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Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Preservation and Transformation

Living in today's digital age requires a multi-layered consciousness, grounded in one place but with an awareness and concern for others far away. Useful personal tools include fluency in multiple languages, the ability to transact business in several currencies, and an understanding of the laws and customs in several places around the world.

Asian Pacific American (APA) immigrants have long utilized these skills. As they have adapted to a multi-layered "local lives, global ties" lifestyle, APAs have learned to balance the tension between cultural preservation and transformation that affects all immigrant communities. Sometimes, they have adjusted the recipes for traditional dishes to include new ingredients. In other cases, folk dances might incorporate moves from jazz or tap. Traditional paintings might use themes based on a Manhattan skyline instead of Vietnam's mountainous Halong Bay.

Even parenting styles, wedding customs, and interactions with a child's schoolteachers evolve when immigrants engage with new and different cultures.

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