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It is well known that at the end of 19th and in the early 20th century, Sikhs started looking outward, mainly towards South East Asia, China (including Hong Kong) and even Australasia, followed soon by North America. However, it is less known that at the same time, they also started to migrate to Argentina. Be it because besides USA and Canada, it was the only other prosperous country in the Americas, or because although not English-speaking, Argentina had British influence, especially in the industry, commerce and business. Whatever the reason, it was a fascinating journey and Argentina remains one of the few countries in the world (apart from California and Canada), where out of the total number of Indian immigrants, Sikhs formed an overwhelming majority. Trust a Sikh to choose the farthest possible country from Punjab to emigrate to!

In his book “Unfole Warke”, written in Punjabi, the famous Baba Bhagat Singh Bilka writes that Sikhs came to Argentina in 1910-11 and started working in the sugar mills and railway workshops of Buenos Aires and Rosario up North. The economic conditions, though poorer than North America, were better than other Latin American countries and employment was available. So no wonder that by 1925, Argentina became the last destination for many Punjabis.

Sikhs left India in the hope of settling in USA via Calcutta, Burma, Malaya, Indo-China, Japan, Panama but none of the countries allowed them to disembark and hence some had to land in Chile and move on to Argentina via Bolivia. Another group traveled via Bombay, France, Cuba, Mexico, Panama and Brazil to reach Argentina. One has to look at the World Atlas to realize the magnitude of the distances they covered by ship, foot, train or bus under totally alien conditions. It was no less an effort than that of Columbus!

In and around 1930, several senior members of the global Ghadar movement visited Argentina in places such as Rosario, Jujey, Tucuman, Cordoba and Salta indicating widespread presence of Sikhs in Central and North Argentina. Some of these aficionados came to Argentina from Brazil. During the world gathering of Ghadarites in Moscow, out of a total of 71 delegates, about 20% were from Argentina. To place in context, it has to be noted that delegates from several countries particularly from the British Commonwealth countries were denied passage to Moscow.....

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Article Published in The Sikh Review - December 2004 - No. 624
 
 
 
 
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