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The Sikh Global Village ArgentinaDownload Synopsis

There are some striking photos of these turbaned Sikhs in, for example, the Esperenza Sugar Mill. In another version, it is told that the Sikhs were brought in by the British to help build the railroad system. Story of Muncha Singh is mentioned as a case study. Still another version is of the Sikhs wanting to emigrate to USA, were dumped by the shipping lines on the northern shores of South American continent from where they wended their way through Brazil or through Peru/ Bolivia to Argentina. Another channel of emigration was to begin in Cuba and in time onwards via Panama Canal onto the Pacific coast of South America. When the Canal construction got completed in 1914, the Sikh workers were apprehensive of being sent back to India. Looking for new pastures to inhabit, they literally walked their way to Argentina. What an effort!

But why Argentina? There were problems in settling in Canada and USA in the 1910-20 period because of Asian Exclusion policy of USA and Whites only policy of Canada. Many immigrants left for India post severe riots against them (most notorious being in Bellingham, Washington State) both in Canada and USA. The Kamagata Maru incident in Vancouver was another major blow. Immigration Authorities tightened the entry

norms and many potential immigrants were not granted permission to land. It would seem Argentina Government was not as hostile as other white dominated countries but distance and lack of regular sailings from India was a deterrent. Language, even though most emigrants did not have command of English, was another disadvantage. Most follow up immigration was through family or friends or village mates. It is stated by several immigrants that Argentina was more attractive than other South American countries because of its climate being similar to Punjab, especially in the North West where most of the Sikhs ultimately settled. The quality of farm land was considered similar to Punjab. Even though good farming conditions may have been the initial attraction, many if not most immigrants are now into non-farming professions. But the lure of land is the biggest magnet for a “Jat” and seems to be the case for the early Sikh migrants.

The Passage to Tina
The earlier Sikhs heard of a country by the name of “Tina”, possibly easy to pronounce than by its full name Argentina. This created sometimes-unintended problems. In his biography as an immigrant to Fiji, Tota Ram Sanadhya, Fiji Museum, 1991 (book courtesy Narendra Anuj of Australia) mentions in some detail the legal suit filed by some Sikhs in Fiji. The case of ship “Clansman’ was well publicized as a confrontation between a group of Punjabis (Sikhs) and a European lawyer named Berkley.....

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