Magazine unites Vietnamese community

see article scan

ONTARIO - Glancing through Vietnamerican Weekly, one might find an ad of a beautiful woman searching for a mate, condolence advertisements from friends of the recently deceased, and bold political cartoons and commentaries.

The magazine, celebrating 10 years of publication, is a slice of Vietnamese-American life in Southern California and testimony to the community's vibrance in cities like Pomona, San Bernardino, Riverside and Garden Grove, as well as the San Gabriel Valley.

"The main purpose is to create a link between the people," said Da Le, publisher of Vietnamerican Weekly and owner of Empire Printing and Publishing in Ontario, which publishes the weekly magazine. "The Inland Empire and Riverside County is very big. There is nothing to connect us together, to communicate ... The magazine creates a link between the (Vietnamese) people scattered all around these counties."

The free magazine, which is written in Vietnamese and is especially popular for its classified ads, has grown with the community.

Le started Vietnamerican Weekly in February 1994, when he printed 2,000 copies of the 16-page magazine. Today the publication, which includes the community's news and summaries of local, national and international news, has grown to 84 pages and has a circulation of 5,000.

The magazine can be found in the Inland Empire, Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley and even Las Vegas.

"Locally, Vietnamerican is very, very big in this area," said Huu Vo, president of the Vietnamese Community of the Pomona Valley. "People who want to know about the community read the magazine."

As many as 400,000 Vietnamese are now estimated to live in Southern California, up to 30,000 of which are in the Pomona Valley and Inland Empire, Vo said.

The magazine plays an important role in informing the community about local politics, including civil and voting rights, and serves as a bridge between the local Vietnamese community and others, said reporter Danny Doan.

It "helps them to understand the American way, to help them survive in the United States in their own language," Doan said.

Vietnamerican Weekly also serves as a political outlet. After an owner of a Westminster video store displayed the North Vietnamese flag and a picture of Ho Chi Minh in February 1999, resulting in mass protests, the magazine responded with commentary and two pages of photos.

The protest, one writer said, was not about the store's owner, but how the community has come to understand the principle of freedom.

"It was a moment to feel proud to be Vietnamese," wrote Vivian LeTran. "We fled from Communism and came to the United States to rebuild our lives. And while we prosper in America, comfort and indifference does not blind us."

A political cartoon in a recent edition ridiculed General Nguyen Cao Ky, a former prime minister from South Vietnam who vowed to fight to the last drop against the communists, but socialized with high-level communist officials on a recent trip to Vietnam, Le said.

"They feel this guy is not credible," he said, explaining the cartoon. "It's a betrayal or something."

The magazine, which is supported by ads of mostly Vietnamese businesses in the region, appears to have something for everyone.

News articles, poetry, jokes and occasional love advice are interspersed between pages of large advertisements, marketing everything from real estate agents to pedicure equipment.

Youth Forum, a new section of the magazine, allows younger generations to openly express their feelings.

It is a section that Ngoc Dung Le, the wife of Da Le who also works for the magazine, hopes will help bridge the generational and cultural gap between parents and children. It is where issues such as dating and living at home can be discussed in a safe and neutral environment.

"Sometimes, children say certain things but don't tell (parents) all of what they think, only what they think they want to hear," she said. "Here, they can say whatever they want."

For more information about Vietnamerican Weekly, call (909) 395-8850 or (626) 377-6455.

Brenda Gazzar can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 483-9355.