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European Immigration (1880 – 1914)
Immigration was one of the main factors that gave place to the transition from traditional Argentina to modern Argentina. And without it, it is not possible to understand contemporary Argentina. There has been no other period where the proportion of adult foreigners was so significant; for more than seventy years, 60% of the population of the Capital city and almost 30% of the population of the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Santa Fe were immigrants. The “Europisation” of Argentina and the modification of the national character, so yearned for by the 80’s generation, were translated into an open immigration policy.
Immigration Stages
Until 1880, agriculture, cattle raising and transport were fostered through population policies to later carry out our country industrialisation. Within that heterogeneous immigration current, almost half was coming from Italy, mainly the south, and a third from Spain.

The second stage started after 1880. At that time skilled labour was demanded for a massive agricultural production, but only a few immigrants could be landlords. In view of the unsuccessful plan to allocate land under an ownership mode, immigrants chose to be renters or agricultural labourers, and looked for urban centres to live in. For this reason the population policies implemented failed. As immigrants were mostly males, they sought for rural jobs, what favoured the development of an agricultural economy that allowed the country to turn into the main wheat exporter in the world, while until 1870 Argentina had to import it.
Social Structure
As a consequence of the immigration process, Argentine social structure turned to be more complex and at the same time changed the political culture due to the increase in popular strata and middle class sectors. Though the amount of industrialists and traders increased, the high class did not give place to immigrants and kept their wealth and prestige for themselves (based on “seniority and ancestors”) as well as the political and economic power associated with land ownership.

At that time, class structure was divided into four segments. The first one was represented by the the high or aristocratic class , which, until 1914, represented one per cent of the population. Second one was the upper middle class , that, though prosperous, had little social prestige. The lower middle class had neither economic strength nor social power but had some possibility to improve. Finally, the low class, that represented two thirds of total population, was at the pyramid’s base.

The Argentinean type suffered many changes. The dominant class was composed by cattle breeders, agriculturists, traders, lawyers and politicians. The middle classes bonded with immigrants through their participation in the economic field and in the modernising culturisation process. The lower classes, spread all across Argentina, kept the country duality. To govern modern Argentina it was necessary to integrate immigrants without putting at risk the national integrity.

Between 1902 and 1910, big changes took place in the social structure what brought about strong cracks in the political system. The I World War in Europe encouraged the income of immigrants who sought for new places for their well–being. The 1914 war not only did interrupt the immigration flow but also called their compatriots what resulted in a negative immigration balance in the 1914–1918 period. Nevertheless, Argentina was able to keep the offspring of the first immigrants, inclined to social promotion as well as political participation. Most of them, who had obtained college degrees, engaged in the activity of anarchist unionists, generating the struggle that characterised the country at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Urban population duplicated. And it was the middle class the most developed strata thanks to the contribution of foreigners; in it, the independent sectors grew (employees, officers, technicians). At the same time, in the urban centres there was a pronounced social ascent that favoured the integration of the all strata in the social order of that time.
20:08 - Sábado 19 de Septiembre de 2009
Find out how the first immigrants arrived and what their first activities in our country were. Visit the Immigrants Museum Hotel of the National Immigration Office.
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