Turcos in the mix: Corrupting Arabs in Brazil’s Racial Democracy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Turco (Turk) has served as a general designation for "Middle Easterner" in Brazil for more than a century. Coined by late nineteenth-century Brazilian elites to denigrate Syrian and Lebanese immigrants as economic pariahs, the term of difference today continues to attribute an alleged shrewdness to Brazilians of Middle Eastern origin. This was the case in a Sao Paulo city government corruption scandal in 1999 and 2000. Though few Arab Brazilian politicians were implicated, turcos came to stand for corruption in media coverage. "We have seen voracious Arabs commanding the moneylaundering schemes," observed a well-known pundit in the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, "the whole band of turcos⋯ eating esfihas ["Middle Eastern" meat pies] and baba ghanoush and transforming Sao Paulo into a cavern of Ali Baba."1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBetween the Middle East and the Americas
Subtitle of host publicationThe Cultural Politics of Diaspora
PublisherUniversity of Michigan Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780472069446
ISBN (Print)9780472099443
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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