FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — The manager of a cemetery in central California said he will learn more about Hmong culture and traditions after an uproar on social media over headstones that were moved without the proper ritual.
Mountain View Cemetery manager Randy Giovannoni said staff moved four or five upright gravestones to dig a grave for a Hmong burial, the Fresno Bee reported on Feb. 8.
Hmong believe that moving the headstones without proper ritual disturbs the spirits of the dead, and that could cause harm to living relatives, especially their grandchildren.
Giovannoni said he did not know moving headstones was problematic until a Hmong TV station called him about photos of the headstones being shared hundreds of times on social media.
“The last thing I want to do is upset the Hmong community,” Giovannoni said. “If this is a cultural issue, it was never brought to my attention. . I felt like the guy in Hawaii (who mistakenly issued a missile alert).”
Youa Her of Fresno said she saw a photo on Facebook that showed the headstone of her late husband, Seng Her, had been moved by several feet.
“I came here at 7 a.m. I am very upset. I was in shock,” she said.
She was one of a number of Hmong families who went to the cemetery this week to check on the headstones of their loved ones.
“I just saw it on social media,” said Kabao Xiong of Fresno, who has several relatives buried there. “It’s their home. It’s not right to move it. They should notify the families so they are not in such shock.”
Giovannoni said he will meet with a representative of the Hmong community to learn about cultural expectations and will make changes in procedures.
“If someone would have explained, I would have done something,” Giovannoni said.