Stories of the Korean diaspora exist all around us. We just need storytellers to tell them.
At the newly created Museum of Korean American Heritage (MOKAH), we took part in a screening of clips from Joseph Juhn’s documentary Jeronimo, which presents the familial history of the Lim family and the larger Korean Cuban community.
The Lims arrived in Cuba via Mexico with approximately 300 other Koreans in 1921. They left Korea with great aspirations only to find harsh and exploitative conditions in the plantations in Mexico. When they went to Cuba for better opportunities, they found their only options for work being the same types of plantation conditions. The patriarch of the Lim family, Cheontaek Lim, is part of this group.
Jeronimo is his first-born son, born in 1926. He lived his entire life in Cuba, studying law with Fidel Castro and involved in Cuban politics before and after the revolution. Jeronimo worked in the Cuban government for nearly three decades.
Cheontaek and Jeronimo’s family lives on in Cuba, now up to 5th generation children, along with the larger Korean Cuban community. In an interesting twist, the youngest generation is discovering their connections to Korea and their Korean heritage through Korean popular culture - Korean dramas, K-pop music, and cartoons.
Joseph Juhn talked about this notion of identity in Cuba for Koreans as well as other immigrant communities. When communism replaced the previous government, many notions of class or heritage were eliminated, or at least minimized, as these differences were frowned upon within the conceptual framework of communism. But with the influx of Korean dramas and music on TV and radio, what was maybe dormant in many Korean Cubans has been awakened, especially in the younger generations who can more easily adapt and take on new ideas of identity.
This is truly a clear example of the power of representation and what it can do for someone's notion of themselves—to be proud of who they are and where they came from.
Jeronimo is a story about the value of representation in each of our lives. And Joseph Juhn is that storyteller.
The film is currently in post-production, and it needs your help. Here is how you can get involved:
- Donate to Jeronimo - boxoffice.printtixusa.com
- Film’s website - www.jeronimothemovie.com
- Instagram - instagram.com/jeronimomovie
- Twitter - twitter.com/jeronimomovie
- Facebook - facebook.com/jeronimomovie
The event was sponsored by the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY), Korean American Story and The Korean-American Association of Greater New York (KAAGNY).