By Greg Hugh, Staff Writer

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian-Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

A 1978 joint congressional resolution established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week to be observed in May, a time chosen to coincide with two important anniversaries: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. In 1992, Congress expanded the observance to a month long celebration.

Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month honors the achievements of American ethnic groups with roots in Asia and the Pacific Islands and recognizes their contributions to the United States.  The U.S. Census Bureau lists more than 25 such groups -- Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipinos, Indian, Pakistani, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Laotian, Indonesian, Thai, Burmese, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Sri Lanka, Bangladeshi, and native Hawaiians, Polynesians, New Zealanders and Australians. As Americans, they contribute to the strength of the United States, help shape its future and share in its promise and opportunity.

According to the 2010 Census, the Asian population grew faster than any other race group in the United States between 2000 and 2010. This was observed for the population who reported Asian alone (increased 43 percent), as well as for the popu lation who reported Asian alone or in combination with another race (increased 46 percent). The Asian population continued to be concen trated in the West, and the Chinese population was the largest detailed Asian group.

Today Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the country. About 15 million people of Asian descent live in the United States. Although most of them have arrived here recently, they are among the most successful of all immigrant groups. They have a higher income than many other ethnic groups, and large numbers of their children study at the best American universities.

According to the 2010 Census, the estimated number of U.S. residents of Asian descent is 17.3 million. This group comprised 5.6 percent of the total population. This count includes those who said they were both Asian alone (14.7 million) and Asian in combination with one or more additional races (2.6 million).

The Asian alone or in combination population in California is 5.6 million; the state had the largest Asian population in the 2010 Census, followed by New York (1.6 million). Hawaii had the highest proportion of Asians (57 percent).

A 46 percentage growth of the Asian alone or in combination population between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, was more than any other major race group.

The 3.8 million number of Asians of Chinese, except Taiwanese, descent in the United States in 2010. Chinese-Americans were the largest Asian group, followed by Filipinos (3.4 million), Asian Indians (3.2 million), Vietnamese (1.7 million), Koreans (1.7 million) and Japanese (1.3 million). These estimates represent the number of people who reported a specific Asian group alone, and people who reported that Asian group in combination with one or more other Asian groups or races.

Asian Americans and non-Asians can celebrate APA Heritage Month by eating at Asian restaurants or attending one of numerous APA Heritage events organized by many of their local Asian American community organizations where they can taste the different foods from various Asian countries, watch cultural performances and learn more about Asian American history and culture.  

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