At the end of the 19th Century, Brazil received a group of Arab immigrants whose target was to seek better life conditions and escape the domination of the Ottoman Empire.
Most publications that cover Arab immigration to Brazil carry this information. What not everybody knows, however, is that another migratory wave occurred to the country in the second half of the last century.
"The flow of Arab immigration to Brazil has never been interrupted, but there was expansion in the second half of the 20th Century, due to the civil war in Lebanon," stated the Arab Literature professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), Mamede Mustafa Jarouche. The war in Lebanon broke out in 1975 and ended in 1990.
Different from the immigrants that came in the 19th Century, however, who arrived in the country without money, to work as travelling salesmen, the Arabs who arrived in Brazil more recently came with a little more structure.
"Most came to the country with some sort of assistance, called by relatives who were already well established," stated historian and journalist José Asmar.
Jarouche stated that this is not a rule, but some even arrived with enough money to open their own businesses. Like in the past, however, most of the Arabs still come to Brazil to work in trade.
According to the USP professor, the immigrants normally come from conflict regions. "The new immigrant groups come from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and some from Iraq," stated Jarouche. "Conflicts are always reasons for expulsion," recalled historian Asmar.
Search for Opportunities
The civil war in Lebanon was one of the reasons for the family of lawyer Faiçal Mohamad Awada, aged 37, to move to Brazil in the 1970’s. "Due to the war, work opportunities in Lebanon were few and far between," explained Awada, who arrived in the country in 1975, at the age of seven.
The lawyer’s father arrived a little before, in 1970, and brought his family later, after opening his furniture store and getting a permanent visa.
In Lebanon, Awada’s father was a farmer in the Bekaa Valley region. Relatives living in Brazil helped him in the beginning. Awada is part of the generation of Arabs who came to the country and found an established structure. "My parents had a house and the store," stated Awada. The lawyer studied at a paid university, the Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC).
Nowadays he maintains his ties with his relatives in Lebanon through cassette tapes that the family records in Arabic and sends to the country. Awada visited his country of origin once, when he was 18 years old.
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