#TBT to When Mexican- and Punjabi-American Neighbors United to Celebrate Independence Day

By Sameer Rao Jul 20, 2017

San Francisco State University student Jashandeep Kalhon, 20, unwittingly became a social media sensation when he tweeted the following video on July 5:


Kalhon told Oakland-based outlet KTVU Fox 2 yesterday (July 19) that he didn’t expect his 99-second video to go viral, but it did, with more than 46,000 retweets and 83,000 likes as of press time. 

The clip features scenes from a July 4 party that Kalhon attended with his Punjabi-American friends and family in his hometown of Stockton, California. A group of predominantly Mexican-American neighbors held their own party across the street, and members of both parties converged in the road to share dance moves as reggaeton and bhangra plays over the speakers. Reggaeton originated in Puerto Rico but is internationally popular among Spanish-speaking listeners, while bhangra came out of Punjab, a historic South Asian region and spiritual homeland of Sikhism that is currently split between India and Pakistan.

"People probably think it’s either really funny or they like that two different cultures and having fun together," said Kalhon to KTVU about the video, adding that he was happy to see "two minorities getting together to celebrate together as American."

Although the video received much attention for its impromptu nature, Mexican- and Punjabi-American communities actually have a long shared history in the Western United States. A 2012 article from The Washington Post notes that many predominantly Sikh Punjabi men immigrated from British India to California, Washington and Arizona via Canada in the early 1900s. They worked mainly as agricultural laborers alongside Mexican- and other Asian-American groups. Strict laws limited Punjabi immigration to male laborers, and The Post says that hundreds eventually married Mexican-American women and lived in agrarian communities. California cities like Yuba City, El Centro and Stockton still have notable Latinx and Punjabi communities, and Yuba City has a dwindling number of "Punjabi-Mexican-Americans."