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Seeking to understand the Lebanese *

Trinidad Express / Post Bourdain Part I

The recent Anthony Bourdain show highlighting our country, presented a teachable moment for all of us, when Mario Sabga-Aboud proclaimed the Syrian-Lebanese group to be the “most powerful” in the country. He has since apologized, and we should be generous in accepting that apology. But “the spoken word”, the famous proverb tells us, is one of the four things that come not back. I have been prompted in the aftermath of this to try to educate myself and hopefully by so doing to increase public understanding a bit more, about the Syrian/Lebanese diaspora. To do justice to this I have opted for a two-part column, the first focussing on the Lebanese, and the second on the Syrians.

There is a kind of silence in this country that attends the doings of these communities, sometimes broken by shoo-shoo, much of this having to do with the fact that these communities live cloistered existences. Borrowing from Furnivall, they “mix but do not combine”. Describing the expansion of the Lebanese community in Cote d’Ivoire Bierwirth explained that this occurred based on “marriage, birth and the immigration of kin.” A closed shop. As in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, early immigrant families there established footholds and “short of funds and credit…traded in relatively inexpensive traditional commodities, produced and consumed within the region.”

 

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