyaw Myat Lin, a second grade student, has adopted the Western name John, much to his mother's disappointment. “I try my best, but these are side affects of living in this country,” she says.   

The Burmese monks of Fort Wayne do their best to help the Burmese community preserve their cultural identity and perform religious functions. They also conduct a weekly Burmese language class for the children.

Sadly, they report that the second generation of Burmese in Fort Wayne do not seem very interested in their Burmese heritage, a fairly common phenomenon within immigrant communities. Most of them do not speak Burmese and prefer—like Kyaw Myat Lin—to be called by American names.

Posted in: Our town