Ana Maria Luca

May 22, 2015 The Lebanese in Brazil At first they were nicknamed “turcos” and many of them wandered the streets of São Paulo as mascates (peddlers). And the local Brazilian elites, the great coffee plantation landlords and rubber farm owners at the turn of the 20th century didn’t appreciate their flair for commerce. They were not really Turks, though, although they came to Brazil with passports from the Ottoman Empire. They came from Syria and Lebanon looking for new opportunities in a new world. South America is home to 17 million people of Arab descent, most of them of Syrian and Lebanese origin. Brazil itself is said to be host to 7 million Lebanese, although some sources note this is likely just a rough estimation.
It’s very difficult to keep track of Lebanese immigrants in Brazil, as Brazilians of Lebanese descent rarely identify themselves as Lebanese in censuses. Lebanese are present across Brazil, but most chose to settle in São Paulo because it was the business hub
of the country.

The Phoenicians in Brazil
[Picture: Phoenician Statue Commemorating the centenary of the victory at the battle of Farropilhas, Brazil, 1835, Khatlab Collection, LERC-NDU]

Geraldo Alckmin

José Maria Alkmin

Gilberto Kassab

Fernando Haddad

Gattaz, André , Do Líbano ao Brasil.história oral de imigrantes, São Paulo, Gandalf , 2005.

The immigration to Brazil from the Levant began when Lebanese and Syrian Christians fled the Ottoman Empire. The phenomenon grew further in the 20th Century, even after the fall of the Empire. After 1940, it was the Muslim community in the Bekaa Valley that migrated towards Brazil, looking for new opportunities and a better life. Another wave in the 1970s was due to the Civil War in Lebanon. In the 1990s, roughly 10,000 people came back to Lebanon during the Brazilian economic crisis. They are called the Brazilebanese. The Brazilian census of the 1950s shows that there were 44,718 Lebanese and Syrians across the country, most located in the south and east. In the 1980 census, there were almost 22,000 Lebanese in Brazil, with most—over 9,000—in São Paulo; 1,500 in Rio de Janeiro, and 1,200 in Minas Gerais.
Unlike other immigrants in Brazil, the newly-arrived Syrians and Lebanese rarely toiled as paid laborers on coffee plantations or rubber farms. Whether in the northern or southern regions of the country, Syrian-Lebanese immigrants overwhelmingly worked as mascates; peddlers. Later on they became traders, owning small shops, but also became very active in industry. In the Amazon, they amassed sizeable fortunes through the grain and rubber trades. Similarly, in the state of São Paulo, they established a predominant position in textile commerce in the middle of the 20th Century. In the 1950 census, Syrian-Lebanese immigrants had the fourth-highest rate of real estate ownership among all immigrant groups in Brazil. After the 1930s, a high percentage of Levantine descendants became renowned professionals; particularly physicians, lawyers, and engineers. This became an important means of access to the political arena. At the end of the 90s there were 50 politicians of Lebanese descent across Brazil.
In 1893, Syrians and Lebanese made up 90% of the peddlers in Sao Paolo's city almanac. In the 1907 edition, there were 315 businesses owned by Lebanese and Syrians specialized in clothing and dry goods. By 1920, their factories numbered 91 in Sao Paolo. The Syrians
and Lebanese established factories that required a minimum amount of capital. One could install a factory
with four or five workers in a rented room using second-hand sewing machines.
Christians from Mount Lebanon and the Chouf leave because of the war with the Druze and, later, because of the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Urban populations of both Christians and Muslims leave the country in search of new professional opportunities. During this period, the number of Muslim emigrants increases, while Lebanese Christians had been the majority of emigrants in earlier stages. Christians and Muslims leave for Brazil, attracted by the success stories of Lebanese peddlers who had become rich in Sao Paolo. They were from the villages of Mount Lebanon, Bekaa Valley and South Lebanon.
Most people who emigrate during this epoch leave because of the Civil War and sectarian strife. Many are militants fleeing either Israeli
or Syrian occupation forces.
Many return to Lebanon after the Israeli occupation ends in 2000.
The history of Lebanese immigration to Brazil is tightly linked to Rua de 25 de Marçoin downtown São Paulo. Levantine immigrants arriving in Brazil as early as 1870 started as mascates (peddlers) or small shop owners, rising to small manufacturers during the early 1900s. Rua de 25 de Março continues to host old shops managed by second and third-generation Lebanese. Several streets around Rua de 25 de Marçoare named after Levantine merchants. A memorial stands today on the second floor of a store named "O Rei do Amarinho" (King of Cabinetries).
The Jafet brothers became the most powerful Middle Easterners in Brazil at the turn of the 20th Century. After Benjamin, the eldest, was established in São Paulo Paulo, his five siblings followed suit through the 1890s. The brothers opened a wholesale textile outlet and entered the industrial sectorin 1906. Their industrial complex came to employ more than 3,000 workers by the mid-1930s. Benjamin was succeeded by his brother, Nami, as chief director, and after Nami's death Basílio Jafet took control of the family enterprises 1923. He was nicknamed the "Rockefeller of the Lebanese in Brazil."
The young Makari left Lebanon in 1948 and joined his father in Brazil. After selling cotton and setting up an oil company, he used his profits to buy his own coffee fazenda [plantation] in the state of Parana and, starting in 1961, became the main coffee importer in Lebanon. While keeping most of his business in Brazil, Makari also opened Compagnie Cafe Super Brasil in Lebanon. His company was the first in the Middle East to receive the quality certification "Cafe do Brasil."
Between the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Brazilian elites made no distinction between Syrians and Lebanese, given that both came from the Ottoman Empire. However, Lebanese immigrants began to demand greater recognition in Brazil soon after Lebanon became an official republic under the French Mandate in 1926. In the early 1920s, a group of influential Christian Lebanese statesmen and writers came together in Lebanon to found what was known as the "Phoenician Circle." Eight years later, the current surfaced halfway around the world in Brazil. The Syrian-Lebanese community inaugurated several Phoenician monuments across Brazil, including one in São Paulo.
The infographic was done in collaboration with the Lebanese Emigration Research Center at Notre Dame University-Louaizé.
The images are taken from private collections available at the center's archives. Several articles, books
and documents available at the LERC were used as sources for this infograph.

Information was taken from:
Zabel, Darcy A., ed., Arabs in the Americas, Peter Lang Publishing, New York, 2006.
Karam, John Tofik, A Cultural Politics of Entrepreneurship in Nation-Making. Phoenicians, Turks, and the Arab Commercial Essence in Brazil, The Journal of Latin American Anthropology, 2004.
But they were most successful in commerce: by 1930, Levantine immigrants owned 468 of the listed 800 retail stores and 67 of the 136 wholesale. By 1945, 27% of companies specializing in spun and woven cotton, silk, rayon, wool and linen fabrics also belonged to Levantine immigrants and Rua de 25 de Março, São Paulo, became the center of the textile market in Brazil. In the next decades, Levantine immigrants accounted for 60% of wholesale textile profits in the entire country. Numbers The Lebanese-Brazilian community
Social, political and academic achievements Real-estate ownership rate in 1950
Famous Brazilians of Lebanese descent
History of immigration to Brazil
Rua de 25 de Março
Early success stories
The Phoenicians in Brazil