The Role of Arab Immigrants in the Development of Latin America in General and Brazil in Particular
The immigration of Syrians and Lebanese started around 1850 and increased after 1860. That process continued after D. Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil, visited Syria, Lebanon and Palestine in 1877.
The reasons that explain the most recent immigration are the two world wars, the economical crisis during that time, unemployment and internal problems in the countries of origin.
Everyone that arrived in Brazil was called a “Turk” probably due to the long period of Ottoman domination to which Lebanon and Syria were submitted. Later, the immigrants had their nationalities written in their documents.
The Arab immigrants initiated their lives in Brazil as peddlers in small cities in the countryside and in farms. They then established small shops that later became large stores and then a plant.
The immigrant settled, created a family, mingled with the local people and started to live the routine of Brazilians, taking their habits, but also maintaining their traditions.
The causes that led to the Arab immigration are many. Among them, we can mention the political intolerance of Ottomans, the poverty in the country generated by the unsustainable economy, the incapacity to achieve higher educational levels and the lack of working opportunities in the country of origin, in addition to religious and sectarian oppression that was a reality in the Middle East.
Immigration was a necessary evil to a people and to a country whose workers immigrated, and it gave hope to people who stayed in Lebanon and Syria. Immigrants sent large amounts of money to their countries of origin, which was an important economical support for the country.
From 1974, the amount of money sent increased due to the civil war and the resulting impoverishment of the immigrants’ relatives.
The Arab presence in Latin America stimulates business and political interests and relations with the Latin countries, especially to Brazil, the reason of our study.
Immigrants that settled in capitals worked in industry, business and in the capital market, following Brazilian progress and evolution. The Arab immigrant had an important role in the distribution of the industrial production and the product commercialization in the countryside using peculiar methods of door-to-door sales.
Around 1930, the Arab industrial controlled 50% of the textile industry. The Arab immigrant brought to Brazil new techniques for the manufacturing of cotton, wool and silk, as they were pioneers in this industry. They dominated the market until the end of the Second World War, when Germans and Japanese introduced synthetic fibers in Brazil.
Due to that change in the market, the Arabs had to work in other types of industry, such as plastic, iron, paper, construction, furniture. Many of the old industries lost force and disappeared, as they did not follow modern industrial development. Great fortunes were lost. However, new elements arouse in the colony and penetrated other sectors of the economy, such as hotels, coffee, cacao, stockbreeding, real estate, among others.
From 1900 to 1935, the Arabs were distributed in the economy as follows:
70% were dedicated to trade
10% were dedicated to industry
5% were dedicated to agriculture
5% were dedicated to construction
5% were dedicated to the services of public relations.
From 1935 to 1960, the distribution was as follows:
60% were dedicated to trade
20% were dedicated to industry
7% were dedicated to agriculture.
Regarding the new Arab immigrants, they follow the same rules of the former immigrants. However, they did not work as peddlers because trade now included modern marketing methods.
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