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The Sikh Global Village ArgentinaDownload Synopsis

In 1911 some Sikhs set off for Argentina but they wrongly came to Fiji thinking it was Argentina. Having realized their folly, they were determined to go on to Argentina. Berkley agreed to get “Clansman” fitted to take them on their cross Pacific journey. He wanted a minimum of fifty passengers. Forty six paid up the passage money (Pounds twenty five each) but the ship was not fit enough for the long voyage and Berkley wanted to wriggle out of the contract signed or thumb-impressioned by the Sikhs. There are many turns and twists of the case including the death of Berkley in June 1912.

The Sikhs lost their case and were refunded only a quarter of their passage money by December 13,1912 and the same day they left for Wellington, NZ on their way to Argentina. Prior to their departure the usual Colonial Office warning was given to them that according to the Secretary of State for India, there was little hope for employment in Argentina. One Mr. J. J. Davies escorted the Sikhs till Wellington. An interesting mention by Davies says that the Sikhs had Pounds 2,700 in gold before sailing for Buenos Aires. So this group of about 46 persons should have arrived in Argentina early 1913. In the earlier days, the route to Argentina was from Calcutta via Singapore. They had to spend several days and weeks in both these port cities before they could get their passages. This was true even for emigration to other countries. Gurdwaras in Calcutta and Singapore came in handy for free stay and meals. Some of these folks would find temporary jobs including newspaper vending etc. Most of the emigrants were in small groups of known people, which helped in bearing the hardships together. One can well imagine the hard times the emigrants must have had with limited funds, lack of language

skills and no exposure to the problems of long sea voyage in difficult and in some cases possibly inhuman conditions. The voyages were long with seasickness and food problems for wheat eating, land locked Punjabis. Yes, there was a dream that they were chasing where the only thing certain was uncertainty. Bravo!

Early Problems and Settling Down
Just like the early immigrants to other countries, especially white dominated countries, initial problems were colossal. Language and totally alien culture were the main barriers. Lack of funds added to the misery and the immigrants had to seek any odd job that could be obtained. Those who came by boat headed North West from Buenos Aires towards Salta about 1500 kms away.....

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