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The Surprisingly Deep Centuries-Old Ties Between the Middle East and Latin America

February 05, 2016

The first time I stepped into a Syrian home, I was greeted by a family drinking Argentine yerba mate and watching a popular Mexican soap opera dubbed into Arabic. It was the summer of 1998, and I was in Syria researching Levantine migration to Latin America. Evidence of that migration wasn’t hard to find. As that year’s World Cup got under way, Brazilian flags unfurled from many balconies in Damascus — in honor of relatives who had moved to São Paulo and other Brazilian cities.

Those family ties stretch back as much as 150 years. Arabs have been migrating to Latin America,...

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