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 2004  Taiwanese American Heritage Week


Thursday, May 06, 2004

Taiwanese front and center with special downtown event

Cultural heritage displays at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Saturday will include music and dance


Inspired by a blossoming sense of identity, Taiwanese Americans in Portland are kicking off their largest display of Taiwanese culture Saturday to celebrate the start of Taiwanese American Heritage Week.

Music, food, calligraphy demonstrations and dance performances by the Portland Chinese School will bring Taiwanese culture to Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The afternoon event will be the largest the community has organized in Portland. Congress designated the second week of May as Taiwanese American Heritage Week in 1999 and May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

"We want to highlight the Taiwanese American contribution in the United States by celebrating our heritage and bringing a greater public awareness of Taiwan," said Shyu-Tu Lee, president of the Portland/Vancouver Chapter of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.

There also will be Taiwanese American cultural displays at Vancouver's Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration on Saturday, May 15. A music group visiting from Taiwan will perform at Benson High School on Sunday, May 16.

This year's events in the Portland area are part of a national effort to bring greater visibility to Taiwanese Americans across the country, Lee said.

Numbering about 500,000 nationally and about 400 in the Portland area, Taiwanese Americans were not identified as an ethnic group separate from Chinese until the 2000 U.S. Census.

Organizers hope that these events will raise awareness of Taiwan's identity and continuing struggle for international recognition, Lee said.

The small island lies 100 miles off the coast of China and has historical and cultural ties to the mainland. Communist forces drove Nationalist soldiers off the mainland in 1949, and since then Taiwan has operated under a separate democratic government.

Mainland China, however, considers Taiwan a renegade province and has threatened to use military power if Taiwan declares independence.

The United States recognizes China but has strong diplomatic and economic ties to Taiwan.

In recent years, Taiwanese Americans have grown more active in forging their own cultural identity, said Jeffery Chang of the Taiwanese American Association of Portland.

Chang said Saturday's event will showcase distinctive Taiwanese delicacies, such as Taiwanese sausages, sticky rice and bubble tea -- a popular cold drink with giant tapioca pearls in it.

The Taiwanese musical group performing May 16 will sing traditional folk songs in Hakka, the language of a large indigenous minority in Taiwan.

"Celebrating culture is important to a group's identity, especially in bringing those issues to the awareness of the general public," Chang said.



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