Far from home, but still connected: American diaspora communities

People in downtown area (State Dept.)
Downtown Union City retains its character as “Havana on the Hudson.” (State Dept.)

Global Diaspora Week honors the 232 million people who live outside their country of birth.  More live in the United States than in any other country. The U.S. includes these thriving diaspora communities:

Cuban Americans in Union City, New Jersey

Union City, New Jersey, is shaped by Cuban flavor and influence. With the arrival of Cubans fleeing Cuba’s 1959 revolution, this small city just west of New York City was nicknamed “Havana on the Hudson” and was second only to Miami in percentage of Cuban population.

While second-generation Cuban Americans often favor more suburban communities, many newcomers from Cuba still choose Union City as their first home in the U.S. The annual procession of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint, and the Cuban Day parade along Bergenline Avenue continue to draw large crowds. U.S. Senator Robert Menendez grew up in Union City and began his political career on its Board of Education. For Menendez, like thousands of other Cuban Americans, Union City proved the gateway to the American dream.
American Punjabi Sikhs in Yuba City (Dean Tokuno)
Yuba City, California, residents Sujan Singh and Sunita Nakhwal built their Punjab Bazaar into a thriving supplier of South Asian cooking necessities. (Dean Tokuno)

Punjabi Americans in California’s Sacramento Valley

Immigrants from South Asia’s Punjab region have settled in California for more than 100 years, and today about 10,000 Sutter County and Yuba County residents are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the Punjab.

Dr. Jasbir Kang came to Yuba City in 1991 and celebrates his new home and his Sikh heritage in the United States. “I found justice and fairness. I have found human dignity. I found tolerance and love. I found generosity of spirit, a country that rewards hard work,” he says.

Bukharian baker in Queens (David Finkelstein)
Most often associated with Indian and Pakistani food, tandoor ovens are also used in Bukharian cooking and as part of weekly Shabbat celebrations. (David Finkelstein)

Jewish Bukharis in Queens, New York

Immigrants from Central Asia’s ancient Jewish community have thrived in the Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens neighborhoods of Queens, New York, a borough of New York City. Hailing mostly from the two former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the population of Bukharian Jews today exceeds 40,000.

Lawyer Boris Nektalov was born in Samarkand and has been in the United States for over 20 years. Like many others, he remains fluent in Russian and Bukharian, a Persian dialect mixed with Hebrew and some Russian, and continues to observe Jewish holidays like Sukkot by constructing sukkahs — small huts with leaf or palm frond roofs and holiday decorations inside.

Learn more about America’s immigrant communities and how Global Diaspora Week is celebrated in the United States.