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LACS Lecture. “Syrian Migration to Latin America: The Continued Role of Grassroots Organizations”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015
12:00 AM
1636 School of Social Work Building, International Institute

Upon their arrival, Arabic-speaking immigrants across Latin America realized quickly that they could not rely on Latin American governments to provide them with all of the resources they needed in order to transition smoothly into their new lives.  In the 19th and early 20th century - in the Americas and beyond - these immigrants began to actively cultivate an internal support network. Hometown clubs, mutual aid societies, intellectual circles, business bureaus, heritage associations, charity groups, and religious institutions became pillars of many Arab-Latin American communities. These aid organizations were originally set up to provide not only language training, but medical care, food, small business loans, and religious services to newly arrived Arab immigrants in Latin America. At moments when Latin American states could not provide a particular service, these voluntary groups filled the gaps. In the 21st century, many of these organizations still exist, run by Latin American citizens  - most of whom were born in Latin America, but can trace their roots back to the Middle East. A century or more after they were founded, many of these groups remain strongly connected to events happening thousands of miles away in the Mediterranean. This talk will situate current efforts by grassroots organizations within Latin American Arab diaspora communities within a century of historical context of immigration flows and networks between Latin America and the Arab world.

Dr. Lily Balloffet is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at North Carolina State University. She is currently working on her book manuscript, titled Mahjar Maps: Argentina in the Global Arab Diaspora, which is a transregional study of Middle Eastern immigrants in Argentina from the early twentieth century through World War II and the early post-war era.

Co-sponsored by Arab and Muslim American Studies Program and the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies.