Photo Courtesy of The Smithsonian Institution
Ranked as the world’s fifth largest religion, Sikhism is an independent culture that has experienced discrimination and suspicion since the terrorist events of 9/11 due to donning of turbans and articles of religious clothing.
On Thursday, Feb. 19, the Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) hosted the Sikh: Legend of the Punjab exhibit and reception for Sikh Community members and guests.
San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor introduced the importance of the Institute of Texan Cultures and the impact the museum has on the San Antonio community.
“The Institute of Texan Cultures is of course relevant and necessary here in Texas; we’re so glad it’s in San Antonio,” Taylor said. “People from around the world continue to come to our state and make homes in our city, and so this institution helps us to know, understand and appreciate their cultural influences.”
In honor of the Sikh opening, Mayor Taylor continued with a reading of a letter from her predecessor Julián Castro, the 16th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Castro’s letter emphasized the importance that the Sikh had, not only on the Sikh community in San Antonio, but all San Antonians.
Castro wrote, “I’m proud that the Institute of Texan Cultures has created this remarkable exhibit, which celebrates San Antonio’s Sikh community and provides our neighbors and visitors an opportunity to learn about a people whose culture and contributions enrich our community and contribute to a forward progress.”
Castro’s letter concluded, “Sikh San Antonians represent the best of our nations’ enduring promise that being an American is at its most fundamental about having the right to be who you are.”
UTSA President Dr. Ricardo Romo accepted Castro’s letter, presented by Mayor Taylor and thanked essential members responsible for contributions toward the exhibit before Dr. Jude Valdez, Vice President of Community Services at UTSA, took the stage.
Valdez summarized the role of ITC as providing San Antonio with access to educational information on different cultures within the community.
“The mission of our museum is to give voice to the experiences of people from across the globe who call Texas home, providing insight into our past, present and future.”
The Sikh exhibit features religious clothing, art, armor, ceremonial swords, a model of the sacred golden temple and background information on religious beliefs and culture. Texan influences on the Sikh community can be seen in the Texas Turbans display case featuring a Spurs-themed turban.
Valdez thanked Sikh community members for being partners in Sikh Legacy of the Punjab exhibit before a performance from the female members of Unity Bhangra, the Sikh commu-nity dance group.
Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and former mayor of San Antonio continued the ceremony with an empowering speech.
“San Antonio was built on the labors and ambitions of people from many different parts of the world,” Cisneros stated. “In recent years, we’ve had the good fortune of watching the growth of the Indian community in San Antonio, and particularly those who are Sikh.”
Cisneros continued by relating the similarities of the Sikh community to San Antonians: “The Sikh have a unique religious tradition within India and bring those values to the United States – values of hard work, values of faith, values of family – they add to the richness of our city.”
Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio City Councilman of District 8, also welcomed the exhibit to San Antonio before Dr. Paul Michael Taylor, the Sikh exhibits’s original curator took the stage to congratulate UTSA and the ITC on their installation and addition of new material on Sikhs in Texas.
Dr. G.P. Singh, Sikh Community Leader and Platinum Sponsor of ITC, concluded the ceremony before the final performance from the male members of Unity Bhangra.
The Sikhs: Legend of the Punjab exhibit will remain open until Jan. 3 2016. ITC will also be hosting a Sikh Family event on March 21 that will be open to the public.
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located at 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd. Admission for adults (13 or older) is $8, seniors (65 or older), $7, children (3-12) $6 and for children under 3, free. UTSA and Alamo Colleges students, faculty and staff with ID receive complimentary admission. For more information please visit texancultures.com.