SyriaUntold’s illustrator and multimedia editor Rami Khoury revisited Jodor Jalit’s essay from August on family history, one boy’s journey thousands of miles from home and his eventual return. His picture story is below, with snippets from Jodor’s original written piece.
Mohammad and Amin snuck onboard the merchant ship docked at the Beirut seaport. It was 1913. They had just become stowaways, Mohammad at 17 years old and Amin at just 14. The boys wouldn’t be discovered until after the vessel had already reached the high seas.
According to the story, passed down through generations of my family, the boys’ young ages spared them from being tossed overboard after they were discovered and confessed to their “crime.”
The trip, however, would not be free of charge. The two young Syrian stowaways assisted the crew with daily tasks, and as the days went by, the ship drew closer to its final destination: Buenos Aires, Argentina. There, Mohammad and Amin would make a new home more than 12,000 kilometres from where they had set out.
Argentina was a popular destination for European and Arab emigrants by the end of the 19th century and until World War I. The Argentine government wished to colonize the Pampas plains with northern Europeans and pushed forward with policies to encourage immigration. According to Argentina’s National Census, there was a net immigration of 3,300,000 people from 1857 to 1895, helping to increase the population of the country from 3,955,110 to 7,885,237.
By 1914, one year after Mohammad and Amin landed in Buenos Aires, one in three people living in Argentina were born abroad, according to historian Alberto Sarramone.