Amelia Singh Netervala Materials

Collection Overview

Date Range: 1907-2015 (inclusive), 1950s (bulk)
Geographical Coverage: El Paso, Texas;
Los Angeles, California;
Phoenix, Arizona
Language(s): English (5), Uncategorized (22)
Number of Items: 27
Item Types: Photograph (11), Oral History (5), Uncategorized (11)
Collection Creator: Amelia Singh Netervala
Donor(s): Amelia Singh Netervala

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About the Collection

Collection Description
This collection consists of twenty family photographs belonging to Amelia Singh Netervala, one event invitation, a certificate of naturalization for Mrs. Netervala’s father Jiwan Singh, and five audio files of an oral history interview with Mrs. Netervala. Materials span 1907 to 2015, with the majority dating from the 1950s and earlier. The digitized photographs are primarily of Amelia Singh Netervala and/or her parents, Jiwan and Rosa, in their hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. Other photographs show Mrs. Netervala with her husband, children, and family friends, as well as during local Indian and Punjabi functions. Of particular note are the oral history audio and associated transcriptions; they provide detailed information on cultures in which Netervala was raised.

Biographical History
Amelia Singh Netervala was born in the mid-1930s to her Punjabi Sikh father, Jiwan Singh, and her Mexican mother, Rosa. Born in Texas and raised in Arizona, Netervala and her family are among the hundreds of Punjabi-Mexican families who formed communities in the southwestern United States during the early 20th century1. Anti-immigration laws prevented Punjabi farmers from bringing wives from India; in response, Punjabi men created families with local Mexican women, recognizing cultural similarities and shared ways of life.

Netervala’s father emigrated to the United States from Punjab, India. He and his brother Jagat Singh arrived in San Francisco in 1907. According to Netervala, Jiwan Singh “cut his beard and removed his turban so that he would...not stand out,”2 while his brother Jagat, a devout Sikh man, refused to do either. Jagat Singh later became involved in politics, particularly with the Gadar Party, and settled in California’s Central Valley, the core of the Punjabi immigrant community.

Jiwan Singh, however, traveled to the southwest, including the Texas/Mexico border where, Netervala speculates, he and her mother Rosa met. Her mother was born in the San Ignacio, Mexico and frequently visited relatives in nearby Texas towns. According to Netervala, Rosa and Jagat Singh likely met in one of these towns and married circa 1924.

Amelia was born in one of these small Texas farming communities, as the Singhs’ fourth and youngest child. When she was about six years old, her family moved to Casa Grande, Arizona where her father leased land to raise cotton. In 1942, Jiwan Singh bought a house in Phoenix for his family. As an East Indian, however, he was legally barred from owning the land himself; therefore, he put it in Rosa’s and his children’s names​3. Singh moved his family into their Phoenix home in 1947, where he and Rosa lived for the rest of their lives.

Netervala grew up participating in Arizona’s Indian and Sikh communities. After graduating from high school in 1953, she attended secretarial [?] school in Westwood, California, with her friend Helen Ram. Amelia met her husband-to-be Minod Netervala, a Parsi student raised in Bombay, at a party at the University of Southern California. The Netervalas settled near the University of California, Los Angeles, where Amelia worked first as a secretary and later as a buyer. The couple has two daughters​4.

1. Gottlieb, Benjamin (2012 August 13). Punjabi Sikh-Mexican American community fading into history. Washington Post. Last accessed September 7, 2016.
2. Amelia Singh Netervala Oral History Interview -- Part 1. Amelia Singh Netervala. Accessed September 7, 2016.
3. Ibid.
4. Gottlieb, Benjamin (2012 August 13). Punjabi Sikh-Mexican American community fading into history. Washington Post. Last accessed September 7, 2016.

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Related Materials

Collection Themes: Family (5), Visitors & Exchanges (1), Religion (1), Uncategorized (20)

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Administrative Information

Access & Use: Items in this SAADA collection are open for research. Items may not be sold or redistributed, copied or distributed as a photograph, electronic file, or any other media without express written consent from the copyright holder and the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA). The user is responsible for all issues of copyright.

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