Arab Ancestry in Latin America

Avatar of Mauricio Sierra

There has been recent turmoil in the Middle East, as there continues to be an ongoing issue between Israel and Palestine. Palestinians, a people who are ethnically Arab, have a very strong presence in Hispanic communities, as do other Arab nations. This column will seek to shed light on the Arab Latino and the Arab Hispanic community.

Arab Mexicans are an important group within Mexican society. There are around 1,100,000 Mexican citizens of Arab descent, primarily of Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian heritage. Arab Mexicans have contributed many significant cultural aspects to the country’s culture, with the famous “tacos al pastor” dish having origins in Arab cuisine. There are also many significant Mexicans of Arab descent. For example, Carlos Slim was at one time considered the richest man in the world, Salma Hayek is a very well known Mexican actress who is of half Lebanese descent through her father, and Jaime Camil is another famous Mexican actor who is half Egyptian. 

Another country with significant Arab ancestry is Brazil, where the government suggested that there are around seven million Brazilian citizens of Lebanese descent and four million of Syrian descent. Brazilian Arabs have also had a strong cultural influence, and a prime example of this can be seen through the language, where many loanwords from Arabic have moved into Portuguese. For example, the word esfirra in Portuguese originally came from the Arabic sfihas, a classic Arab dish. 

Chile is another example of a country with a significant Arab diaspora, having around 450,000 to 500,000 Chileans of full or partial Palestinian descent, or about 2.5 percent of the population. There are other Arab groups within Chile as well, creating a population of about 800,000 Chileans of Arab ancestry or about 4.4 percent of the total population. 

We must value people from all over the world, as they are all unique and valuable. We must also do our share to be informed about the issues around the world and comprehend their significance.