Living the Brazilian dream

How Lebanese immigrants became masters of Latin America’s biggest country

Shot of the Christ the Redeemer monument in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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The world is watching Brazil. With the World Cup only two weeks from completion, a spotlight has been shone upon Latin America’s largest country. It is a rising force — the world’s seventh largest economy may have slowed down but it is far from dipping into decline. In 2016 it will also host the Olympic games.

Yet the role of the Lebanese in the emergence of what will surely prove to be one of the 21st century’s giants has too often been forgotten. While Lebanon itself continues to struggle — seemingly bouncing from crisis to crisis — the 6–8 million strong Lebanese diaspora in Brazil have gone from strength to strength.

As our historical analysis shows, since the first Lebanese migrants found their way to Brazil’s shores in the late 1800s, they have risen over several generations from the most basic of tradesmen into some of the top jobs in various professions.

This special report aims to introduce the diaspora outside of Lebanon to the Lebanese inside. We will meet some of the most influential Brazilians — from construction giants to cultural leaders, from top judges to top explorers. Among these interviewees is none other than Michel Temer — Brazil’s vice president and quite possibly the most powerful person of Lebanese descent in the world.


Historical overview: How the Lebanese conquered Brazil

Can Lebanon attract more Brazilian investment?

A home for everyone: Lebanon can learn from Brazil’s attitude to immigrants

– In depth: Michel Temer, the Brazilian Vice President

– In depth: Francisco Rezek, former Supreme Court judge

– In depth: Amyr Klink, Latin America’s Indiana Jones

Success stories:

Milton Hatoum, the writer

Denise Milan, the artist

Jorge Takla, the theater director

Henry Maksoud-Neto, the hotelier

Ana Estela Haddad, the anti-poverty campaigner

Fause Haten, the designer

Gustavo Chacra, the journalist

Samir Yazbek, the playwright

Ernesto Zarzur, the construction kingpin

Read the rest of the articles from the special series on Lebanese successes in Brazil as they are published here over the coming weeks, or pick up a copy of the entire special report in Executive’s July print edition.

Joe Dyke

Joe has extensive experience covering the Syrian crisis, oil and gas, and Lebanese government and regulatory authorities, among other topics. He was Executive's online editor from 2012 to 2014, and led the Economics & Policy section from 2013 to 2014.