“Sito Badia”, Sito signify my grandmother in Arabic, as grandsons like to call her, was born in Hwash, Homs/Syria, immigrated to Brazil with her family 80 years ago. A story of her life is recording the early days of Arab immigrants to Brazil and Latin America.
“Sito Badia” has 93 years; 4 daughters, 8 grandsons and will receive her first grand grandson “Gabreil” after 2 months. With her brothers’ families and cousins, 90 members, a party taking place every Christmas to introduce the young branches of the family tree and maintain strong relations with their deep Arabic roots.
Her Story starts since she was 13 years old when her father “Habib” decided to reside in Brazil after his elder brothers had in São Carlos São Paulo.
“My Grandfather “Farah” was in Argentina with my eldest uncles 10 &12 years old, when he knew that his brother settled in São Carlos-Brazil, he decided to keep the boys with him and went back to Syria and lived there until his death. My father went to Brazil alone to see his elder brothers, who he still doesn’t know; stayed for a year and went back to Syria. He compared the life between Brazil and Syria and decided to settle in Brazil and ask us to join him. I was with my mother and two young brothers, “Michael” 11 years and “Adib” 9 years, when we left Beirut port-Lebanon heading to Santos port-Brazil for 40 days cruise journey to Brazil. I felt sick in the sea; we stopped in Genoa-Italy where I remember the cemetery while they kept us 5 days in the ship in Marseille-France“
The cousins were waiting the newly immigrated family in São Carlos, where the father rented a house. Sito Badia helped her mother in raising her brothers, she didn’t go to school, she doesn’t know how to write, but she remembers the ancient songs like (Ataba&delona عتابا ودلعونا) and Dabke of Syria.
“لابدا شعيطة ولابدا بعيطة، الأمر المقدر ياأمي لبسنا البرنيطة. من مدة سبع سنين كنا فلاحين، واليوم مرتاحين بلبس البرنيطة”
“I was singing to my mother: Since seven years we were farmers, we were simple, and we were comfortable; while now, we are modern, and we are more comfortable with the chapeau. My mother was laughing and telling me that I’m a naughty girl.”
Though that most of Syrians waves of immigrations to Brazil have similar story, where they were staying with cousins and open a self trading business. However, according to statistics of 1962, 9% of Owners of industries in São Paulo, were Syrians and Lebanese.
“My father started with selling clothes, he opened a shop later in Descalvado, where Michael Shamas, a Lebanese helped us and my youngest brother “Badi” born. After few years one friend told him about a new town been build called Novo Horizonte, and I got married to “Moussa” our Syrian cousin when I was 28 years.”
Still, Sito Badia is maintaining a strong relation with both families in Brazil and Syria through her daughters: Maria, Najat (signified secure in Arabic), Marta and Esmeralda (RIP); thanks to her survived Arabic language.
“Only I, my brother Michael, my cousins Elias and Jamile are the Syrians Arabic speakers in the family. The family only knows the name of Syrian food (Laughing). I visited Syria 3 times, but it’s very hard now to flight. We talk on the phone every Christmas and Easter. Lately, Marta and Najat have visited Syria in 2009 while my first Granddaughter married to a Syrian”
Badia lives in Novo Horizonte, São Paulo. She is planing for her 100 anniversary after 7 years.