Christmas fair celebrates Lebanese-Brazilian culture, and gives back
BEIRUT: Amid the ongoing holiday flurry, 20 Lebanese-Brazilian women exhibited their handmade goods at the “Jingle and Mingle” market Tuesday as part of a seasonal celebration of community bonds and giving back.
Classic holiday tunes in Portuguese played over the speakers as the women, representing the Arteiras do Brasil collective, sold their crafts at the second edition of the holiday market hosted at the Brazil-Lebanon Cultural Center (Brasiliban) in Ashrafieh.
The event was a celebration of Brazilian-Lebanese culture, with heavy emphasis on the former, as servings of traditional food filled the air with savory scents different from traditional Mediterranean fare.
This year, 10 percent of the event’s proceeds have gone to benefit Empower Through Integration, an American NGO founded by a Lebanese-American to promote inclusivity for visually impaired individuals in Lebanese and American societies.
ETI’s Lebanon director Anna Barbosa, who attended the market, explained that the organization seeks to work with the wider community in order to increase awareness and end stigmas associated with sight impairments.
In addition to awareness programing, ETI also provides services for the visually impaired – a task that Barbosa said would be made easier with the funds generated at Jingle and Mingle.
“Normally, I don’t give in to the commercial aspect of Christmas,” Brazilian Ambassador to Lebanon Paulo Cordeiro said, laughing as he held several small bags of goods Tuesday afternoon.
“But in this case, it’s for a good cause,” he added.
Current figures estimate that around 7 million Brazilians have Lebanese ancestry.
Cordeira said about 16,000 Brazilians live in Lebanon, adding that this underscored the importance of maintaining strong relations between the two countries.
“The integration process was quite positive,” the ambassador told The Daily Star.
“Today, there is a caucus of Brazilian deputies with Lebanese roots in Brazil’s [Parliament],” he said.
According to Cordeiro, the first group of Lebanese nationals who immigrated to Brazil were largely Maronite. Now, he said, the Lebanese population in Brazil is religiously diverse and lives across the country.
Mona Hachem, a vendor at the market, said she was born and raised in Brazil to Lebanese parents before moving back to her ancestral country when she married her Lebanese husband.
Living in south Lebanon’s Sidon, Hachem now makes artisanal soaps as a hobby and a way to make additional income.
“When my kids were at school, I started doing crafts for fun, for myself,” she said.
“The first time I cooked the first batch of soap, I couldn’t stop making more.”
Hachem now runs her own business, Mounaia, which sells a line of homemade body care products.
Throughout the morning, she spoke with the other women running the Jingle and Mingle market, with whom she often meets.
“There are so many Brazilians here,” she said.
“All across the country, you can find people within our community, just as there are many Lebanese there.
“Some people end up coming back here, some people don’t. It depends.”
Living across the country and representing all sects, members of the Arteiras do Brasil collective are connected by their strong ties to both countries as well as their handicrafts.
“There are many Brazilian ladies in our community in Lebanon with a lot of talent, and Arteiras is one group which represents that.
“Even though they live in different areas in Lebanon, they come to work on their crafts together, or just socialize,” Brasilibal Director Monica Bazi said.
“When they approached us to do this market, we agreed. It’s a great opportunity for others in the community as well as other Lebanese to meet them.” –