Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Lao in Texas

As we take a look at the Lao in Texas, it's important to understand they are the 2nd largest concentration of Lao in the United States, although this figure is in close contention. Minnesota, for example, is considered the third largest state with a Lao population.

Texas is believed to have at least 11,626 ethnic Lao at a minimum living there, according to the Census 2000, but most locals believe this was a grossly undercounted number.

And, of course, it is the home for the first internationally known Laotian American cartoon character, Kohng Koy Kahn Souphanousinphone from King of the Hill.

The major non-profit organization connected with the Lao community in Texas is the Lao American Association in Houston, which was founded in 1997 and Pon B. Chantharaj was among the figures whose name is connected with the group.

Houston maintains a sizable population, as does Dallas/Ft. Worth and particularly Saginaw according to many. There are at least 5 wat lao in Texas: Wat Lao Buddharam in Amarillo, Wat Lao Santidhammaram and Wat Lao Thapnimith in Fort Worth,Wat Phouthasamakhy Lao in Houston and Wat Lao Siribuddhavas near Rockwall.

As in many states, there are also a number of Lao Christian churches in Texas, including the First Laotian Baptist Church in Dallas, the Laotian Baptist Church and the Thai Lao Baptist Church in Fort Worth and the New Hope Lao Baptist Church in Haltom City.

The visual artist Vongduane Manivong calls Texas home. Many other businesses including restaurants, grocery stores and trucking companies that have been identified as part of the Laotian community here. I hope to highlight many of them later as this project goes on!

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