in Stockton, California
The traditional center of gravity for Cambodian immigrants in Stockton, California, is the Buddhist temple, governed by a chief monk, a high priest, a chief of operations, and their assistants. The temple serves as a gathering place for community building as well as teaching religious and cultural values. The Cambodian people reside in a series of villages around Stockton, and the most well organized of these is Park Village. Park Village is the only one of the villages with its own community center. There, English and Khmer classes are offered and other community events and performances are held. The village’s strength is also exhibited by its strong connections to the temple: the chief of operations and his two assistants, as well as the high priest and four other senior priests, are all Park Village residents.
In addition to their religious roles, the priests serve as liaisons between the village and the temple, raising money for the temple and summoning monks when they are needed for weddings and funerals. The priests also serve as informal leaders of Park Village, sitting on the twelve- member board of APSARA, the Asian Pacific Self-Development and Residential Association, the membership organization that purchased the property from the federal government. APSARA manages and maintains the facility. Its board consists mainly of community elders, but it recently expanded to include a twenty-eight-year-old college-educated man and a thirty-five-year-old woman who is active in the temple. The APSARA board reports to the Park Village Apartments (PVA) Board, which carries ultimate responsibility for fiscal management, including subsidies from the federal government. The PVA Board consists of four community members and three non-Cambodians who represent social service agencies. When safety issues arise, including the need to evict community members who are involved in gangs, APSARA often refers the final decision to PVA.