This article was originally published in Familia, journal of the Ulster Historical Foundation (volume 2, no. 7, 1991). Published annually.

Los Irlandeses en la Argentina (part 2)

by Pat Nally, Secretary, Longford-Westmeath Argentina Society

During the 1830s, there was a continued rise in emigration to Argentina, coming from three sources: Ireland, Irish coming down from the United States and Irish coming in from Brazil. Some Irish had gone to Brazil but, on not receiving a great welcome, crossed into Argentina. Argentina gave them a great welcome as it did to all Irish and other emigrants. Some such as Brown and Mooney became involved in the meat trade, but it was the sheep trade that attracted most of them. Irish and Basque emigrants became the mainstay of the sheep trade, and helped develop a wool based economy. Indeed, a Peter Sheridan from Cavan, who emigrated in the 1820s, became one of the largest sheep farmers in Argentina, and was instrumental in introducing the Merino sheep Which today are to be seen all over Argentina. The Irish achieved great success with sheep, especially because the native gauchos preferred cattle and had no interest in sheep. Labourers earned up to ten shillings a day. A system of halves operated, i.e. the owner of land supplied the land and flock, and the tenant was responsible for all other expenses. In time, many became owners of large estancias (ranches). By 1880, there were 58 million sheep in Argentina.

The first stage of emigration can be dated from the late 1820s to early 1840s. The famine of the mid 1840s saw another stage develop. Names which occur in the first stage include Duggans, Murrays, Hams, Gahans, Kennys, Dillons, Mooneys and Brownes. People in this stage prospered enormously and achieved greater success than later emigrants. The emigrants of that early period would have been influenced by Daniel O'Connell, and were less nationalistic than emigrants of the post-famine era. By the time of the famine, many of the early emigrants had become part of the Argentine establishment.

The famine of the 1840s in Ireland boosted emigration to Argentina from Westmeath and Wexford. This movement continued into the 1850s. 1844 saw the appointment of Rev. Antonio Fahy as chaplain. He was a native of Galway who had spent two years in Ohio in the United States. There he had seen the problems among Irish emigrants in cities, so when he arrived in Argentina, he urged Irish emigrants to avoid the cities and head for the vast countryside. He has been described as the adviser, banker, matchmaker and administrator of a welfare system for the newly arriving emigrants. The records of the port of Buenos Aires for 1849 show 708 emigrants arriving from Ireland. Church building became part of the Irish scene around this period, with new churches built in Buenos Aires, Barracas, Coronel Brandsen, Carmen de Areco, Rojas, Arrecifes, Mercedes and Venado Tuerto.

The 1850s show a lot of Irish owned estancias which in turn employed new emigrants. Women began to arrive in greater numbers in the 1850s. They worked often as cooks, maids and governesses. Many married sheep farmers. At this stage, women comprised half of the emigrants. Irish married Irish, and marriages with Argentines were rare. Indeed, up to the third generation they rarely married outside the Irish community. English was the household language of emigrants throughout this period. The arrival of Edward Mulhall in 1852 was significant. Born in Dublin in 1832, he emigrated first to the United States and then moved to Argentina. His brother Michael also arrived in Argentina. Mulhall went into the sheep trade, and in 1861, together with his brother, founded The Buenos Aires Standard newspaper which was the first English language paper, and was published for the English speaking community which, at this stage, comprised Irish, English and Scottish emigrants. He disposed of his farming interests and settled in Buenos Aires city. He became a friend of Presidents Roca and Avellaneda and also a city councillor. He was a great promoter of the farming industry, through his own 40,000 acre estancia. He died in 1888, having been married in 1856 to Eloisa Eborall from England.

Another wave of emigrants arrived in the 1860s, bringing names like Ryan, McCormick, Mullally and Casey. At this stage, some people were arriving to join their relatives already in Argentina, while others arrived after the Fenian Rising in Ireland. As the 1870s approached, there was a clear political division among emigrants, with the early wealthy emigrants pro-Home Rule in Ireland, with this expressed through The Buenos Aires Standard newspaper. The new arrivals of the 1860s, like the post famine 1840s arrivals, tended to be more nationalistic. This led to the foundation of another English language paper, The Southern Cross (La Cruz del Sur) in 1875, with Monsignor Patricio Jose Dillon as its first editor. He was born in the Diocese of Tuam and reached Argentina in 1863. The Southern Cross saw itself as somewhat greener than The Standard. Perhaps its most famous editor was William Bulfin, author of the famous book Rambles in Erin. He was editor from 1869-1906, being originally from Co. Offaly. The Southern Cross appeared as an English paper and remained so until 1964 when it changed to Spanish. The interesting aspect about the early days of The Buenos Aires Standard is that not alone was it the first English language paper, but it was also bilingual - English and French. An interesting picture of the Irish community in Argentina appeared in the first Southern Cross of January 16th, 1875, stating 'In no part of the world is the Irishman more esteemed and respected than in the Province of Buenos Aires, and in no part of the world, in the same space of time have Irish settlers made such large fortunes. The Irish population in the Republic may have set down at 26,000 souls. They possess in this province 200 leagues of land or 1,800 miles or 1,500.000 acres. Almost all of this land is of the very best quality. They own about 5,000,000 sheep and thousands are worth 5,000,000 sterling. This vast fortune has been acquired in a few years.'

The 1880s witnessed a further influx from Ireland, many of whom were joining an earlier generation of relatives in Argentina. During the 1875-1890 period, there was a great development of organisations and educational institutions by the Irish community. Newman College, St. Brendan's College and St. Brigid's College were established and still exist. Branches of the Gaelic League and Sinn Fein were formed. The Irish Catholic Association was formed and hurling clubs were organised in Buenos Aires and Mercedes. Hurling continued to be played until the second world war. The hurling club of Buenos Aires still exists and now has rugby and hockey. However, the amazing news is that moves are currently afoot (July 1992) to revive hurling in Argentina, based in the Buenos Aires Hurling Club.

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