Monday, May 6th, 2013

The Latin American Dream

Viva Los Turcos: Latin America and the Arab connection

Despite the obstacles, Latin Americans of Middle Eastern descent seem to have been disproportionately successful. Carlos Slim Helú, the richest man in the world, according to the Forbes rich list, is a Mexican of Lebanese descent (Slim is a hispanicised version of Salim). Slim is not the only Lebanese Latin American gracing the pages of business magazines, Carlos Ghosn, the current CEO of Renault and Nissan, is a Brazilian of Lebanese descent who was Fortune magazine’s man of the year in 2003.


According to Colombian writer Luis Fayed, whilst the christian supicion of arabs’ endures in Latin America as  in all parts of the world,  Latin America is probably the place where the Arab community has achieved the most  “complete” integration of anywhere in the world. The Lebanese in Colombia feel Colombian not Lebanese, and thus do not feel the need to write about the immigrant experiences as opposed to “Arab immigrants in Europe, or (people) of other nationalities, will always write about how they’ve integrated (into the new society). They always write about that, and the difficulties they’re having, how they’ve accommodated to society. They talk about justices and injustices … They never stop having the feeling of being from (elsewhere),” he said.

The Arabic world has a long history of cultural exchange with Spain that later expanded to Latin America and continues to this day. The next time you see a girl belly dancing in a reggaeton video or a Latin American politician with an arabic last name, you can put it down to brave Middle Eastern immigrants who in spite of difficulties and discrimination have gone on to fulfil their Latin American dream.

Arabs do better in Latin America than they do in the Arab world.