The Forgotten Era of Punjabi-Mexicans

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-01-15 19:20Z by Steven

The Forgotten Era of Punjabi-Mexicans


Nick Fouriezos, Reporter/Researcher

Like a good comedian, Mary Singh Rai picked from her three identities to best suit her listener. “When I’m with Americans, I like to think of myself as one,” the native of Yuba City, California, said in a 2012 interview. But in some ways, the then-89-year-old with the light brown skin and wrinkled cheeks epitomized the American dream more than many others.

A daughter of immigrants, Rai was the result of an unlikely coupling of a Mexican mother and Punjabi father in the Golden State — and decades later, her dual ethnicities were still reflected in her distinctly Hispanic last name and Indian maiden name.

In the early 1900s, a generation of working men from Punjab — a region between the Indian and Pakistani border — laid down their rifles, headed West and picked up farming tools. Many had served in the British Royal Army or its police forces but decided to search for a better life a hemisphere away, in the fertile lands of Southern California’s Imperial Valley. Forming migrant-worker gangs, the Punjabi men were often called “Hindu crews,” but they were really an eclectic mix of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who toiled in hopes of earning enough to pay for their wives and children to join them in the land of opportunity. Instead, they found themselves stranded in a country that soon passed a wave of immigration legislation, effectively closing its borders to foreigners…

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What is Luring a Million Chinese to Africa?

Posted in Africa, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Economics, Interviews, Media Archive on 2014-06-01 17:57Z by Steven

What is Luring a Million Chinese to Africa?


Jacob Kushner

Like immigrants the world over, the million Chinese who’ve landed in Africa are plucky, hugely ambitious and have an eye for opportunity. They’re also helping make China a big player on a continent once dominated by the West.

You’ve seen the headlines: China is taking over Africa, and the United States and Africa’s former colonizers in Europe have lost sway.

Mostly, it’s true. Throughout Angola, Ghana and the Congo, some of China’s largest companies are building roads and railways. They’re backed by Chinese banks, and they’ll pay off their loans in kind through mining and oil deals. All the while, small-scale Chinese entrepreneurs are moving to Africa, opening pharmacies, trading furniture or buying land to farm, much as earlier generations did in Southeast Asia and North America. African governments are welcoming them with open arms, and for the most part, so are Africans themselves.

Earlier literature on China’s rise in Africa pushed us past the easy — and flawed — paradigm of China as Africa’s latest “colonizer.” But in his forthcoming book, China’s Second Continent, Howard French argues the Chinese who migrate to Africa do so as individuals motivated by simple, familiar dreams of opportunity.

A former China bureau chief for The New York Times and veteran Africa correspondent, French traveled the African continent, speaking Mandarin with Chinese men and women who had grown weary of the daily grind in their homeland. The characters French encounters are risk-takers: sometimes foulmouthed, often lucky and universally ambitious.

OZY: What has lured a million Chinese people to Africa?

French: Many Chinese people came here in the first wave because they were part of a work crew that built a big project somewhere. They typically came with absolutely no idea of what they were going to find on the ground, what Africa would be like. Some people that thought this place would be horrible, [with] hostile people or dangerous animals and diseases, find out it is also fairly pleasant: “I feel comfortable navigating in this society. And most importantly, everywhere I look, there are opportunities to make money.” They come and see opportunity everywhere they look…

Read the entire interview here.

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