Orlando’s Little Vietnam
In the 1970s, thousands of Vietnamese war refugees fled their native land, desperately seeking a new beginning, free of political persecution for themselves and their children.
Many of those refugees settled just north of downtown Orlando and began opening businesses and revitalizing a fairly lackluster part of the city.
Now, dozens of Asian restaurants, shops and markets line a 10-block stretch of Orlando’s Colonial Drive near Mills Avenue. Though most of the storefronts are decorated with Vietnamese characters, there is no shortage of Chinese, Thai, Korean and other Asian establishments. A stroll through the area also reveals an impressive number of Asian-owned medical and dental offices, nail salons, travel agencies, health food centers, martial arts studios, Boba tea shops and music and video stores. There’s even a karaoke bar and a martial arts weapons store.
Every organization has its original raison d’être. The Vietnamese Medical Association of Florida (VMAF, Hội Y sĩ Việt Nam tại Florida) was founded by alumni of the Saigon University School of Medicine in 1988 to provide to its members a sense of belongingness and fellowship that they could not find in other American professional organizations of that time. The majority of these physicians came to the United States as refugees after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 to Communist invaders
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