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Why did so many Italians emigrate to Argentina?


On 13th of March, 2013, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, became new pope of Catholic Church. He was born and raised in Argentina with Italian origins.

There are more than 24 millions of Argentinian citizens who have Italian roots, making it around 60% of the country population. They came to South America in different generations. Many of them during the great European immigration wave to Argentina at the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Italian immigration was an important part of that, as between 1880-1920 Italy was facing social and economic disturbances.

As for the overall reasons of immigrating to Argentina, articles linked above mention in the first place the open immigration politic of the Argentinian officials, who wanted to raise the country population. Checking Constitution of Argentina from 1853 we'll find there article 25:

The Federal Government shall encourage European immigration, and shall not restrict, limit, or obstruct, by taxation of any king, the entrance into the Argentine territory of foreigners coming to it for the purpose of engaging in the cultivation of the soil, the improvement of industrial business, or the introduction and teaching of arts and sciences.

But I'm pretty sure there had to be also particular reasons for Italians to chose Argentina, which I'm not aware of. Where there any other reasons for the immigration of so many Italians to Argentina? Why did they chose this particular country?


Many Italians emigrated to Argentina because many Italians emigrated. Argentina, like Brazil and the United States could offer economic opportunities not to be found in the old country, but equally importantly, had policies that were open to immigration.


Italian Emigration 1876-1926

Many Italians left Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; it is one of the largest modern emigrations any country has seen (Ireland was another, and Italian and Irish emigré communities became rivals in many places). Argentina was a popular destination, but so were Brazil and the United States, as well as Uruguay and Canada, and numbers of Italians are noted in Venezuela and Peru as well. According to a 1931 paper on emigration between 1876 and 1926, an estimated 8.9 million Italians emigrated to the Americas, 7.6 million to other countries in Europe, 300,000 to Africa, 42,000 to Oceania, and 13,000 to Asia.

After unification in 1861, the Italian economy improved, leading to an increase in population, but the benefits of the economy were not evenly distributed. Generations of subdividing plots had rendered farms too small and inefficient to support the population, especially given poor land management and farming methods, while the phylloxera epidemic wiped out the Italian wine industry starting in the 1870s. An 1884 cholera epidemic could not have helped. In any case, increasing numbers of young Italian men began seeking work abroad, first in France and Switzerland, then in the Americas as transatlantic shipping became more reliable and less expensive.

Labor Demand in the Americas

Argentina was the preferred destination in the 1870s and 1880s, then equally favored with Brazil until the close of the century, when the U.S. became the favored destination until after World War I, when Argentina resumed the crown.

As the great majority of Italian emigrants were economic migrants, it was the availability of work above all that governed their preferred destinations. Argentina was popular at first because of geography; farm laborers could find work in Argentina to earn extra income during the Northern Hemisphere winter. As the economy there boomed- in per capita terms, it was one of the wealthiest countries in the world at the start of the 20th century, thanks to demand for its agricultural products- there was also work to be had in building and railroad construction. Domingo Sarmiento, president of Argentina 1868-1874, encouraged immigration, although he rather wished for more Northern Europeans, even attempting to subsidize them.

In 1890 Argentina suffered a severe economic downturn, the Baring crisis, which also affected its neighbors and the U.S. But Brazil's coffee planters were becoming more aggressive in seeking cheap labor. São Paulo state began to subsidize passage and lodging for recent arrivals, and in the 1880s, coffee plantation owners had begun promoting Brazil heavily as a destination. As such, Brazil began attracting a large proportion of Italian emigrants; indeed, in percentage terms, Italians would become a larger part of the Brazilian population than the Argentinian.

Word of ill-treatment of Italian workers in Brazil led to outrage in Italy, and in 1902 the Prinetti Decree outlaws subsidized emigration to Brazil. This sharply curtailed the number of Italian immigrants to Brazil, and helped swing the numbers to the United States. In contrast to the situation in South America, the U.S. needed cheap labor for its factories, not farms, and some argue that some Italians deemed the life of a factory worker preferable to that of a farm laborer or ranch hand. So the United States absorbed the lion's share of Italians until after World War I, when a series of anti-immigration laws all but closed the country to Southern Europeans (among others).

After World War II, Italian emigration expanded to places like Australia, but improving economic conditions at home would eventually stem the population outflow to more stable levels.


To take off on the climate answer, it is noteworthy that the area between Buenos Aires and the Brazilian border (to the north), approximates the southern latitudes of Italy's own northern latitudes. Thus, not only the temperature, but the rainfall and crop patterns of that part of Argentina resemble that of parts of Italy. Basically, Italians felt "at home" there.

In the U.S., the Labrador current makes places like New York City (where many Italians settled) much colder than the same latitude in northern Italy. The parts of the U.S. further south with similar climates (e.g. Virginia and the Carolinas) were much more "Anglo" and Protestant and much less receptive to Italians than climatically similar areas in Argentina (whose "settlers" spoke an Italian-like Spanish, and who were mostly fellow Catholics).

Also, Argentina was the most technologically advanced South American country in the late 19th century, while Italy was less advanced than the rest of Europe and the U.S. Put another way, they were quite "compatible" in this respect, being at similar stages of development.


One thing that may have been a big factor is the climate. Argentina is the one place in South America that has large areas of temperate climate. This allowed Europeans to go there and find not just temperatures and weather they were already acclimated to, but that allowed the kinds of agriculture they knew.

The other large temperate areas available are in the United States, Southern China, the East Coast of Australia + New Zealand, and southern Africa.

Of those, the USA also experienced a large amount of Italian immigration in this same period. The British controlled South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and Dutch the rest of southern Africa, which may have served to deter other nationalities from settling in those places. China already had more than enough Chinese people living there.

According to the link above, a large number of the people emigrating from Italy during this period were rural folk from south Italy, so being able to carry out their agriculture would have been a huge deal.

The newly created Italian constitution, drafted after unification in 1861, heavily favored the North. This caused economic conditions to considerably worsen for many in southern Italy and Sicily. Heavy taxes and other economic measures imposed on the South made the situation virtually impossible for many tenant farmers, and small business and land owners. Multitudes chose to emigrate rather than try to eke out a meager living.


The whole discussion fails to point out that there were also differences from the sources of immigration inside Italy.

Most immigrants to the US were immigrants from southern Italy, which began to industrialize later.

In Brazil, most immigrants were from northern Italy, which was industrializing earlier. Veneto, Trentino, Lombardia, etc.

There was also a difference in immigration pattern between immigrants to São Paulo and southern Brazil.

Immigrants to São Paulo mostly stayed in the city, which was already catching up with Rio de Janeiro in population and importance, or in coffee plantations, while immigrants to the brazilian south were making their own settlements and having their own land.

While italian immigrants to coffee plantations in São Paulo were probably being mistreated, in southern Brazil they were owning their own lands and creating their own cities and companies.

Moreover, even in São Paulo, the situation was probably not as bad as the propaganda in Italy made it seem.

Many italians in São Paulo were not only becoming successfull as also quite rich. While in NY at the beginning most rich italians were associated with the mafia, in São Paulo, by 1927, the Martinelli building, São Paulo's first skyscraper, was built by a rich italian immigrant.

And while NY had the powerful Rockefellers, São Paulo's most rich and prestigious family in the first half of the 20th century were the Matarazzos, also from Italy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Count_Francesco_Matarazzo

"At the age of 26, when Italian emigration to Brazil was widespread, he moved to the city of Sorocaba, São Paulo with his brothers, wife and children. Initially he sold oranges and lottery tickets and shined shoes, reinvesting the proceeds in new businesses, eventually including plantations of tea, coffee, corn, rice, rubber and cotton.[1]

In 1890, he moved to São Paulo and with his brothers, Giuseppe and Luigi, founded Matarazzo and Irmãos. He diversified its business and imported wheat flour from the United States of America. Giuseppe took part in the company with a lard factory in Porto Alegre and Luigi with a deposit-warehouse in São Paulo.

War between Spain and Central American countries made it difficult buy wheat flour and he obtained credit from the London and Brazilian Bank to build a mill in São Paulo. From there, his business expanded rapidly to a total of 365 factories[citation needed] throughout Brazil. The conglomerate became the fourth largest in the country and 6% of the population depended on its factories in São Paulo.

The Gestapo spy Hans Wesemann reported that:

An entire fleet sails under his flag. Tens of thousands of workers toil in his factories. He makes cement, cuts down trees and turns the pulp into paper, on which he prints his newspapers. The public drinks his beer and watches films in his cinemas. He contrives to be both wealthy and popular and when the president of Brazil visits Sao Paolo, he calls upon Matarazzo first.[1]

In recognition of his financial and material assistance to Italy during the First World War King Victor Emmanuel III conferred the title of Count.

Matarazzo died in 1937 after an attack of uremia. At that time he was Brazil's's richest man, with an estimated fortune of 10 billion U.S. dollars


According to the Italian government, there are 31 million Brazilians of Italian descent. Brazil is home to 30 millions Argentina 20 millions United States 17.800 millions


Everyone avoids talking about race and the genocide of indigenous peoples because it is embarrassing to talk about historical crimes. The reason why so many Italians immigrated to Argentina, starting in the mid-1800s, was because there was more "room" in Argentina to absorb them, given that the physical elimination of the indigenous population in Argentina had gone further than in most Latin American countries. (I would argue that we Italians were not a part of that crime, which happened before we arrived in Argentina in large numbers). The indigenous peoples of South America survived at higher altitudes, protected by the mountains (Andes) and their remoteness. Argentina had more flat land (Pampas) and less mountains territory than most South American countries - ergo few places for Native Americans to hide. (Unlike for example neighbouring Paraguay which has always had few Europeans, being the South American "Israel" for Native Americans. The Jesuits, btw, created Paraguay as a haven for Native Americans.

As one final comment, Colombia was named for Christopher Columbus, Venezuela was named for Venice… there are large Italian communities all over South America - with the only exception being the Guyanas. In fact, there are a surprising number of South American presidents over the last 150 years who had Italian ancestry. And, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, Italian is the fourth most spoken language in the Americas (ahead of French).


Why Did Italians Immigrate to the US Between 1880 & 1900?

An average of 135,000 migrants left Italy every year between 1876 and 1900, according to historian Anna Maria Ratti. This was a prelude to even larger migration flows in the years leading up to World War I, when Italian emigration peaked at 873,000 in 1913. Not all these migrants left Italy for North America Anna Maria Ratti’s analysis shows that, prior to 1897, more Italians migrated to Brazil and Argentina than to the United States.

Explore this article


The Italian emigration

The greatest exodus of modern history has been that of the Italians. Since 1861, more than twenty-four million departures have been recorded. In the space of just over a century a number almost equivalent to the amount of the population at the time of the unification of Italy emigrated abroad.

It was an exodus that affected all the Italian regions. Between 1876 and 1900 the exodus mainly interested the northern regions, in particular way Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Piedmont.

In the following two decades the migration record passed to the southern regions almost three million people emigrated from Calabria, Campania and Sicily.

Many ships carried millions of people on their travels in search of fortune on new continents. People who, in order to embark, sold what little they had with the hope of making a fortune abroad.

The small Italian shipping fleets after 1870 were encouraged with subsidies from the Government of the Kingdom of Italy.

The reasons that pushed masses of millions, especially from South Italy, to emigrate were many.

During the Piedmontese invasion in 1860 of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (carried out without a declaration of war), the machinery of the southern factories was brought to the North where the industries of Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria were later built.

The populations of southern Italy, devastated by the war with about a million deaths, by natural cataclysms, oppressed by taxes, bled to death by power still of feudal style, had no alternative but to migrate en masse. The feudal system, still perfectly efficient, allowed hereditary land ownership to determine the political and economic power, the social status of each individual. In this way, the poor classes had virtually no chance of improving their condition.

In addition, after 1870 the increase in population caused a continental migratory flows until 1895. After that year a transoceanic migratory flows to rise considerably.


Around 1880 there was an annual average of about 109,000 emigrants in 1900 they rose to about 310,000 in 1913 there were even 873,000. Emigration resumed after the First World War, reaching 615,000 units in 1920 and always remained high until 1927, when the fascist regime closed the migratory flow.

In total, between 1876 and 1925, more than 9 million Italians left Europe, and almost as many were seasonal emigrants and those who left the peninsula even though they remained on the continent.
The United States above all, but also Argentina and Brazil, were the main destination countries of Italian emigrants.

The United States since 1880 opened the doors to immigration in the midst of the start of their capitalist development ships brought goods to Europe and returned with emigrants. The costs of ships for America were lower than those of trains for Northern Europe, so millions of people chose to cross the ocean.
Between 1880 and 1915 four million Italians landed in the United States, out of about 9 million emigrants who chose to cross the Ocean towards the Americas. About seventy percent came from the South of Italy.
The arrival in America was characterized by the trauma of harsh medical and administrative checks, especially at Ellis Island, the Isle of Tears. In the Museum of Emigration in New York there are still suitcases full of poor clothing of the people who arrived from Italy.

In the United States, which increased the value of industrial production between 1850 and 1900, most of the Italians who landed with an average of eight dollars in their pockets were useful and functional to those very high rates of economic growth. The unskilled workers who expatriated from southern Italy contributed to the construction of the railways and the great North American roads they worked and often died also in the mines, settling for average daily wages that did not reach two dollars.

The emigrants, in the vast majority, were poor and illiterate peasants and laborers who fled from their towns and cities because of unemployment and hunger.

Emigration was viewed favorably by the Italian Government, which however did nothing to assist and protect the emigrants. The favorable attitude of the Italian political class stemmed from the assumption that the money sent to Italy by the emigrants would have served to confront and solve the age-old problems of the South and of the other depressed areas of the peninsula.

Since 1931 there was an important arrest of emigration due first of all to the United States of America, which limited the number of emigrants admitted and then also from the fascist government which halted emigration abroad in that period. During the second world war, the arrest of the migratory flow was even more conspicuous: this was due to the fact that Italian citizens residing in some foreign Countries were considered "enemies", since Italy was considered a political enemy to fight. The second wave of emigration occured immediately after the Second World War, between 1946 and 1971 emigration in this period resumed considerably, continuing to record the departure of entire generations of workers abroad.


How South America Became a Nazi Haven

Lightning flashed across the Argentine skies as Ricardo Klement stepped off a bus after finishing his shift as an assembly line foreman at a Mercedes-Benz automotive plant. As he walked to his small brick house in a middle-class Buenos Aires suburb on May 11, 1960, he passed by a chauffer and two men working under the open hood of a black Buick limousine. Suddenly, Klement was grabbed by the men and hauled kicking and screaming into the back seat of the vehicle, which sped off into the night.

Adolf Eichmann (Credit: Adam Guz/Getty Images Poland/Getty Images)

Everyone involved in the abduction was playing a high-stakes game of deception. Klement was actually Adolf Eichmann, the notorious Nazi SS lieutenant colonel who masterminded the transport of European Jews to concentration camps, and the men with the limousine were Israeli secret service agents.

Eichmann was hardly alone among Nazis in finding refuge in South America after the fall of the Third Reich. According to a 2012 article in the Daily Mail, German prosecutors who examined secret files from Brazil and Chile discovered that as many as 9,000 Nazi officers and collaborators from other countries escaped from Europe to find sanctuary in South American countries. Brazil took in between 1,500 and 2,000 Nazi war criminals, while between 500 and 1,000 settled in Chile. However, by far the largest number𠅊s many as 5,000—relocated to Argentina.

Adolf Eichmann on trial, April 21, 1961 in Jerusalem. (Credit: John Milli/GPO via Getty Images)

Due to the hundreds of thousands of German immigrants who lived in the country, Argentina maintained close ties with Germany and remained neutral for much of World War II. In the years after the end of the war, Argentine President Juan Peron secretly ordered diplomats and intelligence officers to establish escape routes, so-called “ratlines,” through ports in Spain and Italy to smuggle thousands of former SS officers and Nazi party members out of Europe. As with numerous other fascist-leaning South American leaders, Peron had been drawn to the ideologies of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler while serving as a military attaché in Italy during the early years of World War II. The Argentine president also sought to recruit those Nazis with particular military and technical expertise that he believed could help his country, much like the United States and the Soviet Union who both poached scientists from the Third Reich to assist them in the Cold War.

According to Uki Goñi, author of “The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Peron’s Argentina,” the Peron government in 1946 sent word through Argentine Cardinal Antonio Caggiano to a French counterpart that the South American country would be willing to receive Nazi collaborators from France who faced potential war crimes prosecution. That spring, French war criminals carrying passports issued by the International Red Cross stamped with Argentine tourist visas began to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

In their attempts to aid Catholic refugees amid the post-war rise of communist regimes across Europe, numerous Vatican officials unwittingly aided in the escape of Nazi war criminals, but some clerics such as Bishop Alois Hudal did so with full knowledge of their actions. According to Goñi, Hudal, an Austrian-born admirer of Hitler who ministered to prisoners of war in Rome, admitted to abetting Nazi war criminals by providing them with false identity documents issued by the Vatican that were then used to obtain passports from the International Red Cross.

Josef Mengele, who evaded capture, c. 1950. (Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

Hudal also aided the Franciscan monk in Genoa, Italy, who supplied Eichmann with an Argentine visa and signed an application for his falsified Red Cross passport, which allowed him to board a steamship to Buenos Aires in 1950 under the assumed identity of Ricardo Klement. The German legal team that examined South American files in 2012 told the Daily Mail that most of the Nazis who entered the continent did so using forged Red Cross passports, including 800 SS members to Argentina alone.

Many of the Nazis who escaped to South America were never brought to justice. SS colonel Walter Rauff, who created mobile gas chambers that killed at least 100,000 people, died in Chile in 1984. Eduard Roschmann, the 𠇋utcher of Riga,” died in Paraguay in 1977. Gustav Wagner, an SS officer known as the �st,” died in Brazil in 1980 after the country’s supreme federal court refused to extradite him to Germany because of inaccuracies in the paperwork. Perhaps the most notorious of the fugitives was Dr. Josef Mengele, the 𠇊ngel of Death” who conducted macabre experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp. He fled to Argentina in 1949 before moving to Paraguay in 1959 and Brazil a year later. Buried under an assumed name after drowning off the Brazilian coast in 1979, Mengele had his identity confirmed only after forensic testing of his remains in 1985.

Klaus Barbie outside the Lyons court house following his sentencing on July 4, 1987. (Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

In some cases, the United States was complicit in the exodus of Nazi war criminals to South America. Following the war, the U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps recruited Klaus Barbie—the Gestapo chief in Lyon, France, who played a role in the deaths of thousands of French Jews and members of the French Resistance𠅊s an agent to assist with anti-Communist efforts. He was smuggled to Bolivia, where he continued his spy work and instructed the military regime on how to torture and interrogate political opponents. “The Butcher of Lyon” was finally extradited in 1983 and sentenced to life in prison after his conviction for crimes against humanity. Barbie became one of the few Nazis who fled to South America but ultimately couldn’t escape justice, much like Eichmann who was also convicted of crimes against humanity by an Israeli court and executed in 1962.

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Argentina: A New Era of Migration and Migration Policy

For most of its history, Argentina has been characterized as a country of immigration. Yet global forces, combined with a recent history of economic, political, and social instability, have slowly transformed Argentina into a country of immigration, emigration, and transit.

Whereas millions of Europeans — predominantly from Spain and Italy — made their way to Buenos Aires and beyond at the turn of the 20th century, many of them and their descendants have returned to Europe or gone elsewhere. Since the 1990s, dismal employment prospects coupled with strong foreign-labor demand and, at times, favorable visa policies in countries including the United States, Spain, Italy, and Israel have given rise to a new wave of emigration.

Most recently, Argentina's economic collapse in 2001-2002 saw significant emigration flows of Argentine nationals and immigrants alike. In the past five years, an estimated 300,000 people (many of European descent) have left.

Despite these outflows, however, Argentina's strong demand for predominantly unskilled, low-wage labor ensures its role as a regional immigration hub, consistently attracting new economic migrants from its neighbors in the southern cone of Latin America.

Furthermore, while many foreign workers in Argentina have short-term migration prospects (anticipating another move either home or abroad), others are permanent, as demonstrated by increasing permanent immigration rates in recent years.

Recent Migration History

After gaining its independence from Spain in the early 19th century, Argentina adopted an open immigration policy and encouraged immigrants to embrace the country as their own. For a short period at the end of the 1880s, the government went so far as to subsidize immigrant boat passages. It is estimated that the country received over seven million immigrants, predominantly from Spain and Italy, between 1870 and 1930.

Argentina proved attractive to many foreigners confronted with harsh economic conditions in Europe they were drawn by the appeal of the New World and an underpopulated country rich in natural resources and employment prospects ranging from agriculture to factory work.

However, about half of these immigrants returned home in the decades that followed. Although return migration existed in all countries, a 50 percent rate of return was notably high. Slow industrial development in Argentina and a "return mentality" on the part of Europeans saving to buy land and reunite with their families in the home country pervaded.

European migration to Argentina began declining in the 1930s during the global economic depression, bouncing back slightly before again decreasing in the 1950s as the economic and political situation in Europe improved after World War II.

Net migration rates in Argentina remained comparatively strong until the 1980s, however, through increased flows from neighboring countries with less robust economies such as Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Chile (see Table 1), whose natives sought employment and higher wages. Due to intense urbanization from rural-urban internal migration flows, many of these southern cone migrants filled the rural labor demand in Argentina.

Argentina's immigration policies gradually became more restrictive beginning in the 1930s, and gained force in the 1950s due to unstable economic conditions and a series of military dictatorships. These stifling economic and political conditions gave rise to Argentina's first significant emigration outflow of native-born citizens, especially of the highly-skilled, in the late 1960s and 1970s.

An estimated 185,000 Argentines emigrated between 1960 and 1970, and the number climbed to an estimated 200,000 in the decade that followed. Primary destinations of the highly skilled included the United States and Spain, although other Western European countries and Mexico and Venezuela were also destinations.

The low point for net migration coincided with the most recent military dictatorship (1976-1983), during which it is estimated over 300,000 people — predominantly intellectuals, students, and minorities — "disappeared." Although some emigrants returned after the fall of the authoritarian regime in 1983, many Argentines remained abroad and were, for the most part, integrated in their host societies.

Current Emigration Trends

[[<"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"7280","attributes":<"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 275px height: 599px float: left margin-left: 5px margin-right: 5px","typeof":"foaf:Image">>]]While regional immigration flows to Argentina continued in the 1980s and 1990s, economic opportunities abroad and a lack of opportunity at home caused many Latin Americans to migrate. Growing Argentine emigration rates, particularly of the young and highly skilled, closely follow the larger Latin American trend of those seeking more stable economies and social conditions in Western industrialized nations. An estimated 1.05 million Argentines were living abroad as of March 2005 — double the number from 1985.

The United States is one country that has experienced an increase in Argentine immigration flows over the last decade (see Table 2), with over 60 percent living in just three states: California, Florida, and New York. The majority of permanent immigrants enter under family reunification provisions, whereas most temporary immigrants (not shown in Table 2) enter the United States as specialty workers (H-1B visa), exchange visitors (J-1 visa), and intracompany transferees (L-1 visa).

A strong foreign labor demand and favorable citizenship policies in Spain and Italy — applicable to Argentines who can prove Spanish or Italian ancestry — help explain why these countries also receive a large proportion of Argentine immigrants and Latin American immigrants in general. Argentina's relatively unstable economy and the European Union (EU) policy granting citizens free movement within EU territory have further promoted this trend.

In 2004, 157,323 native-born Argentines were living in Spain, up from 64,020 in 1999. In Italy, the stock of Argentine citizens nearly doubled in the period 1999-2003, from 5,725 to 11,266.

Canada has also seen a marked increase in Argentine immigration: up from 455 permanent residents in 2000 to 1,783 in 2003. More significantly perhaps, Argentina has risen in the ranks of top Latin American source countries to Canada — from 13th to 5th in that same time period.

Remittances to Latin America make up nearly one-third of the world's total share. Although remittance flows to Argentina are not among the region's largest, their significance continues to grow.

According to the National Migration Directorate, remittances to Argentina reached $724 million in 2004, triple the 2001 figure. Some of this growth is attributable to improved calculation methods, but remittances to Argentina — as in the rest of the region — have increased remarkably. Remittances are used for a combination of basic needs, debt repayment, and investment purposes, although their primary uses in Argentina have not been thoroughly studied.

Immigrant Populations and Settlement Patterns

To date, over 65 percent of the country's foreign-born population of 1,531,940 comprises immigrants from neighboring countries (see Figure 1), and only 4.2 percent of the population is foreign born compared with its peak of 30 percent in 1914. Nevertheless, Argentina's net migration rate remains positive at 0.4/1,000 population in 2005, and the country is host to over half of South America's migrant population.

The country's urban immigrant unemployment rate was relatively low at 11.7 percent in 2003, compared to a total urban unemployment rate of 15.6 percent for that same year. Among migrants who have spent less than five years in Argentina, the rate was 11.2 percent.

These low rates correspond to a high demand for unskilled low-wage labor, the circular nature of many regional migration flows (in part fostered by seasonal work opportunities), a large informal economy, and the relatively free movement of workers within the Mercosur region — a South American free trade zone between Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay.

Immigrant populations in Argentina have varied and historically motivated settlement patterns. For the most part, immigrants from neighboring countries can be found in those Argentine provinces closest to their country of origin because early immigrants often replaced rural internal migrants who sought better opportunities in Buenos Aires and other urban centers.

Chilean immigrants can be found primarily in the southern region of Patagonia and in those provinces along the Andes. Bolivians, Paraguayans and Brazilians mainly settle in the northern provinces of Argentina, closest to their respective countries. These immigrants usually fill agricultural, factory, and service-related occupations.

Uruguayans have the highest proportion of immigrants living in metropolitan Buenos Aires, mainly due to the high-skilled profile of this immigrant group and geographic proximity. The remaining neighboring immigrants who settle in Buenos Aires, predominantly Paraguayans and Bolivians, fill low-skilled service occupations such as domestic workers.

There are smaller, although significant, groups of Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants living in Argentina, primarily in metropolitan Buenos Aires. Armenian, Syrian, and Lebanese as well as Korean, Chinese, and Japanese immigrants have entered in recent years to work in primarily low-skilled occupations. Often times these immigrants enter through family reunification or humanitarian provisions, or without legal authorization.

Immigration Structure and Administration

Argentina's long history of international migration explains its well-established immigration system, which is housed under the Ministry of Interior. Twenty-one delegations and seven migration offices span the country, which is lined with 230 controled points of entry for land, air, and sea traffic.

Over the years, Argentina's immigrant admissions system has evolved to include three main avenues of entry: permanent, temporary, and humanitarian flows. Generally speaking, permanent immigrant admissions (through family reunification and employment) have steadily increased, although the economic crisis of 2001-2002 caused a noticeable decline in 2002 (see Figure 2). Nevertheless, admissions are expected to rise again as economic and political conditions become more stable.

Admissions flows under humanitarian (mainly refugee) provisions have never been significant in Argentina, despite its becoming party to the 1951 Geneva Convention in 1961. In 1985, Argentina created a separate government agency, part of the Ministry of Interior, charged with assisting those seeking protection. In 2004, there were approximately 2,600 recognized refugees in Argentina according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) — natives of Armenia, Laos, Cuba, Colombia, and Algeria are some of the more significant populations.

Immigration and Integration Policy Developments

Following the 1990s and a prolonged period of democratic regimes, Argentina has moved from a piecemeal immigration policy approach — characterized by periodic amnesties and sporadic efforts at combating illegal immigration — toward a guided, more open conception of immigration. A series of Mercosur provisions has led this shift, most important of which is the 2002 Free Movement and Residence agreement, which Chile and Bolivia also signed. Numerous bilateral accords and a multiyear process of reconstructing the immigration system have also contributed to this change.

The Mercosur Free Movement and Residence agreement is similar to the EU model of open borders. It grants Mercosur citizens (as well as natives of Chile and Bolivia) an automatic visa and the freedom to work and live within the space, provided they have no criminal record for the past five years. In essence, this agreement serves to regularize regional unauthorized immigrants — a constant policy problem for Argentina in particular.

The new Migration Law passed by Congress in December 2003 includes numerous important policy changes as well, giving migrants universal access to education and health care, free legal representation, the right to a fair trail prior to expulsion, and the right to family reunification. These measures were prompted by the desire to create a comprehensive immigration system based on democratic values instead of the previous military-defined framework, and they were influenced by the growing human rights movement in the region.

As part of the reform, government efforts to support Argentines abroad or those wishing to emigrate also have been developed.

Argentina's most recent policy development is the immigrant regularization program for non-Mercosur citizens residing in the country since June 30, 2004. The majority of these migrants are from China or Korea although some Latin Americans also participated.

Two-year temporary legal status is granted to all successful applicants. Immigrants may then choose to renew their status for another two years before seeking permanent citizenship. This regularization program, similar to other recent policy developments, was created to foster formal employment, immigrant integration, and a universal-rights oriented framework.

Beginning July 7, 2004, unauthorized immigrants had 180 days to apply for regularization. As of November 8, 2005, the program had adjudicated 900 applications.

Argentina in the Global Migration Context

Argentina has evolved from a leading immigrant destination in the early 20th century to a country with a dualistic migration environment: it attracts predominantly regional immigrants while experiencing emigration flows of mainly young, highly skilled natives. Immigration flows are both circular and permanent and, for the most part, fill the low-skilled, low-wage labor demand in both rural and urban settings.

As Argentina's economic and political conditions become increasingly stable, so too does the country's migration profile. Argentina can expect to continue to receive significant regional immigration flows while continuing to act as a sending country. As a result, immigrant remittances will continue to play a role in the country's economy, although, according to current trends, Argentina will remain less dependent on remittances than its Latin American neighbors.

Contrary to global trends, recent migration policy developments in Argentina are framed towards creating a more open immigration regime. In most immigration countries, such as the United States and the UK, security concerns as well as the desire to control and limit increasingly large migration flows are driving policy reform. By opening access to the country, especially for regional immigrants, Argentina provides an interesting case study of free movement for the developing world.

Eschewing more restrictive immigration policies of the past for a human rights and immigrant integration guided system means international migration will continue to influence Argentina's landscape.

CIA World Factbook (2005). Argentina. Available online.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2004). “Facts and Figures 2003. Immigration Overview: Permanent Residents.” Ottawa, ON. Available online.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos de la Republica Argentina (INDEC). Permanent Household Survey (EPH). Available online (see migration statistics).

Latin American News Digest (2005). "Remittances to Argentina at $724 Million in 2004." March 14.

Novick, Susana (2005). "Evolución Reciente de la Política Migratoria Argentina." Paper presented at the XXV Internacional Population Conference, Tours, France, July 18-23. Available online.

Solimano, Andrés (2003). "Development Cycles, Political Regimes and International Migration: Argentina in the twentieth century." Economic Development Division, No.22, ECLAC/CEPAL: Santiago, Chile, January.

UNHCR (2004). "Refugiados en Argentina: Estadísticas y Otros Datos de Interés." June. Available online.


Argentina's Italian heritage

Buenos Aires, Argentina is the most-visited city in all of South America. And no visit is complete without a trip to La Boca, the colorful neighborhood at the mouth of the Riachuelo River. While today the neighborhood is mostly populated by tourists, in the late 19th century, the port of La Boca was the first stop for Italian immigrants in search of a better life in Argentina.

From 1880 to 1920, Buenos Aires experienced a massive wave of Italian immigration, similar to the one that was happening simultaneously in New York City.

"In the 1900s, 12% of Argentinian population was actually Italian," said Adrian Glickman. "So, Italians pretty much set the pace not only for migration but for the vibe, specifically of Buenos Aires."

Italian and Argentine dance in Buenos Aires. Nearly two-thirds of the country's population can trace their roots to Italy. CBS News

Correspondent Conor Knighton said, "I asked for someone to point me to the Italian neighborhood, and they were like, anywhere!"

"All around, all around, yeah," Glickman replied.

Glickman is part-Italian, and part-owner of Floreria Atlántico, a high-end cocktail bar that takes its theme from the influence of Argentina's immigrants.

Like most Buenos Aires bars, Floreria Atlántico serves tons of Campari and Fernet Branca &ndash two Italian liqueurs for which Argentines go crazy. "Yeah. We drink a lot!" laughed Glickman.

Cannoli sold at a street fair. CBS News

When it comes to eating, the Italian influence is even more obvious. On Buenos Aires' famed Avenida Corrientes, there's a pizza place on seemingly every corner. The most well-known is Güerrin. Founded by Italian immigrants in 1932, today the pizzeria's wood-fired oven churns out pies that have morphed into a gooey, distinctly Argentine style of pizza, best summed up by manager Macro Giaccaglia: "The Argentinian people think more cheese is better. Everything more is better!"

Cheesy fare at the Buenos Aires pizzeria Güerrin. CBS News

That's why, after stuffing his face with pizza, Burbank decided to get more food: dessert!

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Agustin Fama's gelato-making ancestors came to Buenos Aires as part of a second post-World War II wave of immigration. Fortunately, they brought their recipe book with them and opened Cadore.

Conor Knighton stops for some gelato at Cadore. CBS News

Italians also made a lasting impact on the art and architecture of Buenos Aires. Nearby Palacio Barolo was designed by Italian architect Mario Palanti as a tribute to the Italian poet Dante. The building's 22 floors represent the 22 stanzas of Dante's "Divine Comedy," according to historian Eduardo Lazzari, and the nine archways signify the nine circles of Hell.

Palacio Barolo, designed by Italian architect Mario Palanti. CBS News

Eventually, after 13 floors of purgatory, you finally reach paradise, where the views are heavenly.

Down at street level, the Argentine art form of Fileteado &ndash found on signs throughout the city &ndash was originally developed by Italian immigrants.

Buenos Aires streets decorated with Fileteado. CBS News

Fileteado has recently experienced a rebirth thanks to artists like Alfredo Genovese, who traces his roots back to Calabria.

"I like to paint," he said. "I like my Italian identity. The Italian identity here is strong!"

With an estimated 62% of Argentinians claiming some Italian heritage, street festivals are common. After Spanish, Italian is the country's second most-popular native language, although everyone speaks a little Italian &hellip with their gestures.

Camilla Padovani gestures. CBS News

"I do a lot of THIS," said Camilla Padovani, gesturing. "We speak with our hands. We speak twice!"

While Padovani dances the Italian tarantella to connect to her Calabrian roots, today's tango even has an Italian connection. Some of the nostalgic melodies and European instruments featured in what's become Buenos Aires' most famous export were, years ago, imported from Italy.

Nothing could be more Argentine, or Italian, than the tango. CBS News


19th Century Italian migration

In the 19th Century lots of Italians came to the UK for trade reasons: as craftsmen, artists and performers. The Unification of Italy in the mid 19th Century saw a breakdown of the feudal land system which actually left many poor people without any land. Catholic Emancipation had freed many Italians. Craftsmen were allowed to build churches and many were hired to take on this type of specialist work in the UK. Some never left. Italians gained a reputation for craftsmanship in sculpture and design and also in the creative perfoming industry such as singing.

In the late1880s many Italians came to the UK to escape poverty in rural Italy as a temporary measure. Many brought with them a desire to set up modest businesses such as ice cream parlours, barber shops and fish &aposn&apos chip shops. All were poor and had to work very hard to make a modest living. Many came to Scotland to find even more opportunities awaiting them.

There are many stories about poor Italians being encouraged to pay for a ship passage to New York, the land of opportunity. But, it seems, when they reached the UK they were left behind. Either the ship was never going to New York or they left the UK without them. Some had been led to believe they had arrived in New York but when they found out differently they had not much choice but to stay and try to make a living.

Unfortunately many Italians were recruited as cheap labour by unscrupulous agents in London and found themselves exploited, working long hard hours for little pay. Many were also sent to the North of the UK and in Scotland as ice cream vendors in the street. In 1901 the Commissariat of Emigration was created which outlawed and controlled the unscrupulous practices involving Italian immigration.


The History of Patagonia

Each year in late July and early August, flights arrive at London airports carrying folk from South America. Many of these visitors experience difficulty in understanding the English spoken to them at passport control, however once they have travelled along the M4 motorway and crossed the border into Wales, destined for wherever the National Eisteddfod is being held that particular year, they find that they can communicate fluently with the locals.

The visitors in question have travelled 8,000 miles from the Welsh speaking outpost of Patagonia, on the southern tip of Argentina. The fascinating history of how these visitors from an essentially Spanish speaking country, also come to speak the ‘language of heaven’ dates back to the first half of the 19th century.

In the early 1800’s, industry within the Welsh heart lands developed and rural communities began to disappear. This industry was helping to fuel the growth of the Industrial Revolution, with the supply of coal, slate, iron and steel. Many believed that Wales was now gradually being absorbed into England, and perhaps disillusioned with this prospect, or excited by the thought of a new start in a new world, many Welshmen and women decided to seek their fortune in other countries.

Welsh immigrants had attempted to set up Welsh speaking colonies in order to retain their cultural identity in America. The most successful of these included ‘Welsh’ towns such as Utica in New York State and Scranton in Pennsylvania.

However these Welsh immigrants were always under great pressure to learn the English language and adopt the ways of the emerging American industrial culture. As such, it did not take too long for these new immigrants to be fully assimilated into the American way of life.

In 1861 at a meeting held at the Bala home of Michael D Jones in north Wales, a group of men discussed the possibility of founding a new Welsh promised land other than in the USA. One option considered for this new colony was Vancouver Island, in Canada, but an alternative destination was also discussed which seemed to have everything the colonists might need in Patagonia, Argentina.

Michael Jones, the principal of Bala College and a staunch nationalist, had been corresponding with the Argentinean government about settling an area known as Bahia Blanca, where Welsh immigrants would be allowed to retain and preserve their language, culture and traditions. Granting such a request suited the Argentinean government, as this would put them in control of a large tract of land which was then the subject of dispute with their Chilean neighbours.

A Welsh emigration committee met in Liverpool and published a handbook, Llawlyfr y Wladfa (Colony Handbook) to publicise the Patagonian scheme. The handbook was widely distributed throughout Wales and also in America.

The first group of settlers, over 150 people gathered from all over Wales, but mainly north and mid-Wales, sailed from Liverpool in late May 1865 aboard the tea-clipper Mimosa. Passengers had paid £12 per adult, or £6 per child for the journey. Blessed with good weather the journey took approximately eight weeks, and the Mimosa eventually arrived at what is now called Puerto Madryn on 27th July.

Unfortunately the settlers found that Patagonia was not the friendly and inviting land they had been expecting. They had been told that it was much like the green and fertile lowlands of Wales. In reality it was a barren and inhospitable windswept pampas, with no water, very little food and no forests to provide building materials for shelter. Some of the settlers’ first homes were dug out from the soft rock of the cliffs in the bay.

Despite receiving help from the native Teheulche Indians who tried to teach the settlers how to survive on the scant resources of the prairie, the colony looked as if it were doomed to failure from the lack of food. However, after receiving several mercy missions of supplies, the settlers persevered and finally struggled on to reach the proposed site for the colony in the Chubut valley about 40 miles away. It was here, where a river the settlers named Camwy cuts a narrow channel through the desert from the nearby Andes, that the first permanent settlement of Rawson was established at the end of 1865.

The colony suffered badly in the early years with floods, poor harvests and disagreements over the ownership of land, in addition the lack of a direct route to the ocean made it difficult to bring in new supplies.

History records that it was one Rachel Jenkins who first had the idea that changed the history of the colony and secured its future. Rachel had noticed that on occasion the River Camwy burst its banks she also considered how such flooding brought life to the arid land that bordered it. It was simple irrigation and backbreaking water management that saved the Chubut valley and its tiny band of Welsh settlers.

Over the next several years new settlers arrived from both Wales and Pennsylvania, and by the end of 1874 the settlement had a population totalling over 270. With the arrival of these keen and fresh hands, new irrigation channels were dug along the length of the Chubut valley, and a patchwork of farms began to emerge along a thin strip on either side of the River Camwy.

In 1875 the Argentine government granted the Welsh settlers official title to the land, and this encouraged many more people to join the colony, with more than 500 people arriving from Wales, including many from the south Wales coalfields which were undergoing a severe depression at that time. This fresh influx of immigrants meant that plans for a major new irrigation system in the Lower Chubut valley could finally begin.

There were further substantial migrations from Wales during the periods 1880-87, and also 1904-12, again mainly due to depression within the coalfields. The settlers had seemingly achieved their utopia with Welsh speaking schools and chapels even the language of local government was Welsh.

In the few decades since the settlers had arrived, they had transformed the inhospitable scrub-filled semi-dessert into one of the most fertile and productive agricultural areas in the whole of Argentina, and had even expanded their territory into the foothills of the Andes with a settlement known as Cwm Hyfryd.

But it was these productive and fertile lands that now attracted other nationalities to settle in Chubut and the colony’s Welsh identity began to be eroded. By 1915 the population of Chubut had grown to around 20,000, with approximately half of these being foreign immigrants.

The turn of the century also marked a change in attitude by the Argentine government who stepped in to impose direct rule on the colony. This brought the speaking of Welsh at local government level and in the schools to an abrupt end. The Welsh utopian dream of Michael D Jones appeared to be disintegrating.

Welsh Ladies Group in 1948 – Photographed by Rev H Samuel, minister at Trefelin at that time

Welsh however remained the language of the home and of the chapel, and despite the Spanish-only education system, the proud community survives to this day serving bara brith from Welsh tea houses, and celebrating their heritage at one of the many eisteddfodau.

Even more recently however, since 1997 in fact, the British Council instigated the Welsh Language Project (WLP) to promote and develop the Welsh language in the Chubut region of Patagonia. Within the terms of this project as well as a permanent Teaching Co-ordinator based in the region, every year Language Development Officers from Wales are dispatched to ensure that the purity of the ‘language of heaven’ is delivered by both formal teaching and via more ‘fun’ social activities.


Italian Culture in Argentina

This surge of Italians in Argentina completely changed the makeup of the country, melding Spanish traditions with the Italian culture of the immigrants to create a new and unique lifestyle. Argentine Spanish is heavily influenced by Italian, with the cadence and vocabulary of Argentine Spanish mirroring Italian, and Italian foods are considered a staple of the region. You constantly see evidence of Italian culture in Argentina, with Italian customs and traditions becoming an important part of Argentinian life.


Why did so many Germans choose to move to Argentina after World War II?

Rather than, for instance, Chile or Peru, which would have offered the same sort of anonymity, or other sparsely populated areas of the world. I know that many went to the USA as part of Operation Paperclip, but I thought that was a deliberate grab by the US government, rather than a choice by the individuals.

A couple of reasons. Juan Perón, who was very powerful in the Argentine government from 1943 and became president in 1946, was very sympathetic to the Nazis. (I've heard he helped some get there through the postwar ratlines, but I can't give you a source for that.) Also, there was already a significant population of German speakers living in Argentina from migrations starting in the late nineteenth century, which meant that escaping Nazis had a community to go to, and would be better able to blend in and hide there.

Nazis did escape to many other countries than Argentina, however, including other South American countries. Mengele spent time in Paraguay, and died in Brazil. Klaus Barbie emigrated to Bolivia (admittedly, he was working with various Allied governments at the time, so something of a different case). Otto Skorzeny ended up taking refuge in Franco Spain.


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