The Lebanese Diaspora at the Tri-Border and the Redrawing of South American Geopolitics, 1950–1992


  • John Tofik Karam DePaul University



Lebanese, diaspora, Tri-Border, geopolitics, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, networks


Economic and political dynamics of diaspora are relevant to understanding not only the homeland but also the making of a regional order farther afield. Between the 1950s and the early 1990s, Lebanese at the urban tri-border between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina imported and exported merchandise as well as publicized liberationist ideals from the Arab and Islamic worlds. This article shows that their economic and political networks helped to draw Paraguay within the expansive orbit of Brazil and away from Argentina’s historic sway. Shaped by, and helping to shape, competing state and national interests through “everyday geopolitics,” Lebanese traders and activists unevenly linked Paraguayan commerce to Brazil’s growing consumer and industrial base and reinforced the hierarchical alliance between these respective authoritarian and democratic regimes. In bringing the once Argentine-dominated Paraguay into Brazil’s sphere of influence, this Lebanese diaspora helped to redraw a South American order.

Author Biography

John Tofik Karam, DePaul University

John Tofik Karam is Associate Professor of Latin American & Latino Studies at DePaul University; email:



2021-02-01 — Updated on 2022-01-31