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such as Bolivia, the Sikh Sangat is so small that they cannot
afford to keep a ‘granthi’ and yet these places
are well maintained. Gurdwara is a great institution which
provides an important link amongst the immigrants. It provides
a venue for social gatherings and helps retain linkage with
religion, community and heritage of ‘Punjabiat’.
It was interesting to learn that post setting up of the Gurdwara
in Argentina, the community has got more connected and the
younger generation is getting to develop better linkage with
Punjab, Punjabis, Sikhs and Sikhi.
History of Migration and General Profile
In South American countries, Sikhs were pioneer immigrants
except for Chile where Sindhis were the first. In Central
America including the Caribbean’s, Surinam and Guinea,
the first Indians were from UP, Bihar and possibly South India
as indentured labour. Migration in several countries of Latin
America has been traced to the first two decades of the Twentieth
Century. A reference is available of a Sikh’s arrival
in Argentina in 1890’s. Sikhs came either as direct
passengers mainly on ships via Europe or because they were
not allowed to disembark at the USA ports. The later resulted
in transit stay in various intermediate destinations before
settling down in the final destination of their choice. Many
Sikhs walked from Brazil to Argentina while others walked
still longer distances from Panama to Argentina via Peru and
Bolivia. This phase of travel in several cases was even tougher
than the sea voyage. It involved walking over thousands of
miles in tough terrain with little familiarity of local language
and customs and with limited funds. One has to look at the
map and the terrain to understand the hardship involved -
it really sends shivers in the spine.
In Latin America, the more popular destinations for long term
settlement were Argentina, and Panama. Mexico was always a
target country to settle in but with the aim of crossing the
Rio Grande at the first possible opportunity. USA was and
still is the El Dorado for almost all Punjabi-Sikh migrants.
There are several illegal immigrants in recent years and some
have been fraudulently brought to South American destinations
against the promised North America entry. In 1990’s
Belize became a popular destination for migration. Since Belize
is not very well connected for air travel, some of these migrants
have had to charter small aircraft (from Cuba) to reach Belize.
What enterprise! Single girls are also venturing out where
ever opportunity arises. Two young girls from Punjab have
gone to Belize as students but are now running.....
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