Little Saigon, A Name With Honor
by JOHN ZAMORA, Former President of San Jose Mexican American Political Association-Former President of Story Road Business Association
Was there betrayal, Brown act violation or just good old fashion cronyism, was there a decision made way before the open hearing at the San Jose City Council Chambers, was the Story Road Business Association, lobbied to rescind a vote that supported the name, Little Saigon Business District originally and replace it with Saigon Business District, why did the Silicon Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce agree to support the name Saigon over Little Saigon ? These are serious questions being asked in the community.
What I do know is that at the San Jose City Council meeting, hundreds of supporters voiced their support to name a Vietnamese Business District, Little Saigon. There was no opposition that came close to the vocal overwhelming support of that name by over 800 citizens who were present. A poll conducted by the Redevelopment Agency, to guide the City Council members to make the right decision, proved that again, Little Saigon had overwhelmed the competing names including Saigon Business District which place last in the city poll. Then came the shocker after hearing the citizens for hours supporting and chanting Little Saigon! Little Saigon! It was obvious that the fair decision, the right decision, the only common sense decision was to name the Vietnamese Business District “Little Saigon”. With very little dialogue from the majority of the City Council Members, a vote was taken on a motion made by the very person who praised the Vietnamese community, Madison Nguyen, a motion that clearly went against the will of the very people she had praised earlier when the Business District was approved in November. Only 3 Council members used their common sense and good judgment, Councilman Pete Constant honorably stated that he could not support a motion that was against the majority of the supporters, against the results of the city poll and that the majority of the calls he received in his office were in support of Little Saigon, two other Councilmember’s agreed with Councilman Constant, Judy Chirco and Kansen Chu. The other council members shocked the Little Saigon supporters and I am sure, thousands of viewers like myself watching on television when like a well rehearse play 7 Council members and the mayor, one by one supported and approved the shameful motion, as if the eight hundred citizens present didn’t exist. A few weeks later two more Councilmen Dave Cortese and Sam Liccardo had a change of heart.
I felt and understood the disappointment of the majority of the Vietnamese Community at the council chambers, I asked myself how could this happen, it’s not right!
The name Saigon City, no longer exist, it was erased from the map by the communist government. It was a trophy they cherish and used to humiliate the captive Vietnamese that were now under the communist government, after the fall of Saigon and of course South Vietnam.
The Communist broke an agreement they made with the United States when they pulled out. They had agreed not to invade South Vietnam. The United States also broke the agreement made to the South Vietnamese Government by not returning to protect them as they had promised in case of an invasion. The City of Saigon was attacked by the communist Army, they massacred, raped and butchered the Vietnamese civilians, men, women, and children. They evacuated them from their homes taking everything of value and later changing the name of the city from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh. The destruction of Saigon was a trophy of victory for the communist army. Why then would the Vietnamese Americans or anyone want to honor a City that no longer exist and the atrocities that took place are still fresh in their minds.
Little Saigon on the other hand is a new beginning that as refugees they have survived in their new country. Little Saigon is a symbol to honor those that stayed behind and those that lost their live, including our American troops, fighting to protect Democracy in their homeland. Little Saigon represents small groups of refugees that have persevered in the United States preserved their culture and as Vietnamese Americans they became productive citizens, something we can all attest to. Little Saigon represents that Freedom, Pride, Democracy survived for them in spite of their harrowing experience. Little Saigon is a small beacon of hope that they keep alive to give strength to their families and friends that were left behind, hope that some day they may once again enjoy freedom and Democracy. No one has the right to ask them to stop fighting for their rights and justice especially in America. We must all remember that we as Americans have been fighting for the same things here and abroad, let’s not judge them, negatively just because an issue is not important to you or because you have forgotten who you are and where your ancestors came from and why. Talk to the Jewish and Cuban communities who have experienced atrocities by dictators and talk to all whose rights and freedom have been violated by unscrupulous powers locally and internationally, they will never forget, it’s impossible.
This action of supporting the name Little Saigon has nothing to do with loyalty to the United States, they have proven their loyalty by giving their service over and over again to their new community and country. This is about Justice, Democracy and fair play. I support the name Little Saigon for the new Vietnamese Business District, it brings honor and pride to all of us. I hope the City Council shows integrity and approves the name Little Saigon.
Now that the ridicules ballot measure is out, they need to put an end to all this, no more negotiations or procrastinations are necessary. Any new guide lines should be for the naming of future business districts. The council has put this uncomfortable and embarrassing situation on all the citizens of San Jose and should face up to the fact that this was not a minor mistake and is not going to be swept under the carpet.
My name is John Zamora and I support the name of Little Saigon for the new Vietnamese Business District.
- Former President of San Jose Mexican American Political Association
- Incorporating President of the San Jose Mexican/American Chamber of Commerce (Silicon Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce)
- Founding and lifetime member Eastside GI Forum
- Former President of Story Road Business Association
Founding President of United State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- Former member of San Jose Planning Commission
- Former member San Jose Bicentennial Commission
- Founding member of the National Association of Latino Elected Officers