The Italians, the majority alien community 

The Italians, the majority alien community

Millions of immigrants influenced Argentine cuisine and accent.

Italian family

In Buenos Aires there is no neighborhood such as Little Italy in Nueva York. Italian roots are strong and the cultural influence is so huge but completely integrated: all porteños eat pasta, drink strong coffee and speak Spanish with such an Italian melody so characteristic of the local accent.

Immigration from Italy was remarkable: almost three million people from 1857 through 1940, which is 45% of the total aliens that arrived in Argentina to settle down. In 1895, more than 12% of the population was Italian and they were called tanos (from Neapolitan). Nowadays, from 15 to 20 million Argentineans have some Italian predecessor, that is, almost half population, even more in Buenos Aires suburbs. Immigration lasted up to the Second World War.

Italians in Estancia Constancia

However, no Argentinean speaks Italian. In fact, many immigrants spoke more the dialect of the region of origin (Piedmont or Lombardy, Sicily or Calabria) than Dante’s language. As it usually happened with poor immigrants from the beginning of the 20th century, more than vindicating their regionalisms, they wanted to be integrated learning the local language and culture.

That is how the third generation or even the second one did not speak Italian or French as to the Hexagon’s immigrants. Intercommunity marriages also mixed the origins and when grandparents were from two or four different countries with different languages, the simplest thing was to speak the language of the country of residence: Spanish. Some words were included in Argentine Spanish but it was the Italian accent that left true evidence. In gastronomy: pizza, polenta, pastas and more recently ice-cream were Italian legacies.


The first immigrants were poor; they were employed as day laborers in farms. They tried to spend the least possible money so as to save and be able to have their families brought in or to return home. The first farming colonies were set up in the provinces of Santa Fe, Córdoba, Mendoza and Chaco where a Friulian community took part in the foundation of Resistencia, today the capital city of the province.

In the city, they shared rooms in big houses: the tenements as in La Boca. This Buenos Aires port neighborhood, firstly reserved for slaves was later completely modified by Italian immigrants, mainly by Genoas that settled down at the end of the 19th century and built their houses with panels, sometimes over pivots and painted them with remains of ship painting. A poor neighborhood made at any cost that today is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods of the Argentine capital city. It was a proletarian world: in charge of handling cargo, longshoremen…

Italian culture in Argentina

In 1882, after a social conflict and a strike, a group of Genoas even decided to create the Independent Republic of La Boca! An event that lasted as long as they had finished putting up the Italian flag… Italian were those that imported anarchism, a political movement relatively important up the 1930s in Argentina.

President Sarmiento, one of the creators of the migratory policy, was one of the greatest reformers of Argentine educational system. The first law of universal, compulsory, free and lay education dates back to 1884. Its purpose was to integrate all immigrants through school, whose only goal was to create a national identity. Thus, children of illiterate immigrants had the possibility to learn how to read and write, to be qualified. The second generation, especially in the urban area, could carry out any kind of job. Italian people quickly lost their social and linguistic features so as to become intermingled in Argentine crucible.
To read: 
The Center for Latin American Monetary Studies