Illuminated in red and white, São Paulo’s town hall and several public buildings showed their support for the Lebanese people in the aftermath of the disaster that hit Beirut. Solidarity, the economic capital which is home to half of the 8.6 million descendants of Lebanese from Brazil has even declared three days of mourning. Son of Lebanese, the former mayor, Fernando Haddad (Workers’ Party-left), cries “Its Lebanon, punished by history, and its people, synonymous with resistance and freedom”.
→ READ. Explosions in Beirut: Lebanese youth express their anger
A desolation that seems to unite politicians from all sides. “We are home to the largest community of Lebanese in the world, and feel this tragedy as if it were in our territory”, reacted Jair Bolsonaro. Words that aim above all to flatter voters of Lebanese origin, believes the novelist Milton Hatoum, himself a descendant of Lebanese.
“Beirut is an emotional city, I have family and friends there, it fascinates me”, attempts to summarize the writer, who saw the city in ruins in 1992 and rebuilt in 2006. Several of his works refer to the land of the Cedar, land of his ancestors and are nourished by the stories told by his grandfather. Francophone, born in Manaus, in the Amazon, he almost apologizes for not mastering Arabic and for not having Lebanese nationality.
“In Brazil, being Arab is not a defect”
“Brazil is the only country I know where being Arab is not a defect. When I say that I am Lebanese, people are impressed ”, says journalist Chantal Rayes, established in Brazil since 2001. She evokes both gastronomy and a certain idea of solidarity and hospitality that she perceives on a daily basis and which define her libanity.
From former President Michel Temer (MDB-right) to Globo presenter William Bonner, it is not uncommon for Lebanese descendants to have anglicized or Brazilianized their family name, while remaining proud of their origins.
“One of my favorite sports is to flush out the surnames of Arabs”, explains the journalist, with reference to this simplification which includes Turks, Moroccans, Lebanese and Syrians. All are “Arab” in Brazil.
Touched by the messages of support received from her relatives, Chantal Rayes wonders if the diaspora will receive newcomers as a result of this tragedy, the laws of Brazil being particularly welcoming.
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In the meantime, business leaders, traders or doctors are mobilizing to send funds to Lebanon. Despite the 10,000 kilometers that separate the two countries, it is often from the port of Beirut, now damaged by the explosion, that the ancestors of these Lebanese-Brazilians left.