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Two stories about Bengali immigrants to the west - one dating back to a hundred years ago and the other now.
Posted by Ruchira Paul at 07:38 PM in Educational, Cultural & Social Matters, History | Permalink
Thank you. I love these stories. Friends from a generation before me spoke of a parent jumping ship in New York Harbor (or elsewhere) and beginning a new life of work, family, educating and raising children, surviving the Great Depression, becoming citizens, and going off to war to defend their adopted country.
My cousin's grandfather was an Orthodox Russian who, with his wife, was a slave of a wealthy priest and landowner. Yes, they were slaves even though serfdom was outlawed a couple of decades before. With the help of two itinerant Jewish peddlers, they escaped from their servitude and made their way to Argentina. Later, Grandfather jumped ship in New York and sent for his wife. These Russians built a new life, a family, and a successful dairy farm. As a teen, I got to know them before they died.
Now we have Alabama chasing Mexicans out of their State and back to Mexico taking jobs, businesses, tax revenues from income and sales, payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, and a large economy with them. The citizens of Alabama do this intentionally and willingly, knowing the harm it does to their own economy. I cannot describe this in any other fashion than a nihilistic thought disorder.
Imagine this: States enact legislation proclaiming that immigrants are welcome ONLY if they are willing to work hard, sacrifice, contribute to their communities, help build our economy, and adopt our values. They see that the very people they kicked out are the ones who are returning. Confused and not understanding what they are witnessing, there is a clamor to halt the new immigration and protect our borders. The problem for me is that I can easily imagine such a scenario.
Norman Costa |
June 13, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Norm: I had no idea about this early wave of immigrants from Bengal (India and its eastern state of Bengal were united at the time; now the eastern part of Bengal constitutes Bangladesh and the Indian portion is called West Bengal.) It seems that this group arrived even earlier than the Punjabi Sikh farmers of Yuba valley in California. I wonder what happened to the community. I am sure they retained their language and religious identity for a while because they came in a group. But most probably they eventually assimilated in the general population, probably into the African American community. Given the racial segregation laws of the late 19th and early 20th century, that seems to be the most likely scenario.
You may also enjoy this old post that describes that the earliest desi immigrants to this country had a social background that was a far cry from that of today's scientists, doctors and engineers from the Indian subcontinent. It was a great surprise for many who read the story.
June 13, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Here's something to think about. If you have any large gathering of African Americans and ask for a show of hands for those who have some aboriginal ancestry (Native Americans,) you will find that about 30-40 percent will raise their hands. Many trace their ancestry to the Caribes as well as the many tribes on the North American continent.
"But most probably they eventually assimilated in the general population, probably into the African American community." Consider that some may have mixed with the Native American population and/or assimilating in the African-American community.
There was a famous Federal Judge of the U.S. Customs Court, Hon. Paul P. Rao (1899 in Sicily to 1988.) In the U.S. his name was pronounced RAY oh. However, his fellow Italians and Sicilians pronounced it Rouw ('ouw' like it hurts.) I knew him since I was a kid, through my father. I always thought that he didn't look Italian or Sicilian - not like others I knew. He seemed a bit darker and I always had the impression that it was darker still in his ancestry. In my adulthood - before middle age - I learned that Rao was also a name of many South Asian Indians. With that in mind, I thought at the time, that he could have ancestral roots in India. Sicily was an international port of call for millenniums.
I'll email you a photo of Judge Rao.
Norman Costa |
June 13, 2012 at 11:31 PM
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