10 April 2006

The Palestinian Diaspora in Latin America

The Head Heeb has compiled a longish account on a fascinating topic, the Palestinian diaspora in Latin America, much of it dating from Ottoman times. Here's just the beginning.
I've been doing some fascinating reading lately about the 600,000-strong Palestinian diaspora in Latin America. Their story is, in considerable part, the story of four countries. There are Palestinians throughout Latin America, but in most of the region they are a minority within a minority, overshadowed by the far larger Lebanese community. In four New World countries, it is the Palestinians who are the dominant presence within the Arab diaspora and who have left a cultural impression.

Chile is one. The Palestinian community in Chile is the largest in the region, possibly exceeding 300,000, and a saying quoted (or possibly invented) by emigre Mario Nazal holds that every village "is sure to have three things, a priest, a policeman and a Palestinian." ...

The New World region most associated with Palestinians, however, is Central America. El Salvador and Honduras each have a Palestinian population of 100,000 to 200,000, constituting the overwhelming majority of the Arab diaspora in those countries. In Honduras, Palestinians make up as much as three percent of the population, which is the highest proportion in Latin America and possibly the highest in any non-Arab country. The Palestinians are prominent in the retail trade, the professions and politics, with both countries currently having ethnic Palestinian presidents. And these countries are joined, surprisingly enough, by Belize, where the Palestinian population consists of six extended families but includes the prime minister, the country's pre-eminent historian and much of the professional class.

These success stories, though, are only the surface of what sets the Latin American Palestinians apart. One of the overwhelming impressions that comes through from studying these Palestinian communities is that the term "Palestinian diaspora" is something of a misnomer. It may be more accurate to say that there are two Palestinian diasporas, because the communities in Central and South America differ in age, religion and reasons for migration from their counterparts in the Arab world and Europe.
The rest of the essay analyzes these differences.

1 comment:

A Palestinian Refugee said...

Wow I never knew that ,,, I always wished that we could have more connection with the palestinians in Latin America, as I feel there was really a massive injustice as after they left, they could never come back to their country not even for a summer vacation because it was occupied by the israelis ...
I wish somebody could make something about this and throw a stone in the water pond