The French: an artistic, culinary and industrial influence
At the beginning of the 19th century during the first years of Independence, the first French artists arrived in Argentina. Publishing houses were multiplied, French literature became fashionable, especially the newspaper serials. French Philanthropic Society was created in 1832. In 1854, the French represented the majority group before the great immigration wave that took place in 1857 in the 1920s, with a peak in the 1880s: by then, the French represented 10% of the population.
The “recruiters”, as those sent by migration agencies were called, recruited people from the poorest regions: Saboya, Bearn, Aveyron, Vasco-French Country and Parisian region. A French peculiarity: in 1914 women outnumbered men, contrary to what happened with other nationalities. They were governesses or launderers, such as Carlos Gardel’s mother, immigrant from Toulouse (or Tolosa from France). Some of them were also prostitutes, as they were immortalized by tango devoted to the French Lady.
Globally, the French were considered the best qualified immigrants; firstly they settled down in farming regions where they grew cereal, wine (they had an essential role in the evolution of the vineyards in Mendoza) or they raised cattle at the beginning of the 20th century, they were workers, technicians or had managing positions. In 1884, they created farming colonies, such as the Aveyrones in Pigüé, province of Buenos Aires. It was probably the community that preserved the strongest bonds with its origins, and every year in December they hold a festivity around a giant tortilla with the support of Aveyron department.
Especially British and French capitals allowed the development of agriculture and industry (railway, ports, and food industry) during this evolution of the 20th century. Up to the 20th century, the French monopolized hotel and restoration industries, which is why the word “restaurant” is usually used in Argentina. Then came the Spanish in charge of the bars and “confiterias” or tea rooms but French cuisine left a trace which can be seen in pastry, for example.
The French created the sugar industry in Tucumán and opened the first industrial meat processing plants in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, revolutionizing the meat market. Some French people had a great influence on politics and the workers’ movements.
Argentina had ten Presidents that were sons of French immigrants (Pueyrredón, Pellegrini, Yrigoyen…).Argentine civil law was based on Napoleon Code and the educational system was inspired on the French model (influence by Paul Groussac). Argentina also adopted some French words, such as “petit”.
The French Alliance network in Argentina is one of the most important around the world. French influence on architecture and urbanism is obvious, in La Plata by the work of Architecture Pierre Benoît, Landscaper Charles (Carlos) Thays with Plaza de Mayo, Bosques de Palermo, among others; and French news is the most followed by Argentine media.
The British: a professional and capital force
The first intents of putting up British colonies in the 1820s, before the great migratory policy launched in the 1850s. After the French, they were the second alien group, a ratio that was later reduced to 75,000 immigrants in 1940.
Immigration from Great Britain was relatively more qualified than that from the other countries. Important investors in the modernization of Argentina, the British sent compatriots to occupy managing positions, to work as qualified workers, rail workers, telegraphists, bank employees, etc. They had a great impact on education, building of railways and the sports: we owe polo to them, a sport in which Argentineans are unbeatable.
It was one of the groups that best preserved their language and culture. English newspaper Buenos Aires Herald, founded by a Scottish man in 1876 still exists.
A great Welsh community settled down in the province of Chubut, in Gaiman, Trelew and Rawson, and they still keep their cultural and culinary traditions. The first Welsh to arrive in Argentina were miners, farmers came later on. As they settled down in Patagonia, completely isolated in those times, they became true pioneers.