El Salvador's Palestinian connection

There is a sizable population of persons of Palestinian heritage who live in El Salvador, including president Tony Saca and former FMLN leader Schafik Handal. El Salvador's ambassador to Israel explained the connection in an interview posted on Haaretz.com:

Asked about the connection between Palestine and El Salvador, the ambassador explains that "during the Ottoman Empire, the Christians of Bethlehem sent the young people of the community to other countries, in order to prevent them from being drafted into the army. Some of them reached El Salvador, and today there is a community there of 70,000 Palestinian Christians, most of them from Bethlehem. They generally send their sons to find a bride in Bethlehem and to bring her to El Salvador, and they send their daughters to find a bridegroom in Bethlehem, and they remain there. All the descendants of the women are El Salvadorians by law, so that we have a community of 400 Palestinian Salvadorians."


Anonymous said…
It is relevant to note that for long time, palestines or "turks" as they are called locally, where band and rather hated in the elite social groups, and where often banned of places such as the country clubs and restaurants. Ironically, some of our most outstanding social members are of Palestinian Heritage.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for finding.

I have come across Haaretz often and have a good deal of respect for the quality of its reporting.

In this case, though, I wonder if the reporter was not able to capture the nuance of Suzana's comments or if Suzana misrepresented the situation:
"They generally send their sons to find a bride in Bethlehem and to bring her to El Salvador [...] so that we have a community of 400 [native] Palestinian[s]"

Since the descendants of Palestinians number 70,000 according to Suzana, it stands to reason that you cannot have only 400 Palestinian natives brought during this generation, unless about 99% Salvadoreans of Palestinean descent stay celibate!

She may have meant that a very small portion of the descendants send for a bride in the ancestral land.

Moving on to an entirely different subject, far be from me to question the Ambassador's loyalty, and I do hope Relaciones Exteriores is an entirely professional entity, but golly, hopefully someone fully vetted our Ambassador, who must live under two red herrings:

(a) She is married to a national of the country where she represents us

(b) Her ethnic affiliation is the same as of her representation, where she happens to have spent formative years as university student. This might not be a serious consideration in say, the Netherlands, but you will allow me that Israel and Palestine are a sensitive case.

RREE may care to dispel any notions that curious citizens may have by making the details of the selection process public, and by publishing the resume of the Ambassador, as it is customary in many countries.

Anonymous said…
That's interesting. People fleeing persecution in the Ottoman Empire came to El Salvador as a safe haven. By the way, have you seen Plaza Palestina? It's just down the turn from Calle Del Mirador on the way to 79th Ave. There is also a half-completed monument to Yasir Arafat at the intersection of Jerusalem Ave. and Calle La Mascota. (Whose idea was that?)
Also, there is a sizable Jewish community in San Salvador, many of whom trace their ancestry to those fleeing persecution in Europe or the Ottoman Empire.
Anonymous said…
Half completed monument? Are you talking about Arafat's BUST (or were you being sarcastic?)? Because if you are... then the sculpture is complete. As to whose idea was that of erecting a bust in honor of what the Palestinian community could consider a "respectable" icon of their inheritence... I would say that the idea can be linked to them.

I have a question for those who interact with "representatives" of both Arab/Palestine community as well of the Jewish in this country, would you say that both communities have come to learn to live in peace in this nation where they remain the minority, yet void of any prosecution?
Anonymous said…
The general appearance of the Arafat monument gives me the impression that the work is not complete. My questions remain: whose idea was it to build this monument? Private citizens from the Palestinian community? The city of San Salvador? And why that particular location? Was the land donated? By whom? How was it funded? Privately or by the government? And, if I have not misjudged the appearance of the monument, when will it be finished? James
Anonymous said…
As I recall reading in the papers once, the monument was done with private funds, under private incentive. The land was intended for a monument by the alcaldia. So to ansewr your question, its done privatly under municpal acceptance.
Anonymous said…
The bust itself is complete, specially considering all the "fanfare" that ensued after it's ignauration. The irony of it is that the place where the bust was erected could be considered as symbolic of the Palestine people/leader and their connection with Jerusalem (the bust being erect at Avenida Jerusalen). I can see where anti-Arafat could make controversy out of this, but as stated in this entry... Palestine group in El Salvador is large, some of it's members are of El Salvador's most influential businessmen/politicians (i.e. Siman, Saca, Safie, Handal, Gadala), privately funded venture=a bust.

By the way, here are some links related to this bust:

Anonymous said…
Jews and arabs fighting again. can\t you people give it a break ? My country has given refuge to many peoples from around the world and the only payback we have gotten is abuse and racism. We got arabs, jews, catalans,germans and many more, controlling keyposts in our economy, politics and the media, (all of them with dual citizenships and homes in Florida and Europe, ready to run away when the next civil war comes around...) all they're worried about is benefiting economically from our modern slavery system that provides them with cheaply paid laborers. who gives a rat's ass about who's idea it was to erect a bust for arafat ? it was probably some local turco. No jew gives a shit about my country or about the fact that thousands of jewish lives were saved when my government (the only government in the world to do that ) issued them salvadoran passports to save them from Hitler's and the German peoples' wrath ? what did israel did for us during those dreadful years of civil war when we died like rats... nothing. We will forever remain a suffering people until the ruling elite of foreign descent decide to care about US and our people instead of bloody israel or palestine.
Anonymous said…
damn right bro.
By the way, thanks Tim for your time and energy in keeping this blog running. I LOVE EL SALVADOR TOO. BEST PEOPLE AND SURFING ON THE PLANET !!!
Anonymous said…
I think that the salvadoran people (latinos)should take pride in sharing their home with both the palestinian and the jewish minority communities living in El Salvador. I also think that any representations of such ancestrial descendency (like the statue of Arafat) should be respected. He was more a symbol of Palestinian rights that deserves admiration than anything else-- NOT A TERRORIST for those of you who are thinking that!!
Maybe this respect among the salv. population will earn El Salvador more attention as an active player within international affairs and particularly in the Middle East Conflict.
Anonymous said…
The problem of my country are those people from those countries that have nothing but sand. Those poeple are hard and bad. They only want to take but they don't want to give. They should live El Salvador and go back to their countries or if they want to stay they should show respect for the local colture. I am not talking about the jews, I mean the palestinians should get out or if they want to stay, they should repect the local colture. So far they have shown that they don't like salvadorean men and women because they want to marry only those from palestine.
Anonymous said…
To tell you the truth, I was not a ware that there was a Jewish or Palestinian Communities in El Salvador. Of course, I was raised here in the US and only learned about my culture from my parents (not the best history teachers).

I want to put this out there. The majority of us (salvadereans) come of a Mestizo background. It is possible that we may also have Palestinian, Jewish, German, Chineese, etc geneology. I figigure that since we are very unique from most central americans. Well we all need to look into or own geneology before we start calling names to these ethnic and labeling these minority groups.
Anonymous said…
I seriously dont understand that comment stating that Palestinians in El Salvador dislike the salvadorean people because they tend to keep marriage within their culture. WHAT has that to do with them living in the country, Salvadoreans marry whoever they want, so do the Palestinians...that is completely personal and should NOT irritate anybody. They want to mantain their culture and traditions, hence they marry their own people. As long as they respect the salvadorean community, and I reckon they do, anything to do with their personal lives is nobody else's issue. Besides, do not get on the arabs nerves, chances are... we'll end up workin' for 'em!!
Anonymous said…
Ah, Christ, I should have known that there was an Israeli connection to all that killing in El Salvador! Wake up JEWISH PEOPLES! ACCEPT JESUS! Time is short for you who do not!
Sukram said…
(To the person who said palestinians don't like salvadorans because they choose palestinian marriage partners):
Give me a break. Palestinians do that because it's a cultural thing. After all some palestinians in el salvador DO marry non-palestinians. Are you telling people who they should or shouldn't marry? No jodás. Y no te metás en cosas que no pertenecen a ti.

(And to James, the person complaining about the arafat bust): Who cares!?!? Stay out of it. This is not israel, no matter how much you would like it to be. It's not enough that palestinian civilians get hassled in Israel, now you have to come here and bring your zionist agenda to El Salvador. For all his faults (and he had many), even Arafat is preferable to the right-wing death squad government trained by the CIA and Mossad. He is no worse than killers like Ariel Sharon, Menachem Begin, David Ben Gurion, Avraham Stern, etc.

Ray Barquero said it right - we should proudly share our land with both palestinians and jews, as long as they don't try to bring violence or oppression to El Salvador. We've had enough of that bullshit.

Hasta la victoria siempre,
Unknown said…
Im glad I found this article! Beacuse I was puzzled for a while on the question of "Why and how did palestinians come to El Salvador?" Im glad I found this beacuse I am of palestinian descendency and now my questions are answered!
Unknown said…
Im glad I found beacuse I am of palestinian descendency but I was skeptical about it beacuse I would say "How and why did palestinians even go to El Salvador?" Now I know its true!
CecyintheUSA said…
Palestinians fled Israel and Palestine between 1900-1925 They were christian palestinians, and were being killed by the Ottoman Empire for their faith. They got Turkish passports, and came to Latin America. Many of them settled in to Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. Some of them chose El Salvador for the closeness to their homeland weather, and found a great opportunity to open businesses with hardly any competence. Salvadorean Palestinians are known as Turks (turcos) Our Salvadorean ancestors didn't know that they were fleeing Palestine, and had escaped through Turky. Consequently, we nick named them Turcos. They were mainly merchants of textiles, and other goods. Eventually, opened department stores like: Schwartzs, Siman, and Almacen Europa, just to mention some. Presently, have financed many, or all the Mega Malls in el Salvador, and have created a going to the Mall culture from the salvadoreans who receive financial help from their relatives living in the US, Australia, Canada, and Europe.
They have intermarried to rich salvadoreans, and to prove it the ex president, Antonio Saca's full name is: Elias Antonio Saca Gonzalez. Although, they intermarried among their race, will marry someone outside from it. Their culture is salvadorean elite, happy people, act and think like a typical latin salvadorean. Like any rich person in the world, they also look down at the less fortunate, and un-educated population, even, the non palestenians Elite class looks down to the rest of the have not citizens in El Salvador. They have managed to monopolized a lot of the major business structure in the country. With money, their young get to be educated in american, and european universities.
I don't think that Salvadorean Palestinians intend to leave El Salvador, there is to much to loose there, and is the only country they know as homeland. Christian Palestineans are still being persecuted for their faith in palestine and The Middle East.
Salvadorean Palestinians have enriched our culture, and they, also have benefited in our land, in the same, We the Salvadoreans that left our homeland have found a new place for our families abroad, and we were escaping civil war, persecution, and poverty in the decade of the 1980's. Many of us lied that we were from Mexican descent, so we would not be deported to El Salvador. In the end, the will to survive is what makes human beings, be Salvadoreans or Palestinians to have to flee their homeland to save their families, ONLY with the hope that they will find a better place for their generations to come.