AQ Feature

How Syrian Refugees Are Succeeding in Latin America

An AQ special section looks at the success stories, the challenges, and the ways all of us could do more to help.
Syrian refugee Nada Alshebli jokes with a Uruguayan companion (Matilde Compodonico/AP)

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How Latin America is responding to an influx of Syrian refugees

The Syrian refugee crisis is one of the great humanitarian causes of our time. In Latin America, many countries have welcomed migrants with open arms. In this special section from our first issue of 2016, AQ looks at the success stories, the challenges, and the ways all of us could do more to help.

We begin with a reminder that movement between Latin America and the Middle East is nothing new. Ever tried tacos al pastor or sipped on yerba mate? The influence that MIddle Eastern migration has had on these and other iconic Latin American traditions might surprise you, as our piece on the centuries-old ties between the two regions shows.

We also take a closer look at some more recent arrivals. Some share stories of triumph, as with Ali Jeratli, who arrived in São Paulo speaking just one word of Portuguese and ended up as an on-the-pitch translator at the World Cup in 2014. Or Essa Hassan, the first Syrian student to arrive in Mexico as part of a non-profit educational program. 

For others, the journey has been more difficult. The Alshebli family arrived in Uruguay looking for a place to rebuild, but found that life away from Syria was not quite what they had imagined. 

Finally, we asked some of the region's most incisive thinkers to consider what Latin American policymakers can do to make sure the region is accomplishing all it can to help ease the plight of those affected by the war in Syria. 

See the links below for more on the Syrian refugee crisis and Latin America.


How a Syrian Refugee Fled to Brazil And Wound Up Translating at the World Cup

When Ali Jeratli arrived in São Paulo in February 2014, the Syrian refugee understood just one word of Portuguese: bem-vindo (welcome). He had no contacts, no guidebook, and no more than $700 to make a new start after fleeing the war in his homeland. But he had determination.

Syrian Refugees in Uruguay Face an Uncertain Future

Uruguay's invitation in late 2014 sounded like a dream to the Alshebli family, who had been living in a cramped Lebanon apartment for more than a year since they fled Syria. But it didn’t take long for a series of cultural and financial shocks to leave them feeling defeated.

Why a Mexican Education Program for Syrian Refugees Only Has One Student

Essa Hassan landed in Mexico City in the middle of a media storm. Days after the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed ashore on the coast of Turkey, Hassan became the unwitting symbol of Mexico’s efforts — or lack of them — to assist Syrian refugees

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

Arabs have been migrating to Latin America, establishing cultural connections, and contributing to Latin America’s development since the 19th century. Today’s influx of Syrian refugees — while a new source of debate — is only the latest chapter in a long history.

5 Ideas to Boost Latin American Refugee Policy

Many Latin American countries deserve the world’s gratitude for opening their doors to Syrian refugees. Their generosity and humanity stand out at a time when many other countries are turning people away. But what happens after the refugees arrive?
Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.