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Those stragglers who reached Bolivia either from Chile or
Brazil moved down to nearby Tucuman near the border. It may
be conjectured that it was comparatively easy to get jobs
in the far out Northwest, as these areas were not as attractive
as big cities like Buenos Aires were for the local Argentineans.
Living conditions up-country were easier and similar to Punjab.
Sugar mills and railroad construction provided initial secure
income source before the Sikhs started working on farms and
slowly graduating to being owner farmers and Ranchers. Subsequently,
trucking and transport, as is the familiar pattern for Sikhs
moving out from Punjab, became the immigrants’ new diversification.
This was followed by owning shops and Super Markets in due
course of time. As the early immigrants settled down, communications
were established seeking more compatriots to join from the
family or village to which they belonged. For many, the local
booze and the pub was a welcome relief from solitude. Initially
all immigrants were single. Only very few of them could get
their wives to join in due course but at a much late date.
Most of them entered into local marriage alliances.
The Subsequent Arrivals
Immigration continues till today but in smaller numbers. There
is a case of several Sikh youths who were dumped by the Travel
Agents in Buenos Aires a few years ago telling them that Argentina
was in fact America, so true but so very misleading. Most
of them are waiting to migrate to the real America vis USA
or Canada. They are now running small retail outlets to be
able to survive. A second generation Sikh lady is helping
them out. A typical immigrant story is of a young man from
Ludhiana, who went on a tourist visa, took off his turban
on arrival in Argentina, married the grand daughter of a well
established Singh in 1992 in the local Home Gurdwara. The
couple returned to India end-1999 for family reasons but have
now migrated to North America.
The newer arrivals maintain Punjabi identity much more, which
prods the others to keep the connection as well. Balbir Singh
from the Guemes village in Salta Province, is passionately
Sikh and Punjabi, helping out others to migrate to Argentina.
Although clean-shaven himself, his son of 8 years or so keeps
“joora”. He has a couple of other turbaned Sikh
immigrants working with him.
Take also the fascinating case of a so-called “Granthi”
Sikh in Buenos Aires, who migrated a few years ago, after
working for two years in a garment factory in Korea. He is
now a specialist in healing through yoga and natural therapies.
His clinic in the center of Buenos Aires has photos of Sikh
Gurus and Khanda prominently displayed and Sikh chants from
Japji are a part of the healing process.....
Article Published in The
Sikh Review - December 2004 - No. 624