Argentina

Argentina has somewhere between 3 and 4 million Arabs; most being either Syrian Orthodox or Lebanese, often Maronite Catholics.  While Palestinians are found among them, they do not have the same clout that Palestinians have in Chile, where the Palestinians are the majority of the Arab community.

The Syrio-Lebanese seem to be more interested in blending in to Argentine society that the Arabs are in other countries.

Their society website FEARAB-Argentina (Federation of Arab Societies) is rather muted. 

fearab_argentina.jpg
FEARAB-Argentina Website banner (Federation of Arab Societies)

One of the pictures on the header is of a gaucho1, indicating their very strong identification with Argentina.  They do not seem to be as strongly politicized as Chilean Arabs, where the Palestinian-Chilean community presently seems to have a strong anti-Israel view.

FEARAB-Argentina  has images of Syria, Lebanon and an Argentine gaucho.
FEARAB-Chile has a map of Palestine that erases Israel altogether.

Clearly, with Palestinians less of a constituency, and Lebanese more strongly represented, a more moderate view seems to operate among Argentine Arabs.

What you are more likely to see in Argentina’s Arabs is more of pure cultural programming.  The Palestine issue will come up, but it is not as central to their identity.

This show is more typical:


Dami U Damak (Arabic for Blood to Blood) – 2008 Season – Show #100 Part 1 (Source)
NOTE: Only the opening song is in Arabic, the rest is in Spanish.
From San Luis, in Central Argentina
.

Notice how the show shows Christian priests, in the opening. Notice how the women seem quite liberated.

This show seems to be a retrospective show (It is their 100th show) and so they went over some past shows, and stories.

Notice at (5:30) the memorial to victims of the Lebanese-Israel war. Notice the Argentine flag in the crowd. These people are integrated.

What should be clear here is that in Argentina the vast majority of Arabs are Christians, and assimilated ones at that. They set the cultural tone. Actually, there was a resevoir of anger at Muslim extremism after the AMIA bombing of 1994. The Arabs in Argentina were quick to distance themselves from it; and since the vast majority are Christian, this was not too hard.


1There is good reason to believe that part of gaucho apparel hails from Moriscos (Hispanicized Moors – lit: Moorish Ones) who came to South America. That is a story in itself; but there is a debate whether the word gaucho comes from Indian tongues or from a Arab-Moorish word for cow herder. I lean towards the Arab-Moorish view.

History Lesson on the Arab-Argentine show: Desde el Aljibe (From the Well).
I edited it from the original source.
Source: ElAljibedetodos, a viewer who assembled hundreds of these videos on his YouTube channel.

After the re-conquest of Spain by the Catholic forces, the Moors left in Spain were eventually forced to Catholicize. But their assimilation was weak. There were occasional uprisings in defense of Islam, oddly enough, led by some with Spanish names. By 1609, the Spanish had enough and expelled all the Moriscos from Spain, even many who had sincerely converted to Catholicism. The Spanish just did not trust them.

It is believed that many of these Moriscos made it to Argentina, rather than be expelled to North Africa. Expecting equal treatment in the colonies, they were often abused as racially inferior. Many of them deserted into the interior where they mixed with Spanish outcasts, Basque adventurers, Indians, and later black slaves, to produce a new stock … which would become the gauchos. They would eventually totally Catholicize (if they were not Catholic already), losing any connection with their Arab roots, except their wardrobes which smack of an oriental fashion, not a European Spanish one.

The image we have of the gaucho now is white. This was the product of massive white immigration to Argentina in the mid to late 19th century. But when Argentina fought Spain for its independence, in the 1810s, massive white immigration had yet to start. The gauchos were quite mestizo. They played havoc with the Royal Spanish Armies and drove them out of the interior of Argentina, during the Gaucho Wars. They were responsible, to a large part, for Argentina’s Independence since the Spanish Armies were no match for them.

In the end, the gaucho descendents of the Moriscos got their revenge. The Spanish government threw them out of Spain. Their descendents would throw the Spanish goverment out of Argentina.

The Arabs of Argentina take pride in this, though with some degree of exaggeration. Most Arab-Argentines arrived long after the gaucho wars, and during the time of European immigration. Most old line gauchos (from pre-1870 stocks) are probably not aware of any possible Morisco ancestry, and would indentify as Spanish or Basque with possibly a mix of Indian. Newer gauchos, of post 1870 ancestry, would be of European, often Basque or Irish, stock.

The red neck kerchief of the gaucho is clearly European Basque in ancestry. A lot of gauchos wear berets instead of gaucho sombreros. The beret would be Basque in origin.

But, even if exaggerated, the picture of the gaucho shows that Argentine-Arabs identify with Argentina.