Mastering the Midas Touch: The Indo-Trinidadian Diaspora in North America and England, 1967-2007

By Teelucksingh, Jerome | Journal of International and Global Studies, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Mastering the Midas Touch: The Indo-Trinidadian Diaspora in North America and England, 1967-2007


Teelucksingh, Jerome, Journal of International and Global Studies


This article will assess the diasporic experiences and adjustment of Indo-Trinidadian immigrants in the post-Independence era. The displaced Indo-Trinidadians residing in North America and Britain were challenged to define themselves in relation to Afro-Caribbean and Asian Indian immigrants. Migration scholars such as Barry Levine (1987), Mary Chamberlain (1997), Nancy Foner (1978, 1979, 1985 1998, 2001), Frank Birbalsingh (1989, 1997), Ransford Palmer (1990) and Roy Bryce-Laporte (1976) have collated the experiences of the Caribbean diaspora in North America and Europe.

The research is based on responses from fifty Indo-Trinidadians (25 men and 25 women) who had been legal residents in the following areas- Toronto (Canada), Los Angeles, Washington, Miami (United States) and London (England). Ten persons, between the ages of 23 and 74, from each of the five geographical areas were selectively chosen from the East Indian population and provided with a questionnaire. These immigrants departed Trinidad and Tobago during the forty year period (1967-2007) and are either employed or retired.

The majority of the Indo-Trinidadian immigrant population had been either directly or indirectly affected by the epoch-making events of decolonization in the 1960s and Black Power in the early 1970s. In the Caribbean, this era of change was characterized by social upheavals and cataclysmic political changes. The transfer of economic and political power into the hands of the Afro-Caribbean certainly contributed to tense racial tensions in Guyana and Trinidad. Both countries comprised relatively large East Indian populations. As a result, thousands of East Indians from Guyana and Trinidad flocked to the United States and Canada to escape racism in their homeland and also seek a better life. Many claimed, in an attempt to be approved quicker by immigration authorities in North America, to be political refugees and sought asylum. Bisram (2005) estimated that there are more than 120,000 Indo-Trinidadians in United States; and every year 8,000 to 10,000 East Indians from Trinidad are expected to migrate to this country.

An overwhelming majority of East Indians were absorbed into the still expanding Canadian economy during the late 1960s and 1970s. They were reluctantly welcomed in Canada where there was a need for skilled labor especially electricians, plumbers and carpenters. The mistake of many of these migrants was being unaware of the fact that Canada was not color-blind and racism was entrenched in the society. Indeed, the racial bogeyman accompanied the West Indian immigrants to their new homelands.

The Indo-Caribbean immigrants arrived in England during the Caribbean influx into Britain during the 1950s. Unfortunately, there is an absence of statistics on the population size of this ethnic group and Indo-Trinidadians who departed the Caribbean. In 1981, there was an estimated 22,800 to 30,400 Indo-Caribbean persons residing in Britain (Vertovec, 1994). This figure is relatively insignificant when compared to the 1982 estimate of 1.2 million Asians living in Britain. Indo-Trinidadians sought to construct a unique identity in Britain. This was done in an effort to be differentiated from the Afro-Caribbean population, especially the "Windrush generation" whose major immigration into Britain began on the ship Empire Windrush in 1948.

Undoubtedly, race relations was one of the push factors in the emigration of Indo-Trinidadians. Race relations were in a deplorable state in Trinidad during the 1980s and 1990s as Indo-Trinidadian men and women continued to experience discrimination (Maharaj, 1993; Espinet, 1993). East Indians felt as second-class citizens as they experienced difficulties in obtaining jobs in the security forces, entry into the public service and access to public housing. There was a glaring absence of equity and meritocracy when the People's National Movement (PNM) was in power (1956-1985 and 1991-1995). …

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