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The fading history of Punjabi-Mexicans


The onset of the 1990s saw a generation of working Punjabi men heading to the West in search for a better life in the fertile lands of Southern California’s Imperial Valley.

The gangs of migrant workers of Punjab were often called “Hindu crews”, although they were a mix of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, working effortlessly to earn enough so that their wives and children back home could join them in this land of opportunity.

They soon found themselves stranded in a country which passed a series of legislative Acts resulting in closed doors for foreigners and making travels between India and the US near to impossible.

Following the bloodshed of the Mexican Civil War of 1910, California witnessed the arrival of thousands of widowed Mexican women on its land. The women, along with their children and some possessions saw the opportunity to work in the cotton fields which were majorly supervised by the Indian men during that time.

“The Punjabi men wanted housekeepers, children and sex,” says anthropologist at the University of California, Karen Leonard. But this merging of ethnicities was regarded as “Punjabi bosses ripping the pretty women away.” Angry Latino men fought with their wannabe brothers-in-law and sometimes took women back by force. Moreover, unless the men and women listed their ethnicities as “brown,” the laws forbidding interracial marriage made acquirement of marriage certificates an impossible task.

The Punjabi men appreciated the similar appearances of Mexican brides, with women back home, who cooked similar dishes and were familiar with rural life. Meanwhile, the women saw their social stature rising by marrying men who were, at least, middle class and spoke fluent English. The country recorded at least 378 marriages between Punjabi-Mexican couples in California alone, according to a study of genealogies in Leonard’s book Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans, in the 20th century.

One such example and among the last of the first-generation Punjabi-Mexicans was Mary Singh Rai, a native of Yuba City, California. A daughter of immigrants, the then 89-year old was the result of an unlikely coupling of a Mexican mother and Punjabi father in the Golden State. Her Punjabi-Mexican children had grown up eating chicken curry enchiladas, attending Catholic Mass and making pilgrimages to Sikh gurdwaras.

However, with each passing year, the bigoted sentiment made it difficult for such love to find societal acceptance in that era. The Immigration Acts of 1917 and 1924 which made travel between India and the US an implausible task further opened doors for many such rulings with the Supreme Court’s 1923 ruling being one of them, which made Indian men racially ineligible for naturalized citizenship.

The Luce-Celler Act in 1946 ultimately loosened the US immigration laws and ended The California Alien Land Act of 1913, which prohibited most immigrants from owning land. The long-settled immigrants could finally send for their Punjabi sons and daughters residing back home.

At present, the fate of Punjabi-Mexicans dwindles as their present generation can be seen opting out of this culture and marrying out of the caste. Being a part of a legacy of such unlikely marriages which is primarily found and cherished in oral family histories, Mary Singh Rai passed away in 2013.  (Inputs from (picture courtesy:

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Huge Fire In California Probably Due To Climate Change: Experts

The California summit will look at ways to build consensus and avoid worst-case scenarios. Protesters who have gathered in San Francisco, however, say it is not enough.

Climate Change Fuels California Fires. Flickr

California has experienced record heat waves and catastrophic fires in recent years, and climate experts say it is likely to get worse.

A report released Aug. 27 by the state of California, the fourth in a series of assessments, puts the blame squarely on climate change.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is hosting an international summit, beginning Wednesday, in San Francisco to search for solutions.

The worst fires in California’s history came this year and last, with the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire scorching 186,000 hectares. Parts of northern California are still burning. The largest of the fires, in Shasta County, has burned more than 20,000 hectares and is only 5 percent contained.

Climate research

The California Climate Change Assessment summarizes current climate research and finds a litany of problems caused by greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, which is emitted by the use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

If nothing or little is done, the reports say to expect temperature rises of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5.6 to 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100; a two-thirds decline in water supplies from the mountain snow pack by 2050; a nearly 80 percent increase in the area scorched by fires by the end of the century; and up to two-thirds of Southern California beaches eroding in the same time frame.

From flooding to a strained electrical grid and premature deaths and illnesses, the list is extensive.

“I think we’ve reached the point where the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” said Michael Mann, who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.

Mann was not involved in the study, but said he thinks its finding are, if anything, conservative.

“We are literally seeing them play out in real time in the form of record heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires,” he said.


A firefighter sprays the smoldering remains of a vehicle on Interstate 5 as the Delta Fire burns in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, VOA


The Trump administration, however, has pledged to overturn emissions curbs and has promised to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, an accord of nearly 200 countries that requires national targets for emission cuts but which lacks enforcement powers.

President Donald Trump said the pact is ineffective and kills jobs. Climate expertssay something must be done to slow the climate shifts that are underway.

“A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, so there’s the potential for greater rainfall events, worse flooding,” Mann said. “A warmer atmosphere also dries out the soils, causing drought.”

He added, “You’re moving the probability curve, and at the tail of the curve are the extreme weather events.”

Health effects of climate change

Epidemiologists are tracking health effects of the changes, from more pollutants emitted by fires to warming in the cities, said epidemiologist Rupa Basu of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Basu was a contributing author to California’s climate assessment.

“There’s a larger population living in urban areas, and more importantly, a larger vulnerable population living in urban areas,” said Basu, which she said become “urban heat islands” as temperatures rise. The report says that many rural communities, and Native Americans and other minorities, are disproportionately affected.


In this Sept. 5, 2018, photo released by the U.S. Forest Service, a truck drives next to the Delta Fire burning on Interstate 5 near Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif. VOA


Researchers are seeing more emergencies and deaths among the very young, elderly and poor. Analysts compare hospital and emergency room visits, infant birth weights, death and illness rates to temperature and relative humidity, researcher Xiangmei Wu said.

On a global level, climate change can increase the ferocity of tropical storms because of changes to the jet stream that determine weather patterns, although hurricanes are not an issue in California.

Mann, of the Earth System Science Center, said one of most destructive storms in U.S. history, Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast, released huge amounts of rainfall as it stalled in its path over Houston in 2017. He said, “You’re moving that probability curve over” on the graph of weather patterns, “and at the tail of the curve are the extreme warm events.”


Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the goals of the global climate summit he is hosting in San Francisco and legislation he signed directing California to phase out fossil fuels for electricity by 2045 during an interview with The Associated Press. VOA


Extreme weather events

Dan Cayan, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a coordinating lead author of the California report, said climate change exaggerates natural cycles such as El Nino, the periodic warming of equatorial oceans that leads to storms in the Pacific. He said more extreme weather events may well be on their way.

“State and local governments and other players are taking this seriously. And I think that trend will grow as climate change symptoms continue to bubble up,” Cayan said, adding that he is cautiously optimistic that the world can mitigate the worst effects of the changes.

Gov. Brown, who is hosting the three-day summit that ends Friday, has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in his state to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

Monday, Brown signed a bill requiring California to obtain all of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2045.

Brown is a key figure in a coalition of local and regional governments that have committed to achieving the Paris accord’s limiting of global warming in this century to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, whether or not the United States remains in the agreement.

The Delta Fire burns in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. VOA

The California summit will look at ways to build consensus and avoid worst-case scenarios.

Also Read: Smoke From Wildfire Makes Weather in West US Worse

Protesters who have gathered in San Francisco, however, say it is not enough.

“There have been many climate summits with a lot of rhetoric but not enough commitment,” activist May Boeve told The Associated Press. She was one of thousands who marched through San Francisco last Saturday, calling for a transition to renewable energy sources and protections for workers and minority groups as the world braces for dramatic changes to its weather.