The traces of the El Turcos, who crossed the oceans to find a job in South America at the end of the 1800s with Ottoman passports in their hands, and lost their identity after the Ottomans withdrew from the historical scene, are still spread all over the continent today. The treacherous traces left by the El Turcos, who settled in South American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Chile a hundred years ago, and their number today exceeds 20 million, are being clarified by TIKA. Mentioned in Marquez’s novel Red Monday and Chaplin’s The Immigrant, El Turcos reminds us of a sad story.
In the late 1800’s, in the wave of immigration from the Middle East under the Ottoman rule to the new world, they followed a dream and went to America by crossing the ocean. At the end of their journey with brand new hopes, they lost their identities and began to be called ‘El Turco’, which often refers to the ‘other’.
The story of this sad journey of immigrants, who set foot on the new continent with an Ottoman passport, was transferred to the screen as a whole from the beginning. ‘El Turco Documentary’, the first episode of which was screened on TRT Türk last Thursday, tells the story of the Ottomans who migrated to South America from Ottoman lands in the previous century in pursuit of new dreams. We have also brought to our pages the great wave of emigration, the ‘El Turco’ of South America, each of which turned into bitter and sweet sad memories, in pursuit of great hopes, with all their history. Here are the old Ottomans of the new world, who are based on the door of the American continent with the Ottoman passport.
Israfil Kuralay, who has shot the El Turcos in a 13-part documentary with dozens of domestic and international consultants, in addition to the shootings they have shot in seven different countries, has started to follow the story of the el Turcos from Lebanon, where it began a hundred years ago. The financing of the documentary, which is supervised by Kazım Baycar from Boğaziçi University, is the Turkish Cooperation Development Agency, which carries out valuable works in hundreds of different regions of the world. Today, TIKA tries to highlight the traces of El Turcos, many of whom are unaware or unrelated to their identities.
El Turco is the name given to the Ottomans who came to another country of another continent to work with their Ottoman passports, whose language they did not know, in the countries they went to. Since the end of the 1800s, many people from the Ottoman Empire, especially from regions such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine, have been participating in the wave of immigration to South America.
El Turco is the name that these people, including Muslims, Armenians and Maronites, but all of them, without exception, carry Ottoman passports, define in common wherever they go. Although it begins with King of Brazil II. Pedro’s visit to Istanbul, the main location of the story is the Port of Beirut. The port becomes the center of immigration from the Ottoman Empire to the new world America. The Ottomans living in these lands, which were in crisis both politically and economically, they turn their way to the new continent in hopes of finding a job. Like the Turks who went to Germany as workers, there is an ongoing wave of immigration, triggering each other.
There are even campaigns. A company in Galata is involved in the campaign to take passengers to the new world. Campaigns highlight the journey as more comfortable and cheaper. The ships that set off from here first take the immigrants to the port of Marseille in France. There they embark on larger ships and cross the ocean to the continent. Of course, the first passengers do not have a clear idea about how many days they set out on a journey. They think they are going from one city to another city.
A company in Galata is involved in the campaign to take passengers to the new world. Campaigns highlight the journey as more comfortable and cheaper. The ships that set off from here first take the immigrants to the port of Marseille in France. There they embark on larger ships and cross the ocean to the continent. Of course, the first passengers do not have a clear idea about how many days they set out on a journey. They think they are going from one city to another city. A company in Galata is involved in the campaign to take passengers to the new world. Campaigns highlight the journey as more comfortable and cheaper. The ships that set off from here first take the immigrants to the port of Marseille in France. There they embark on larger ships and cross the ocean to the continent. Of course, the first passengers do not have a clear idea about how many days they set off on a journey. They think they are going from one city to another city.
HOW IT GOES TO AMERICA
The passengers of the new continent America, el Turkos, do not know both the day and the destination of the journey, as they are traveling to a geography where they cannot look at the map and do not know the exact location. The Ottomans, who set out in New York upon the invitation of their relatives, were not taken in due to the quota of the American government, and were taken to other ports by ships. They go to Mexico, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro. Saying ‘This is America’, many people begin to settle in the south of the continent. The first immigrants, mostly Armenians, use the coffee house of an Istanbul-born Jew, together with Christian and Muslim Arabs, as a meeting and job search center abroad.
THE REASON OF MIGRATION IS POLITICAL
The idea of a new beginning in the new world was implemented more actively in regions where more specific problems were experienced, as well as the general depression experienced in almost every region of the Ottoman Empire. There is also an intense wave of immigration from the Palestinian region. In fact, the second largest population of Chile today is Palestinians in origin. This is one of the reasons behind the fact that Venezuela and Chile were the first two countries to send Israeli ambassadors back to their countries in the face of Israeli barbarism in the Israel-Palestine issue. There is even a team called ‘Palestine’ in the first league in Chile today, it was founded in 1920. It is even older than the history of Israel, which claims Palestinian land.
TWO ACTORS OF THE STORY: PEDRO AND ABDULHAMID
In fact, the first question that comes to mind when you hear the story of the El Turko people is why the direction of the migration was the Americas. It is known that during the first period, Europe was also dealing with its own crises. It is known that the European continent is not a suitable place to establish a new world. The second factor is Pedro’s Ottoman visit. King of Brazil Pedro, II. is coming to visit the Ottoman Empire to meet with Abdulhamid. Since slavery was abolished, the Brazilian king sees his visit as an opportunity to meet the need for workers in his country. When he arrives, he goes not only to Istanbul, but also to Egypt and Lebanon, and invites him wherever he goes. He says ‘Come and find a job in our country’. When economic and social difficulties are experienced here, the king’s suggestion seems reasonable to people who hear the call. Khalil Gibran’s family is one of the families that migrated at that time.
Alberto Jesus – Director of the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Argentina
The language is gone, the food is left
I am El Turco. My father’s father was Syrian. His mother, on the other hand, came from a family of Syrian origin living in Lebanon. My grandfather came with his brothers and they soon started to deal with trade. 200 km from Buenos Aires when my grandmother came to this land without knowing where she was going. settled in the city called Mar del Plata in the south. They had 11 children. This story is the story of the necessity of living in an unknown place, but at the same time being able to quickly integrate into this land and the families of 11 children continuing this harmony. Contrary to the gastronomy of the places they came from, my family could not keep the language very well. We can attribute this to Argentina‘s rapid integration into its traditions. This is actually something that covers all El Turco’s.
Heloisa Julien – Secretary General of the Arab Cultural Center / Brazil
They entered the trade
The unchangeable rule for every immigrant who came here was that these people, who were Ottoman subjects, entered the peddling business. They would take a parcel on their seat and go to the farms and try to open their parcels there and sell their goods. While Italian and Spanish immigrants worked on the farms, the El Turcos were engaged in trade, albeit small. Many Ottoman immigrants were marrying Spanish or Italian women they met on the farms they went to for trade.
Anibal Y. Jozami – Rector of the National March 3 University / Argentina
Coming did not come back
Our arrival here took place around 1895, when one of my great-uncles immigrated here from Lebanon‘s northern region, which was home to the Christian Orthodox communities. My father’s father, who had never thought of settling down in Argentina until that moment, fell ill shortly after he came here only to complete some official transactions, and his illness got worse day by day for two and a half years. My father, who is an army officer in Lebanon under the French Mandate, also comes to Argentina to take care of his father’s illness and to take him back to Lebanon as soon as he recovers. My father, who came to Argentina temporarily for my grandfather, so he stays in Argentina and our family starts to grow here.
Shakira da El Turco
Although the exact figures are not known today, it is said that there are 20 million El Turcos in total on the continent, mostly in Brazil. Among the millions of El Turco, the world-famous El Turcos have also emerged. It is known that there are many more famous El Turco from the world of music, cinema and sports, led by former Argentine president Carlos Menem, Carlos Slim and Salma Hayek, known as one of the richest businessmen in the world, and Shakira.
They were also on the Titanic
Israfil Kuralay says that in addition to the three Turks from Bingöl, on the Titanic, which sank on its first voyage in 1912, there were many more el Turko. Kuralay explains that the El Turcos boarded the ship while it was departing from Marseille, and that the El Turko Research Center in Lebanon has the names of the El Turko people who got on the ship. Considering that the first migration movements started in the 1850s, it is possible to say that the El Turkos were economically successful in a very short time before they could board the Titanic.
They taught credit
Since the first migration date, El Turcos do not deal with agriculture in the new world. In other words, they don’t want to deal with it. Even if they are small businesses, they tend towards commerce. They are engaged in peddling. They sell everything they find in their small stalls, where they can carry with them, going from door to door, from village to village. They introduce South America in a brand new way they didn’t know; Credit system. As they are directly involved in trade, El Turcos draw many rich people from among them in a short time.
Ottoman did not want immigration
While there was a wave of immigration, the Ottoman Empire was closely related to the subject. The negative aspects of migration begin to be seen in many aspects. The state first tries to prevent it, but when it cannot overcome it, it sets rules. During the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid, it was said, ‘Don’t let the Muslims go, let the non-Muslims go’. But it is impossible to prevent. Those who do not go also encourage those who do not go to buy houses, land and mounts. But most of those who go cannot come. The road is long, the world is new, and the Ottoman Empire, with which they went with their passports, will soon become a part of history.
16 November 2014