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Punjabi  Sikh Diaspora (Latin America)


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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