Last week I was returning to my school after month long vacancies and, while passing by the building's entrance hall at 7:30AM, I picked an exemplar of the internal circulation paper. Not expecting anything interesting, I started reading the material: on the first pages, nothing but news as usual, a review of the latest college sports results, notes about plans for an ATM metropolitan network (good...). Then, on page 7, a saw a highlight that read: "CURDOS NO NORTE DO PARANÁ!" (Kurds in Northern Paraná!). Pay no attention to the fact that the heading jingles somewhat like the proclamation of detection of an unforeseen and rather exotic animal variety in the underground of a small city, but I found the article interesting, so here is the story:

Back on the thirties of the XX century, English companies were first finding oil sources in the Northern region of Iraq, in a land inhabited by the Kurds. The Kurds, being belligerent and not prone to foreign authority as they are, were less controllable (or buyable, may you state) than the English would wish them to be; that created the necessity of ousting them out of the area in order to give a passable level of tranquility to explore the oil fields. The English tried in many ways subjugating the Kurds, including the use of mustard gas, but it didn't work. Britain's economy, in difficulties alongside with various others for the Great Depression, was not prepared to face a widespread war in the region, so the use of force did not seem to be an effective option. What to do?

Bon, at that same epoch, the Northern Paraná Land Company, an English venture lead by Lord Lovat, was in the deal of acquiring and leasing lands in southern Brazil, a scarcely populated region by that time. It was a very worthwhile deal to that group, as they were buying lands at extremely low costs from the early settlers, to whom the land was given (more or less like happened in the west of the United States in the late XXI century) and then renting or selling the lands to coffee growers from São Paulo.

Excellent, the Kurds were “in excess” on their lands and the English had access to inexpensive land overseas... why not make a “reallocation”?1 So they attempted. In a rather undisclosed negotiation, the Prince of Wales, who himself had a share in the Land Company, offered a portion of his lands in Paraná to the League of Nations, suggesting the land to be delivered under the form of arrendamento2 to Kurds transferred from Iraq. The Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas quickly endorsed the operation, as his government had soaring debts with English banks (a situation that, it seems, had not changed insofar).

In 1934, the matter became public and hit Paraná’s main journals. The press unleashed a strong campaign against the immigration, soon followed by demonstrations by syndicates, intellectuals, lawyers and teachers. The main motives alleged by the protesters varied from condemnation of English “imperialist measures” in the Middle East (syndicates appeared with these, I presume) to showings of the purest figures of racism. The Brazilian government, which had already given his approval to the deal, was compelled to step back, alarmed by the mounting social stress regarding the matter. The Land Company itself gave up the idea, as they feared depreciation in their possessions by the presence of the undesirable incomers, and the story ended there.

Several years later, when the recently assembled United Nations was seeking a solution for the Jews in Palestine dilemma, Argentina's government volunteered to cede a portion of its Northern territory for a Jewish national state. The proposal, obviously, was immediately rejected, but it served as yet another showcase on how odd can we South Americans be in times of crisis or, more specifically, when our governments owe money in unpayable quantities.

1:: When I typed this sentence, MS Word complained: “Non-standard question, consider revising.” Ah.

2:: A form of renting that is supposed to be paid in goods instead of money.

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