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Palestinian Salvadoran

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Title: Palestinian Salvadoran  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Palestinian Haitian, K'iche' people, Demographics of El Salvador, Arab diaspora, Palestinian diaspora
Collection: Palestinian Diaspora in North America, Salvadoran People of Palestinian Descent
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Palestinian Salvadoran

Palestinian Salvadoran
Total population
Regions with significant populations
San Salvador
Spanish · Palestinian Arabic
Islam · Christianity

Palestinian Salvadoran is a Salvadoran citizen of Palestinian descent or a Palestine-born person residing in El Salvador. There are approximately 70,000 Salvadorans with Palestinian ancestry.[1]


  • History 1
    • Salvadoran Civil War 1.1
  • Culture 2
  • Notable people 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


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. Because of their Ottoman passports, Middle Easterners in Central America were labeled as "Turks," and barred from civil society, public organizations and government posts.

Discrimination and xenophobia ran deep; legacies of Spain's racially obsessed colonial policies in Latin America divided subjects into more than a dozen different ethnic classifications. As Palestinians continued to flee the turmoil of their homeland during the first half of the 20th century, El Salvador may have seemed an unlikely and unwelcoming destination.[2]

Salvadoran Civil War

El Salvador's internal war covered roughly the same timeframe as of that in Lebanon, and was similar also in its degrees of brutality and foreign interference. El Salvador's war was initially about political ideology - a guerilla revolt led by mostly middle and upper-class Communists - but quickly degenerated into a cycle of massacres and Cold War power-wrangling.

Many Palestinians, with their considerable investments, found themselves caught up in the conflict, and thus began their legacy of political involvement in the country whose government had, until the war, been dominated by Spanish-Americans. Most of the wealthier Middle Eastern families sided with the pro-American government, fearing the dissolution of their enterprises were the Communists to win. Ironically, this same government was forced to rely heavily on Israeli military aid to maintain their foothold in the country.

Not all of the Arabs in El Salvador were business leaders, however, and many of them sympathized with the Communist agenda. Schafik Handal was one of these: having earned his first scars fighting against a military dictatorship in the 1940s, he rose to prominence 40 years later as a guerilla leader in the Communist Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN), which received much of its support from Yasser Arafat and the PLO.[3]


The Palestinians in El Salvador display a curious amalgam of local and imported lifestyles. While few of them speak Arabic fluently (although it seems to be fashionable for members of the third and fourth generations to study the language at universities in the US), all of them still call their favorite foods by their Arabic names, and most have retained a lexicon of polite French that emerges occasionally at dinner parties.

Palestinian culture has begun to emerge from within private circles into the public domain, most visibly in the creation of the Plaza Palestina, which commemorates the Bethlehem roots of most of El Salvador's Arabs, in San Salvador. The plaza, which features historical information on Palestine, has been hotly contested because of its omission of any reference to modern Israel, whose government has threatened to revoke foreign aid because of the monument.

The public charity of Middle Easterners in the country has also contributed to this effect: the wealthy Simans sponsor a free drug-rehabilitation program in El Salvador and a scholarship fund for Palestinians at the Catholic Bethlehem University.[4]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ Tim's El Salvador Blog. "El Salvador's Palestinian connection". Retrieved February 26, 2006. 
  2. ^ The Daily Star. "El Salvador: Central American Palestine of the West?". Retrieved April 27, 2004. 
  3. ^ The Daily Star. "El Salvador: Central American Palestine of the West?". Retrieved April 27, 2004. 
  4. ^ The Daily Star. "El Salvador: Central American Palestine of the West?". Retrieved April 27, 2004. 
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