For over a century, inhabitants of today’s Lebanon/yesterday’s Ottoman Empire have traveled to all corners of the world in search of better economic opportunities than they could find at home. In the 1910s, I have read, remittances made up 40% of Mount Lebanon’s economy – a statistic that may be higher than today’s.
A few weeks ago, H pointed out a statue on the Beirut end of the Dora highway and told me that the Mexican Embassy erected this statue in honor of all the Lebanese who migrated to Mexico. I hadn’t realized that Mexico had been such a Lebanese hotspot, although I suppose the famous Sr. Carlos Helou should have been a hint.
The day we took my parents up to Jbeil I took a photograph of the statue. Apparently most of the Lebanese-to-Mexico migration happened in the early 1900s – the statue is definitely not dressed in today’s fashions!
As I was uploading the photo today, I decided to see what other information I could find about it. H told me that the Mexican flag used to fly at the statue – and I found this Daily Star article on Sala de Prensa:
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
BEIRUT: Two separate ceremonies were held in Mexico and Lebanon over the weekend to highlight the contributions of Lebanese emigrants in the North American country.
In Mexico, a public monument dedicated to Lebanese emigrants was formally unveiled on Saturday in the port city of Veracruz, a popular landing point for Lebanese entering the country. The monument, which was officially dedicated during a commemorative ceremony, includes a replica of the bronze statue of the Lebanese Emigrant on Charles Helou Avenue in Achrafieh, Beirut.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, a similar dedication ceremony was held at the statue of the Lebanese Emigrant, which faces the Port of Beirut, a main point of departure for the thousands of Lebanese who have left the country for Mexico over the past century.
The Beirut ceremony was attended by former Minister and Maronite League leader Michel Edde; the head of the Mexican Lebanese Friendship Association, Georges Hayak; the Mexican ambassador to Lebanon, Jorge Alvarez; and the honorary consul of Mexico, Roger Abed. Members of the Mexican community in Lebanon also participated in the event.
Both ceremonies highlighted “the contributions of Lebanese emigrants to Mexico, as well as their deep attachment to their ancestral roots and land,” a statement issued by the Mexican Embassy said.
“Many young Lebanese and Mexican men and women are thinking of or planning to emigrate to one of the corners of this world,” it said, adding that it is therefore high time to shed light on the multi-faceted phenomenon of migration.
It said Lebanese emigrants are an “integral component” of the population of Mexico, and “are involved in every walk of life and successful in every profession.” – The Daily Star.
I’m delighted that so many Lebanese have found success in Mexico, but I wish that more of them would return to Lebanon and open Mexican restaurants in Beirut. We love the setting and the decor at El Molino, but the food is very hit-or-miss.
So tonight we decided to honor Lebanon’s Mexican connection with home-made fajitas and corn tortillas that my mother lovingly brought from one of Iowa’s many ethnic groceries. They were absolutely delicious – viva la Mexicanidad libanés!