The International Day of the Lebanese Emigrant
In every Lebanese family, there is a story about a dear one or more, who emigrated during this generation’s time or previously. The departure of every single one of those adventurers left painful scars in the hearts of his or her family and friends. Thousands of young people started leaving their villages of Mount-Lebanon during the last decades of the nineteenth century to different destinations all over the world. The phenomenon has been continuing since then. The density of this human drain fluctuates, following the economic, political and social conditions in the small country, and in the region in general.
My designation as Lebanon’s Ambassador to Mexico in 1999, gave me the opportunity, for the first time in my career, to serve in a country where I found a vibrant community of Lebanese emigrants and mostly, descendants of Lebanese origin. The experience was rich and fulfilling in every aspect. The memories of that long episode are meaningful, to me and many others. In the winter of 2000, few months after my arrival to Mexico, I received two prominent figures of the Mexican-Lebanese Community: Gabriel Chemali and Antonio Trabulsi, who both are former Presidents of Centro Libanés in Mexico and, committed leaders of the Lebanese community and its interests . They came to propose the idea of celebrating the Lebanese Emigrant in one day of the year, in Lebanon and all over the world, any place where there is a Lebanese community. They were asking for the Embassy’s support in order to obtain an official decision from the Lebanese government for this end. The idea was great and motivating, for we all have a sentimental stock for our ancestors ,the first explorers who paved the way for many others in the forthcoming generations.
In order to have a concrete proposal, we discussed the convenient time of the year for the celebration. During the summer in the northern hemisphere, many are absent and are on vacation. We had to give a great consideration for the Lebanese community in the southern hemisphere, because there we have the majority of the Lebanese descendants after all. March is the month in which they are back from their summer vacation, but the end of this month might overlap with religious festivities. We arrived to the conclusion of choosing the second weekend of March as the convenient date for the international day of the Lebanese Emigrant. The proposal was put in written form, and was later translated in the Embassy and then sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants in order to have it approved and later, proposed in the Council of Ministers who has the final decision. This initiative required extra personal efforts in the following months. Finally in October of 2000 the Council of Ministers adopted the proposal of the Mexican Lebanese Community, and presented by the Ambassador, to proclaim the celebrations of the International Day of the Lebanese Emigrant in the second weekend of March every year.
In Mexico we did stick to the celebration and to its date, not just in Mexico City, but in other cities where we have Lebanese clubs… and they are emotional moments for many. We received messages from the Minister of Foreign Affairs whenever we sent a reminder of the occasion.
In Lebanon, few commited personalities gather on that day, with some Latin American Ambassadors, around the statue of the Lebanese Emigrant, which is also a product of the Lebanese Mexican Community and has another story, to celebrate the day. Few communities elsewhere in the world are celebrating on and off the occasion and, some made it a part of the quarrel between the different factions of the emigrants’ representatives.
The thousands of brave men and women who left their families and loved ones in search of a better life overseas, those who struggled all of their lives for the sake of their children and grand children, and gave their country a great image, were the Lebanese heroes under different skies., Therefore they deserve to be remembered and recognized. The Lebanese emigration is a continuous phenomenon, for it is happening still every day. The Lebanese families in Lebanon are actually dispersed all over the world. Their circumstances are different, but this fact unites us in our suffering, and it should unite us all over the world in one particular day, which this year will be on March 9th. Let’s meet and celebrate.
NOUHAD MAHMOUDMexico March 2014