The Mexican-Hindu Connection: In a look for Their Roots, Descendants Discover A tale that is moving of and Racism

For a very long time, Sylvia and Yolanda Singh wondered about their history.

Raised in a Catholic house in Santa Ana where they talked Spanish and English, the siblings had been usually expected about their name that is last typical to all or any male people in the Sikh faith from India’s Punjab province.

Yet not until Yolanda ended up being doing study that is graduate training at Stanford and opted for her father as an interest for the ethnographic task did the household history started initially to unfold, and she discovered the 67-year-old construction worker is a Mexican-Hindu.

Mexican-Hindu? Even though combination may appear odd, the storyline for the Singhs of Santa Ana and lots of thousand individuals like them for the United states Southwest represents an anomaly of America’s pot that is melting. It’s also an almost forgotten tale on how history and culture made bedfellows that are strange joining together two immigrant teams in reasonably brief marriages of convenience.

Today, with intermarriage outside of their circle that is small Mexican-Hindus are growing more indistinct with every generation, quickly reducing them to a footnote of Ca history. But compliment of Karen Leonard, a UC Irvine teacher of anthropology who’s got written almost a dozen articles about the subject and it is work that is completing a guide, Sylvia and Yolanda are in possession of a thorough family members tree and understand a lot more about their back ground.

During the early several years of this century, relating to Leonard, between 2,000 and 6,000 Sikh, Muslim and Hindu workers that are agricultural brought in to Ca and Arizona from Northwest Asia. Many Californians referred to all the among these males as Hindus–India ended up being popularly referred to as Hindustan–despite the known proven fact that significantly more than 85% of them were Sikhs.

A number of the Punjabis had been previous soldiers and police who’d offered with Uk colonial forces; they certainly were respected as recruits within the arid Southwest due to their understanding of irrigation within their home province, often called “the land of five rivers. ”

The immigrants had been, in general, yeomen farmers who left Punjab either because their loved ones farms had been too little to divide or just away from a feeling of adventure.

Punjabi agricultural immigrants brought in working on major reclamation and irrigation jobs like those who work in the Imperial Valley aided make these areas bloom with cotton, asparagus, lettuce and cantaloupe. Hoping to create their fortunes before starting families, they left their spouses and fiancees behind, planning to deliver in a few years for them or return to them.

Quickly, nevertheless, the Sikhs encountered the anti-Asian prejudice that Spencer Olin of UCI’s history department called “California’s unique make of racism, ” so when an outcome that they had to help make painful compromises to be able to endure in Ca culture.

Then as now, Sikhs were required by their faith to allow their beards develop also to put their uncut hair in a brush and bind it in a turban–garb which brought them ridicule and title calling into the early many years of the century, particularly the term raghead. Sometimes this prejudice and exploitation that is economic led to violence. In 1925, a Sikh called Pahkar Singh who lived within the Imperial Valley killed two Anglo agents who, he stated, attempted to cheat him away from their lettuce harvest. “There was lots of hostility in the 1st few decades, ” said Jane Singh, a study expert during the Center for Southern and Southeast Asia Studies at UC Berkeley, whoever daddy originated from Punjab in 1906. “You never ever knew in the event that you went into city if some body would definitely stress you, ” said Singh, that is perhaps not related to Sylvia and Yolanda.

Almost all of the Punjabis threw in the towel their beards and turbans when you look at the 1920s, as did G. Dave Teja’s daddy, whom found its way to 1921.

“When he stumbled on the usa, he wished to be an American, ” said Teja, a previous sutter county region lawyer whom prosecuted the Juan Corona murder situation. “Getting rid of the ended up being one of the primary marks of residing in this country, ” he said.

Restrictive State Laws

One old Sikh guy, that has taken a motorboat from Asia to Panama, then stepped through Central America to your border that is mexican 1913, whenever appropriate immigration into the united states of america had been shut down, told Bruce LaBrack for the University for the Pacific in Stockton why he cut their locks and discarded their turban. “I would personally perish for my religion, ” he said, “but i did son’t wish to be deported for this. ”

Sylvia Singh recalled an account her told that is grandmother of the locks and beards of 12 weeping Punjabis, while they willing to get a cross the edge.

Sikhs quickly graduated from agricultural and railroad jobs to farmers that are small grocers, and also by 1919, Punjabis had been leasing 32,380 acres for the Imperial Valley. But their upward financial flexibility ended up being slowed by a few restrictive state laws–aimed mostly at Japanese farmers–in 1913 and 1920, which banned Asian aliens from getting or leasing land.

In 1923, an instance brought by way of a Sikh U.S. Citizen to your U.S. Supreme Court produced a ruling which discovered that, even though the Sikhs were Caucasian, these were perhaps not considered “white people” and had been hence ineligible for citizenship and land ownership.

The punjabis–mostly in their 30s and 40s–began marrying young Spanish-speaking women whom they met working in the fields and towns in order not to lose their land and their livelihood, and to combat loneliness. A number of these females had been young immigrants from Mexico, usually without male family unit members in this nation.

A wedding to a Punjabi by certainly one of a group of Latino siblings would usually result in other people, until six or seven feamales in a household, including a widowed or divorced mother, would offer a extensive household framework. For instance, the Singh siblings’ Mexican grandmother and two great aunts all married Punjabi men. Sometimes four to five male Punjabi family relations or business lovers would marry siblings associated with the exact same family members.

Sometimes there have been problems.

“Our grandmother had hell when she married our grandfather, ” Yolanda Singh stated. “When she requested U.S. Citizenship, the immigration official informed her she had broken what the law states by marrying an Indian. ”

Scientists like LaBrack, that has collaborated with Leonard, considered the Punjabis therefore the Mexicans “the last two groups i might expect you’ll try to meld…. They’re about as polar opposites while you could imagine. ” But into the Spanish-speaking ladies, the frugal, committed, non-drinking Punjabi males will need to have “looked like a great deal, ” he said, aided by the high, frequently actually imposing males providing security and financial safety.

Fundamentally, Leonard says, about 500 Punjabis married Spanish-speaking women, most when you look at the 1920s. Initially, things went well. Beyond their shared economic requirements and inspite of the obvious social distinctions, Leonard states, the 2 teams turned into appropriate in several methods. Both teams talked English being a 2nd language, plus the colour of the epidermis had been similar, subjecting them to your exact same forms of discrimination. There clearly was an intermingling that is interesting of two countries in house life.

Sikh husbands, who had prepared on their own and their buddies as bachelors for quite some time, introduced pickled lemons, spicy chicken and veggie curries, usually eaten with roti, a tortilla-like bread to the households. Mexican wives contributed use that is extensive of towards the diet.

The men established Sikh temples and devices associated with the Ghadar celebration, an often violent Punjabi organization that opposed colonialism that is british and provided their children Indian names. A few of the males slept on a charpoi was called by a string bed, that they moved outside to escape the summertime temperature, while they had in Punjab. There have been circuit-riding Sikh priests whom traveled from community to community from Texas to Northern California, praying with teams too little to keep up their particular temple.

Yet the wives stayed catholics that are practicing as did all of the kiddies, and also the training of getting compadres, or godfathers, had been used adutch date online. Within their homes, Leonard discovered, statues of saints, the Virgin Mary and Jesus shared area with portraits of Sikh founders Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh.

“They celebrated Cinco de Mayo in Yuba City-Marysville the way that is same celebrated Guru Nanak’s birthday, ” stated LaBrack. “Some days the Mexican ladies dressed in saris. ”

“The community ended up being really close-knit, ” said Jane Singh, an investigation professional during the Center for Southern and Southeast Asia Studies at UC Berkeley, that is section of a group work that is completing an annotated bibliography associated with Sikh expertise in California.

Yet in the long run, inherent conflict that is cultural these alleged Mexican-Hindu relationships–especially age disparity of 2 full decades or higher between husbands and wives–combined with financial tensions to produce anxiety into the marriages, often leading to domestic physical violence.