The Indian community in Spain is rather small when compared to its size in other countries like USA, UK, Canada, South Africa and Australia. However in the relatively short time they have been here, Indians have established themselves as a hardworking and law-abiding people. One of the ways in which this largely successful integration finds reflection is in the dating and matchmaking practices of Indians in Spain.
The history of Indian presence in Spain goes back to the post-Second World War period when several Indian traders and businessmen migrated to the free ports of Spanish Canary Islands including Las Palmas and Tenerife. This came about after the imposition of import and foreign exchange restrictions on Spain following the Second World War. The first wave of Indian immigrants to Spain primarily included arrivals from African countries as well as from Southeast Asia and even as far away as Japan. When parts of Spanish Morocco like Ceuta and Melilla too were declared free ports, Indian businessmen again took advantage of the popular tourist circuit to set up trading and retail houses in these cities.
The second wave of Indian immigration to Spain took place from the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea. When the latter gained political independence in 1968, a larger number of the descendents of Indian laborers who had migrated to the African country generations ago took the opportunity to move to Spain.
Today the entire Indian community in Spain runs to around a 30,000 strong population, according to the website of the Embassy of India, Madrid. A majority of these, around 15,000, are People of Indian Origin who were among the first to migrate to Spain from Africa and Southeast Asia. The number of Indian nationals is relatively few and falls in the range of 4000-5000 people. Most of the Indians or Indian origin people in Spain are involved in businesses. As early as in the 1970s there were around 200 trading houses owned by Indians in Ceuta and Melilla alone. Later with the liberalization of the Spanish economy, businesses operated by Indians shifted to other centers like Malaga, Barcelona and now Madrid. As of now the major Spanish cities where most of the Indian population is concentrated are Madrid, Ceuta, Melilla, Canary Islands, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.
The small size of the Indian community in Spain is one of the most important factors influencing cultural practices like dating and matchmaking practices in the community. Figures provided by the Embassy of India in Madrid reveal that people of Indian origin make up one of the smallest ethnic groups in Spain, comprising only about 0.04% of the entire Spanish population. This means that Indian singles here have less opportunity to choose from a wide range of partners as compared to UK and USA where there are speed dating events or matchmaking websites especially catering to the Indian community. Most Indian nationals who are have recently immigrated to Spain return to India to select a life partner after which they head back to Spain as a married couple. Having a centuries-old tradition of arranged marriages, where the marriage partner is determined by elders in the family, makes the process easier and in most cases the only practical thing to do, given the limited number of potential partners in the Indian community in Spain.
However the other consequence of relatively small numbers is a community which is knit closer than it may have been otherwise. Indian origin people in Spain are proud of their ancestry and continue to follow many of their cultural traditions. Hinduism and Sikhism are the two main religions followed in the community and there are several places of worship of both faiths in Spain. In 2005, the first Hindu temple came up in Valencia and work on another was begun in Ceuta. There is also an ISCON Krishna temple in the Spanish city of Madrid which celebrates the Hindu festival of Rath Yatra and takes out processions on the occasion. As of now there are around 12,500 Hindus in Spain according to the website of Hinduism Today. There are several Gurudwaras too with most of them located in the major Spanish cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Majorca. Besides acting as places of worship, temples and Gurudwaras are important centers of social interaction for Hindu and Sikh communities respectively. People come together here and get to know more about co-expats living in Spain. Indian singles and their families also find such places ideal venues for meeting potential partners.
Together with religious centers, Indians in Spain have come together to establish several cultural and business associations too. The Indian Chamber of Commerce and Tourism in Spain as well as the Hindu Associations in Tenerife and Valencia provide significant platforms for professional and social networking among Indians living in Spain. Cultural festivals like Diwali as well as traditional Indian dance and music performances are organized by Indo-Spanish associations like Casa de la India. In fact in June 2010, the association held a grand India Festival in the Spanish city of Valladolid which included lectures, seminars and film shows besides showcasing Indian classical arts. Such cultural occasions offer valuable opportunities for Indian singles in Spain not only to hang out with each other but also meet singles of other ethnic groups who share common interests.
Spanish society is known for its close-knit families and social groups – a trait which is traditionally shared by Indians too. A love for revelry, colorful celebrations and long-held cultural practices are among other characteristics common to both Indian and Spanish societies. Thus it is no wonder that singles from both communities are eager than ever to know each more about other. Popular social networking sites like spainexpat.com which bring together Spanish speaking people and those from other ethnic groups settled in Spain can only help to further the process.
The Indian community in Spain is by and large a peaceful, well-adjusted community. Its entrepreneurial success and socio-cultural practices like dating and matchmaking are evidence of the smooth process of integration that Indian migrants have achieved in Spain.