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The integration of the Arabs in Brazil is at the expense of their language and culture

13 9 5

In Brazil today you can see Arabic dishes alongside local fare on the menu; you might hear occasional Arabic names and words; and someone may even greet you with a cheerful “marhaba”. It is surprising how many shops sell Arab products and services and are owned by Arab Brazilians. You may not be too surprised, though, to learn that many of them do not speak Arabic.

Arabs across Latin America are an example of a sizeable group of immigrants who have integrated successfully into the host culture. Acceptance of difference, tolerance and respect for the other, over and above distinctions of race or creed, are fundamental Brazilian values which have enabled Arabs to blend into society. While playing an important role in that society, the Arab community in Brazil is facing many challenges, not least the disappearance of their language and identity among the second and third generations.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Arab migrants came mainly from the Levant: Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. According to the International Organisation for Migration, there are 13 million Arabs living in Brazil.

Jehad Hamada, the President of the Latin-Arab Centre for Strategic Studies, has a fairly typical background story: “I was born in Syria and came to Brazil with my family when I was seven years old in search of a better life.“ His mother was very strict about keeping the Arabic language alive within the family. “My mother used to talk with us in Arabic in the house, but the external effect of the Brazilian environment was more effective.” Nevertheless, Hamada........

© Middle East Monitor

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