Boston’s vibrant Little Saigon a Vietnamese mecca

By Linh Le   May 15, 2023 | 11:59 pm PT
Boston’s vibrant Little Saigon a Vietnamese mecca
The Little Saigon Cultural District is located in the heart of the vibrant city of Boston, Massachusetts, the U.S. Photo by Reuters
Vietnamese businesses and culture are thriving in Boston’s Little Saigon District thanks to municipal, state and federal support that has helped the unique community through the pandemic and lockdown.

The majority of Boston’s 9,000 Vietnamese-Americans are from Field's Corner, a neighborhood along Dorchester Avenue recently designated at the Little Saigon Cultural District.

"It's vibrant. A lot of Vietnamese restaurants. A lot of Vietnamese families," said Kevin Tran, the Boston Mayor’s Vietnamese Cultural Liaison, in an interview with CBS News released on May 4. "It feels like home."

Dense with Vietnamese companies, organizations, foreign language schools, bilingual schools, community centers, Buddhist temples, law firms, and beauty parlors all run by people of Vietnamese heritage, the Boston Little Saigon holds a rich history which dates back to the previous century.

In 2011, the Massachusetts Cultural Council started contemplating establishing cultural districts in response to legislation signed by the former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick.

Proposals to designate the neighborhood of Field's Corner as the Little Saigon Cultural District were first suggested in March 2014. Four years later, the Networking Organization for Vietnamese Americans (NOVA) in Boston launched their initial official inquiry into the designation protocol.

NOVA hosted several community meetings to collect opinions from Vietnamese-Americans in Boston. In September 2019, the city council approved the establishment of the Little Saigon Cultural District. However, the establishment process was then interrupted by the pandemic.

In 2021, the Massachusetts authorities eventually recognized Field's Corner as "the Little Saigon Cultural District," making the neighborhood one among a total of 51 cultural districts statewide, including the Latin Quarter, Fenway, Roxbury and Boston Literary.

After being officially recognized by the state, things have become easier for Vietnamese-Americans in the Little Saigon Cultural District. For example, Tam Le, a member of the founding board of Boston’s Little Saigon Cultural District, said many new business organizations operated by Vietnamese-Americans have come to the cultural district after the decision in 2021.

The total number of business operations in the neighborhood now surpasses 200. Local media has praised the district for the variety of cuisine found here, ranging from pho and banh mi to a vast array Vietnamese sweet treats.

"While the official designation took a couple of years, [the neighborhood] has been built over the past few decades. Without the restaurants and businesses that were built here, there wouldn’t exist a Boston Little Saigon," said Tam Le in an interview with Dotnews.

Michael Bobbit, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, agrees that the district is "in good shape. I’ve traveled the U.S. and seen Little Saigons in numerous other places," he said, "and what we’ve built here over the past couple decades is really extraordinary. It’s a terrific way to drive the economy, strengthen the character of the Vietnamese community, and attract tourists and spending."

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