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Inmigración árabe en Latinoamérica

The first three generations of Arab immigrants to Latin American served as a threshold to their descendants who successfully contributed to the development of the region's new societies, a guest lecturer from Chile said during the lecture "The Economic Contribution of the Arab Immigration in Latin America: Past, Present and Future" on Tuesday.

The event was organised by the Royal Institute of Interfaith Studies, in cooperation with the Arab Thought Forum.

Jorge Sahd, director of the International Studies Centre of the Catholic Church University of Chile, discussed the first wave of Arab immigrants between 1880 and 1920, describing their lives as "a journey of struggle and poverty".

He noted that, to the immigrating fathers, this was the only solution to flee from the Ottoman rule and seek a better life in "a faraway land".

“While in diaspora, life did not treat them well at first, but they stood the test of time,” Sahd pointed out, highlighting that the first generation of immigrants, mostly Palestinians, faced many obstacle including very poor living conditions, discrimination, and language and culture barriers.

"But they found means to overcome them all,” he noted, explaining that the second and third generations of Arab immigrants not only overcame these obstacles, but also became among the most influential citizens, vastly contributing to the language, culture and economy of the countries they resided in around the Latin American continent.

Starting between 1880 and 1920 to Argentina and Mexico, Arab immigration then arrived to Chile at the later stage of the 19th century, according to the professor.

Sahd, who is of Palestinian origin himself, said that he collected verbal stories about the first waves of immigrants, and was also able to get information from the few books that talked about the early comers to the continent, mainly to Chile.

“Chile is home to a large population of immigrants from the Levant, mostly Christian, and along with the Arabs who immigrated to different countries in Latin America in the 19th century, they have helped promote regional development over the years,” he continued

Arab descendants now have press, magazines, newspapers and prominent cultural and entertainment clubs, in addition to key politician figures, Sahd pointed out.

At first, Arabs immigrants lacked institutional support and they formed their own communities to support each other, thus preserving their cultural traditions, he said, adding “they maintained and preserved the high values they were raised upon in their home societies among them family respect, solidarity and integrity, thus the reason for their rapid integration and success."

He underlined that, while in Jordan, he has heard many interesting stories about the shared life of Jordanians, Christians and Muslims, stressing the "enrichment" present in pluralism.

Fuente: The Jordan Times