The Lebanese diaspora numbers around four to fourteen million people, including both Lebanese born abroad and those born abroad of Lebanese descent. The vast majority of Lebanese in the diaspora are Christian. But did you know there are more Lebanese descendants in Brazil than in Lebanon?
One important reason there are more Lebanese descendants in Brazil is that the country is big, as Lebanon is a small country with limited resources. Brazil has long been a popular destination for surplus population emigration.
What are the Factors that Resulted in This?
Before the Ottoman Empire fell, the Emperor of Brazil, D. Pedro II, visited Lebanon and invited people to immigrate to Brazil. At the time, the country was underpopulated and in desperate need of industrialization. Many Christians and Jews in Lebanon saw this as an opportunity for a better life.
Once the old empire was crippled and unable to advance, Brazil experienced its first mass immigration. Because the Brazilian imperial family had connections with Italian and Germanic states (their war of unification was taking place at the time), many people from those countries also came to Brazil. Still, the sizeable Lebanese immigration flow occurred between wars.
Mixed marriages are another excellent example. Lebanese who live in Lebanon usually marry other Lebanese. However, when Lebanese immigrants arrive in Brazil, they marry people of different ethnicities, including Brazilians. This means that two people in Lebanon who would form a couple can now form two couples in Brazil and have many more children. Given six generations of this, there isn’t enough room in Lebanon to accommodate everyone who wishes to return. The entire Eastern Mediterranean coast would be insufficient if there were enough generations. Bear in mind that there are more Syrians than Lebanese in Brazil.
In recent years, it has become fashionable to have a second or third passport. I know someone whose great-grandfather was Lebanese and whose Lebanese surname, Nasr, adapted into Nassar, was lot two generations prior. Still, despite being a Roman Catholic who couldn’t speak a single word of Arabic, that person managed to get Lebanese citizenship and would now count as Lebanese Brazilian.
Because Lebanese had a higher regard for their faith, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, more Lebanese married people of other faiths. For example, a Christian Lebanese woman could marry a Jewish or Muslim man, and vice versa, creating an awkward family link. Many Lebanese who immigrated to Brazil would have family there. They’d refer to them as cousins. This became a running gag among Brazilians who referred to Middle Easterners as cousins or primos in Portuguese. (Source: Executive Magazine)
What Caused Lebanese People to Move to Brazil?
Arab immigration to Brazil started back in the 1980s. Both Lebanese and Syrian people fled to Brazil to escape the political and economic instability that the Ottoman Empire caused. About 3 to 6 percent of the country’s total population of 200 million are Lebanese-Brazillian. (Source: Executive Magazine)
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