According to Lakhpreet Kaur, in her San Antonio Report article titled “Have you met a Sikh in San Antonio?”, “In 1979…Dr. GP Singh became the first turbaned Sikh to move to San Antonio.” Sikhs had been in Texas since at least 1909 when, per Kaur, “Bishen Singh, an importer of herbs” came to Dallas. But over the next several decades, many Sikhs of the next generation began to spurn “wearing the turban or keeping a beard”. This is why it’s significant to identify Dr. Singh as “the first turbaned Sikh” since he was the first person who could be identified as Sikh through his appearance. (In other words, another Sikh could have lived in San Antonio but have been private about their religious views.)
Kaur notes that the lack of a local gurdwara led many Sikhs to travel back to places like California where there were more established Sikh communities, if for no other reason than to visit a gurdwara a few times a year. San Antonio wouldn’t have its first gurdwara until 2001 when the Sikh Center of San Antonio was established. Fourteen years later, the Sikh Dharamsal of San Antonio opened as the second location for Sikhs to meet.
One of the more fascinating parts of Kaur’s aforementioned article is that many Sikh men married Mexican or Mexican-American Catholic women in the earliest decades that Sikh men lived in Texas:
"By 1920, many Sikh men had married local Mexican or Mexican-American women. This pattern was partly due to perceived cultural similarities between Punjabis and Mexicans and there were many available Mexican women in El Paso, who recently arrived as refugees from the Mexican Revolution. It was also socially easier to marry Mexican women, since the two groups were often considered racially comparable. Furthermore, because of strict immigration laws, (making the immigration of non-whites into America illegal), many Sikh women were unable to make the trip to America to join their male relatives. It also made it impossible for single Sikh men to marry in India and bring their wives to the United States with them."
The result? “By 1930, a unique generation of culturally blended Sikh-Mexican Texans had emerged. While children generally followed the mother’s religion of Catholicism, their father’s Sikh heritage continued to influence the community for several generations.”
This exhibits the fuzziness of religious boundaries. Many people who want to imagine that there were clear lines between various religions hold views that don’t actually reflect the lived experience of many people. For these Sikh-Catholic families, this was something new where children grew up with a hybrid religious identity.
One of the more famous Sikhs in the United States was born and raised in San Antonio and educated at Trinity University: Dr. Simran Jeet Singh. Dr. Singh is a “visiting professor of history and religion at Union Theological Seminary and a Soros Equality Fellow with the Open Society Foundations, and in 2020 TIME Magazine recognized him among sixteen people fighting for a more equal America.” The Wikipedia page on Dr. Singh lists many of his accomplishments, most of which have something to do with his efforts at combing scholarship and activism.
There are two locations in San Antonio where Sikhi is represented:
The first is the Sikh Center of San Antonio, founded in 2001. This is the "oldest Gurdwara, Sikh house of worship, in San Antonio." It's located at 6011 Hollyhock Road, San Antonio, TX 78240.
The second is the Sikh Dharamsal of San Antonio, founded in 2015. It's located at 7914 Green Glen Dr., San Antonio, TX 78255.
The following articles discuss Sikhi in the San Antonio area:
If you'd like a basic introduction to Sikhi/Sikhism, the following articles, videos, podcast episodes, and websites are a great place to start:
Blog Posts about Sikhism:
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