In the early 1900s, the United States government adopted extremely stringent immigration laws. The new curbs stopped many immigrants, mostly men, unable to bring their wives or other women from their home countries. Meanwhile, marriages between whites and people of colour were prohibited by anti-miscegenation laws in many states of the US till 1967.
This left Punjabi immigrant workers, mostly men, in a pickle. They could neither bring their families from home, nor make families in the US. It was the colour of their skin that brought them closer to Mexican women.
Mexican women matched Punjabi men perfectly. They had the same skin tone, dark eyes and black hair. This led county clerks in the US believe that perceived similarities in complexion was an indicator of the same race, reports The Indian Express.
And thus began a bi-ethnic hybrid community that came to be called the ‘Mexican Hindu’. Hindu in the Mexican-Hindu coinage refers to from Hindustan (India) and not the religion of Hinduism. In effect, most of the men were Sikhs.
Immigrants from Mexico and Punjab grew up in largely agrarian societies. Consequently, there was a shared cultural thread in living the farm live allowing the communities to relate to one another.
Food was similar in both communities. Mexican cuisine, like Punjabi, is spicy and largely relies on bread, meat and vegetables that were typically boiled or fried. Mexican tortillas and Indian chapatis were largely considered identical. The gorditas were stuffed with mean, while parathas were filled with vegetarian fare.
For a long time, this community lived in relative harmony. But many of these marriages found stiff opposition from within both communities. The alliances were regarded as ‘marriages of convenience’.
By the late 1920s, the Punjabi population surpassed the Mexicans in social status. Mexican women marrying Punjabi men came to be seen as a way to climb the social ladder. That led to a further discord within communities.
So, when the Luce-Celler Act of 1946 allowed an annual quota of Indians to migrate to the US, Indian men began to bring their families. This gradually changed the dynamic between the communities.
The children of Mexican-Hindu parents have not married within the communities. The larger chunk of Punjabi-Mexican children assimilated with the new immigrants. This largely signaled the end of this unique cultural phenomenon.