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Brazilians celebrate as city of Recife unveils 'Palestine Square'

May 23, 2022 at 3:30 pm

Palestine Square is unveiled in Recife, May 2022 [Ivan Moraes]

Dozens of people waving Palestinian flags gathered in the city of Recife, in Pernambuco State in Brazil on Saturday to celebrate the naming and unveiling of “Palestine Square”. The celebrations included Dabke dance performances, live singers and people wearing traditional Palestinian clothes. Among a number of speeches in support of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian community in Recife, was one by City Councillor Ivan Moraes.

“I am very happy to carry out the inauguration of Palestine Square in Recife city this morning,” said Moraes. “It is very important to know that there was a unanimous vote to name a public square after Palestine as an expression of the solidarity of the city’s residents with the struggle of the Palestinian people. This is a more than deserved tribute for the Palestinian community in Recife that is growing day by day.”

This is not the first such square or street in Brazil. There are many cities with streets and squares in the name of Palestine which all help to keep its name and cause in the public eye. “Members of the council proposed different acts of solidarity with the Palestinian people. As well as the public square, there was a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people or a municipal anthem including Palestine. Unanimous approval was given to Palestine Square.”

Recife has the second largest Palestinian community in Brazil, with around 5,000 Palestinians and their descendants living in the state capital. Despite this, the history of the community is relatively unknown in the country, where many people still don’t know much about the struggle and resistance of the Palestinian people.

Representatives, activists and members of the Palestinian community work regularly to make the Brazilian people aware of the cause. According to Moraes, Palestine Square is intended to boost Palestinian identity. “The Palestinian residents of Recife add historical and cultural significance to the city.”

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During the first three decades of the twentieth century, Palestinians played a large part in the city’s small businesses and markets. They owned dozens of small shops in a particular neighbourhood in Recife. Its municipal market, one of the largest in the city, was the meeting place for Palestinian immigrants. Today it is still the place to buy thread, cosmetics, fabrics, sophisticated spices, jewellery and perfume. The Palestinians have now invested in wider economic activities. They can also be found in the major professions, such as medicine, the law and education.

The Legislative Assembly of Pernambuco State named 15 November as Palestinian Immigration Day. It’s the anniversary of the arrival of the first Palestinian immigrants in Recife. “The Palestinian community here flourishes today in our economy and our culture, so many people are interested to know about the struggles of the Palestinian community in Brazil. The people of Brazil have a very strong international spirit here, so we try to help the Palestinians and give them the necessary support,” Moraes told me.

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In 2019, the city of Recife also adopted 29 November as the official Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. In a joint initiative by Councillor Jayme Asfora and Moraes, the City Council of Recife held a formal meeting in 2019 to celebrate “125 years of the immigration of the Palestinian people in Brazil”.

In Brazil, solidarity with the Palestinians is fast becoming a regular feature of daily life. The naming of streets and public squares is part of the ongoing process of mapping the close relations between Brazil and Palestine.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.