The city of Lowell, Mass., officially coronated Cambodia Town earlier this month. City officials hope the designation, which marks a section of the city where many Cambodian businesses are, will bring an improvement to people’s lives.
For residents like Chhun Vanndeth, a 23-year-old fishmonger at the city’s Ocean Garden Market, an improved economy would be welcome. He, like others here, says he thinks the designation could make a difference.
Khmer Town was inaugurated during the Cambodian New Year, and Chhun Vanndeth was busy preparing fish that would be cooked at the pagoda. He works at the market four days a week. When he can, he helps people move houses. He said he is saving for college.
“I finished high school five years ago, but I couldn’t go to college,” he said. “I need to work to save money to buy books for college, so I can concentrate on my studies.”
There are many in Lowell who hope the Cambodia Town designation will improve the economy.
“People of the Khmer community that we have in Lowell have contributed quite a bit over the last several decades,” Lowell’s mayor, Patrick Murphy, said. “And I think by designating this area ‘Cambodia Town,’ it will attract more people to come in and bring businesses, jobs and tourists.”
“We’ve heard of other towns, such as Chinatown, which have done so much in San Francisco,” said Eileen Donoghue, a Massachusetts state senator. “I see this as the same type of attraction for people and tourists.”
The designation is official, but it remains to be decided whether Cambodia Town will be marked with a gate, a sign or a statue of some kind.
During the New Year, many businesses were too busy to partake in the opening ceremony. Like Monica Am, whose traditional dress shop sees much business this time of year, as people buy new clothes to wear to the pagoda.
She hopes a Cambodia Town will make her busy all year. “Because people would be curious to come and see Cambodia Town,” she said.