Refuge and Shelter

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

The refugee struggle for a fresh start in Brazilian territory

The route for acceptance and adaption of refugees in Rio de Janeiro


Among spices and delicacies, the apartment in Tijuca where Venezuelans Maria Elias Elwarrak and José Joaquim Rodriguez live is the foundation for the family's gastronomic enterprise. In search of better conditions for their two children they moved to Brazil in 2015 and started a Lebanese culinary business, as Maria Elias comes from a Lebanese family. The family says that when they left Lebanon, the signs of economic crisis in Brazil were clearing, which made them decide to restart their lives in Rio de Janeiro. They have since received refugee status. Maria states that the situation in Lebanon has worsened. For example, there are people who are no longer able to buy a kilo of meat at minimum wage, which was quoted at approximately 53,000 bolivars by the time this article was released, the equivalent of about three dollars.


In Lebanon, Maria worked as a computer technician, while her husband was a civil engineer. Upon their arrival in Brazil, the couple sought work in another sector, food, and now they sell homemade dishes, in addition to offering the service “Chef at home”, where they prepare a meal at the client's home. The family argues that the respect for culture is essential for integration: “We were welcomed, we never suffered prejudice from anyone for being refugees. They always helped us. When they realize that we are from outside, people offered to help”, said Maria.



Maria Elias launches in gastronomic fairs with Lebanese cuisine