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The Sikh Global Village BoliviaDownload Synopsis
 

MIS-ADVENTURE OF THE JAT SIKHS
The lure of land combined with bravado can be a deadly combination which can get one to achieve great heights and occsionally can result in disaster. In Bolivia, the latter was the case of Sikh Immigrants in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in South East of Bolivia where almost couple of hundred of them migrated in the Eighties to look for their El Dorados. Many of them have sad stories to tell and most have either returned to Punjab or migrated onwards to North America etc. Although bad luck is always a factor and an important contributor, unfortunately the worst traits of the Jat Sikhs came into fore as adversity hit them. The remnant immigrants still have their faith in the “Waheguru” and have a Gurudwara (probably the earliest in South America) to turn to for the monthly “sangat” but who do not have enough money for a regular “granthi” the earlier one having moved to Argentina. Turbaned Sikhs are almost non-existent. From an all time high of 150-200 or so families in the Eighties and Nineties, presently there are only a few families left with a population of about 40 or so Sikhs.

A very interesting meeting with a Bolivian Sikh lady in La Paz with white turban and white flowing dress was a heart warming experience as to how people find solace through the Sikh dharma and how Sikhism is catching up albeit very slowly in South America as followers of Yogi Bhajan’s 3HO.

The Early Sikh Immigrants:
The Sikhs have been passing through Bolivia en-route to Argentina from early Twentieth century but they did not establish roots in the country. There are references of Sikhs landing in Chile or Peru and moving on to Argentina via Bolivia. But nothing is mentioned about any of them settling down in the country. Harsh climate, relatively poor economic situation and unfertile land might explain Sikhs’ not establishing early roots in Bolivia. It is the author’s belief though that some Sikhs must have settled but there is no specific information available. Names of some Sikhs as early settlers are mentioned but more investigative effort is needed to get details.

The Country and its Culture
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries of South America and topographically may be termed as the Tibet of the Americas. The Spanish conquest of the country began in 1531 and silver was struck in 1544, mining of which underwrote the Spanish economy. Bolivia won independence from Spain in 1825. However, Chile annexed part of Bolivian territory including its only port of Antofagasta leaving the country landlocked. Since the Fifties, the country has been ruled by “in and out” Governments of civilians, army, leftists etc. Cocaine-production in the country in the early Nineties complicated relations with the US followed by acute recession and.....

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Article Published in The Sikh Review - January 2005 - No. 625
 
 
 
 
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