LEBANESE-SYRIANS. The Arabic-speaking Lebanese-Syrian minority in Texas, numbering approximately 27,256 in 1990, originally arrived via New York or Mexico from the Middle East. The heaviest immigration, from 1880 until World War I, was caused by political, economic, social, and religious discrimination against Christians. Lebanese-Syrians, highly individualistic yet clannish, adaptable, hard-working, cosmopolitan, and nationalistic, formed communities in all metropolitan centers of the state. The first generation, led by young men, were peddlers and small businessmen. The second and third generations diversified and made contributions in retailing, wholesaling, medicine, oil, literature, education, politics, jurisprudence, and manufacturing. Ethnic heritage is preserved by national churches, and almost all Lebanese-Syrians in Texas are Christians. More than half belong to the Lebanon-based Maronite Rite Catholic Church, though the less-numerous Orthodox established more churches-St. Michael's in Beaumont (1898), St. Elias in Austin (1932), St. George's in Houston (1937), and St. George's in El Paso (1954). Few Lebanese-Syrian Moslems settled in Texas. Numerous community and family social clubs throughout Texas belong to the Southern Federation of Syrian Lebanese American Clubs, organized in Austin in 1931 to provide scholarships, promote Americanization, and maintain ethnic pride. Close ties and visits to families in Lebanon and Syria, speaking Arabic in the home, and social solidarity have preserved Lebanese-Syrian ethnic communities in all large Texas cities. Lively folk festivals such as those in Austin and San Antonio have popularized Arabic foods, dances, and music.
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.