NOTES ON A FRENCH PRESENCE IN ARGENTINA

 

 

Vanessa Halipi ©

 

 

Argentina not only home to Maradonna, Tango and beef but also to an astounding French culture.

 

I was allocated to the province of Misiones in September 1999 for the period of 10 months as an English Language assistant on behalf of the British Council. I was prepared for a cultural experience but by no means as rich or profound as the one I encountered. As the plane flew down towards the magical city of Posadas, capital of a province, known for the footprints and ruins left by the Jesuits, its red earth, Eucalyptus trees and a 'crystallisation' of races, all I could see were countless lights and stars, lights that were to lead the way to the outstanding French presence that exists in a political, cultural, linguistic, commercial and spiritual sense.

 

This article will consider the impact of the French since the 1900s through the various forms it is present in as much as the evolution of a region and its collective inhabitants. The official presence existed through the Consulate; the vocational exists through religion and the cultural through the impact of immigration. It is based on a series of interviews with French immigrants that I conducted during my stay, which I considered to have had an important impact upon the province — a lengthy interview with Ivonne — a Parisian nun on her past, present, goals and ideas. Interviews with family members of figures such as Emilio Poujade and Georges Clermont who left important landmarks. Close collaboration with Estella Lagier a French language teacher in the region who investigates and struggles to preserve the French presence linguistically and culturally. Finally my meetings with the French Embassy, which plays an interesting role in the country and the province along with my research regarding French immigration made this work possible.

 

The official presence.

 

By means of introduction it is important to distinguish between a Consul and Honorary Consul. The role of the official French Consulate Argentina is authoritative in that it represents all French citizens living within the country — 'la défense des personnes et des biens français dans le respect de la legalité et de l’ordre public local'[1]. In second place it is administrative, processing documents such as Visas and Passports. Argentina is often described as two halves, one being Buenos Aires — the buzzing European capital and commercial central, the other half being the more relaxed and authentic provinces. In order to preserve links and representation with the French throughout the country, there are ‘Consuls honoraires’ and ‘Agents Consulaires’ in each large city to assist the base in Buenos Aires. They have limited powers but work in collaboration with the official Consul; 'Le Consul peut être assisté dans certains domaines par les consuls honoraires et les agents consulaires'.[2] The case in Posadas is special as it marks the arrival of the French in the late 1800s, serving as an official trademark of their presence.

 

Robert de Blosset a French pioneer originally from Lyon emigrated to Misiones in 1890 and decided, with the objective of creating an official space for the French of Misiones, to inaugurate the first Honorary French Consulate in the province in 1896. Robert was an entrepreneur and very proud of his origins. He and his brother Joseph are an example of the first French pioneers to arrive in the province and have had an important influence upon its development and progress. In the early 1900’s, Misiones was empty, the countryside was barren and largely under-developed. It is the immigrants who arrived not only from France but Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Russia and even Japan who are responsible for the growth of the region to what it is today — a modern and developing commercial area, a phenomenon similar to the Wild West. The French played a considerable part in this evolution. Robert de Blosset owned large areas of land, which he and his family worked, they opened up many businesses mainly in the domain of forestry. The 'quartier' Blosset still remains today as a landmark of their presence as does their name on a bronze plaque.[3]

 

Robert de Blosset was Consul for a total period of 40 years, a duty that he shared with his brother, Joseph. He was responsible for the creation and continuation of the Honorary Consulate in Posadas, an important office until its closure only recently in 1997. It was an office that aimed to preserve contact with the former country of immigration and represent the French that were gradually growing in number in the province of Misiones. Blosset was so passionate about his role that during the First World War he called on the young French men of Misiones to join the Italian forces in defence of the French Republic.[4] Blosset took the first steps to the important creation of a French community and presence still alive today.

 

In 1947 Georges Clermont followed Robert de Blosset until 1987[5]; he represents an equally emblematic French figure. The Clermonts, a wealthy family, originate from Bordeaux. Upon arrival in Misiones in 1927, due to unfortunate circumstances, they lost all their fortune and had to start again from scratch.[6] Georges an admirable man did his best to turn around his and his family’s situation as his wife Françoise confirms — 'Il a travaillé, lutté, il a fait un peu de tout ici, il a vraiment vécu la vie de pionnier'.[7] The Clermonts were committed to forestry, the import and export of Renault cars and the creation of a 'contreplaqué' factory just outside Posadas in the town of Candelaria that was to be the main reason for their success. Besides his administrative duties as French Consul (passports, visas, pensions and retirement, receiving ambassadors that travelled through Misiones), in the true spirit of a pioneer, Georges not only contributed to the progress of the region but also worked closely with the Alliance Française to uphold the French language and culture in the community. The Alliance Française was re-founded in 1947 by his elder sister Mado Clermont who was similarly an extraordinary figure working together with Georges to maintain contact with France as Françoise declared — 'il sentait une obligation envers son pays. Il a représenté la France à l’extérieur'.[8] Estella Lagier, French teacher and President of the French Teachers' Association believes that they are the soul of the French community, 'Parler des Français à Misiones, c’est parler des Clermont'.[9] Mado and Françoise continue to uphold their roots. Despite their old age they never fail to meet in the café on the square with the other French Misionero’s once a week to speak their former language, whilst their offspring, albeit spread across the country, also continue to bear their name and to show a similar strong spirit. Although born in France, Georges came to consider himself Argentinian — 'Moi je suis Misionero parce que toute ma vie j’ai lutté ici, j’ai été très heureux'.[10] In the process of immigration especially of the French to Misiones, which is such an unusual example, it is always a difficult task to preserve the formative native language, culture and heritage as through the generations little by little, it is lost. However the Clermonts were adamant and upheld the positive aspects of their previous culture unifying them with those of the Argentines to create an exemplary family. Each year without fail on the 14th of July, they stand in the central square commemorating the grandeur of France and its Revolution and are joined by family and friends from the French community.

 

My meetings with Bertrand Gelliot, the last French Consul in Posadas remain very dear in my memory. After almost 40 years Gelliot replaced Clermont in 1992. He was born in Castel Jaloux just outside Bordeaux and his life is once again a fascinating tale of immigration and enterprise similar to his predecessors Georges and Robert. In 1947, Bertrand arrived in Buenos Aires with his family who left France, after the war, as a result of political differences. At the age of 21, faced with the opportunity to return to his homeland, Bertrand took the incredibly strong decision to remain in Argentina. He spoke fluent Spanish as he had attended a Catholic school in Buenos Aires and wanted to stay. His destiny took him to Misiones — of which he speaks fondly as a magical place, a place that one is attracted to, that boasts a red earth, that has the power to glue you to the ground.[11] This is precisely what happened to Bertrand as over 30 years later, many businesses and 5 years as French Consul, he is still there, married with children and grand-children and still very much in love with the province and its cultural diversity. At present, Bertrand sells Insurance in the region, however, his activities in the past have been wide ranging from Forestry, Paper and even Tobacco where he had many businesses. His work as Honorary Consul, which he described to me as a serious hobby and commitment, kept him occupied with all the administrative duties of the post. He affirms that the role of the French Consul is to represent all French Misioneros that live in Misiones. He kept up to date with all the activities of the French government, received many French subjects and Ambassadors and in return carefully followed events taking place in the region as the Embassy in Buenos Aires liked to be informed.

 

Like his predecessors, Gelliot supported the actions of the Alliance Française in the hope of continuing the French culture and language in the province but as he confessed it is no longer such an easy task, with all the changes in the country especially the creation of 'Mercosur', the commercial union between Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay which has promoted the teaching of Portuguese as a priority, has pushed French to the sidelines. Therefore the survival of the French language and culture is at risk. Sadly the Consulate was closed in 1997. The reason for which remains a mystery. My judgement on the matter is that as there are only 300 or so Français de souche in the region there is no real need for it. Unlike previously, today’s younger hybrid generation consider themselves Argentinian. Misiones could be described as a complex province in consideration of its 'frontier' character. It is situated on the borders of Paraguay and Brazil, where language and nationalism is sometimes mixed or not Argentinian but Brazilian causing a reconsideration of traditional concepts of nationality and citizenship and the traditional role of the Consulate. In addition there exists a problem of drugs passing through Paraguay and Brazil to Argentina and a fluctuating economy as the locals tend to cross over to Paraguay to purchase goods where it is tax-free. To what extent this may affect political activity is uncertain. Similar to the language that risks extinction, it could be that the closure of this office supports the notion that the French presence has evolved to become Argentinian or that it has ceased to exist. I personally do not feel this is the case as throughout Argentina, there are numerous French Consuls, accessible even to the Misioneros. As Gelliot suggested in our discussion one probable explanation is a lack of funding, which given the uncertain financial situation of the province, is a high possibility. In terms of an official presence today in light of globalisation and multi-cultural societies, it is my conclusion that for over one hundred years, the Honorary Consulate served its purpose creating and participating in the history of the French influence in Misiones whilst simultaneously taking care of and representing its citizens. Argentina is a diverse and passionate country where the generations of French immigrants have realised that citizenship and nationality are no longer important as a feeling of belonging as my interviews have confirmed. This is the opinion of the majority of first-generation immigrants in whichever country they find themselves given the phenomenon of immigration today. My experience in Argentina with regards to my own mixed nationality (my mother being Brazilian and my father Yugoslavian) has led me to question how relevant official nationalities are in this modern era of globalisation which is perhaps evolving with the impulse of the European Union and 'Mercosur' and even the break-up of the Balkans towards a more communal, collective and global concept of nationality, language and culture.

 

A presence through vocations

 

France was represented through the French Consulate in Misiones but just because this office closed does not signify a halt to the influence. On the contrary in a more spiritual and cultural sense it appears to have excelled itself through vocations of a different nature. At the early stages of my stay in Misiones, the work of Ivonne Pierron a French nun from the ‘Institut des Soeurs des Missions Etrangères’in Paris was brought to my attention. Ivonne represents France in the most positive sense. Following in the footsteps of Jean d’Arc and Michelet, her work and struggle is an invaluable contribution to mankind. Ivonne lived through the German occupation in France where she acquired her values of freedom and justice. Her father was a Resistant during the war and it is possible to see where her willpower emerged, 'Papa, faisant partie de la résistance a beaucoup lutté pour son pays et je crois qu’il nous a enseigné cet engagement de volonté'[12]. She affirms that her experiences during the war influenced her choice of vocation, such a self-sacrificing one that it confirms my belief that such individuals are born with the gift to make a difference. Ivonne arrived in Argentina through a stroke of luck, as the Institute was originally created for the Middle East. In 1956 with the Pope’s permission, four sisters were sent to Argentina to work in a hospital and Ivonne to a 'Jardin d’Enfants'. The sisters carried out charitable work but also consoled those that had lost relatives during the military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 until 1981.These years are known as those of terror or as 'la guerra sucia' (the dirty war), as the Argentinians refer to it. It was a strict military regime that carried out atrocities; abductions, rape and murder towards innocent individuals. The main target groups were priests and nuns, the rebellious student body, journalists that did not conform to the regime and socialists. Thousands of human beings just vanished over the years in one of the most unjust events of Argentina’s history.[13] The events of this period are still a taboo topic however, after the publication of Nunca Mas[14], an account of the ‘war’ comprising testimonies of torture and brutality of victims before their assassinations (including Ivonne’s colleagues[15]), the injustice has been exposed; however, how far justice has been recovered continues to be debated.

 

On the 8-10 of December 1977, Astiz, chief of 'ESMA'[16] infiltrated the French nuns’ parish ‘Parroquia de Santa Cruz’, claiming to be a victim of the dictatorship. When he discovered their activities, he arrested and denounced the three French nuns found working there. At the time, anyone who secretly or openly opposed the dictatorship or whose thinking was not acceptable was arrested and mysteriously ‘disappeared’, to be cruelly assassinated or thrown off a bridge with concrete blocks tied to one's feet.[17] The two nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Renée Duquet were tortured, persecuted and assassinated. Ivonne managed to leave the country despite her arrest and returned safely to France. The dictatorship was a violation of human rights, the right to a fair trial and the right not to suffer inhumane conditions but most of all no explanation was given for the thousands of missing bodies whose relatives continue to protest.

 

A famous organisation was set up to fight against the disappearance of the lost children of the regime; ‘Las Madres de la plaza de Mayo’. Every Thursday until this day, a group of mothers and nuns parade peacefully in front of the famous Casa Rosada[18], of which both Peron and Evita have addressed the crowds from the balcony. Their silent protest is for the lost victims demanding an answer to the corruption.[19] It is only recently that these occurrences are openly discussed and although certain officers were imprisoned, Astiz, one of the main perpetrators, served only three months and was set free.[20] The dictatorship was followed by a wave of democracy and in May of this year the public celebrated twenty years of freedom.[21] Justice however has still not been achieved, but Ivonne believes it is time to forget about the past and open our eyes to the present. Journalists constantly ask her about her experiences during the dictatorship however she believes we should focus our energy on present corruption 'Il faut ouvrir les yeux'[22]. The democracy of today prevents these atrocities from taking place; however, with the corruption that continues to exist, one may question to what extent democracy is capable of preserving justice.

 

Determined to continue her vocation, Ivonne returned to Argentina after the dictatorship ended in 1981 and looked for a position where she was needed. Her destiny like many of the French who arrived in Buenos Aires, took her to Misiones where she has remained ever since. Her first position was as a French language teacher in a secondary school. She was soon approached by a priest and told about the unfortunate situation in ‘Pueblo Ilias’ a tiny village southwest of Posadas, where the children who lived out in the countryside had no access to education. Knowing instantly that this was her call, Ivonne took on the work as Teacher/Mother. She runs a youth hostel that lodges unfortunate children enabling them to have the opportunity to study that would not be otherwise possible. She has been in Pueblo Illias since 1993 where the number of youths she cares for during term-time has risen to 40 for which she earns a mere $240 per month. However, this is not a barrier; Ivonne has managed to establish a real community in the countryside. Although justice may still not be a reality, Ivonne is not afraid to expose the corruption that currently exists in a country that unlike France and Germany has not debated its history, causing a stagnation, as Tomás Eloy Martinez, an Argentinian writer points out: 'Those that refuse to discuss the terror of the past and account for what they did during it, continue to live through it everyday but in a different manner'[23]. In the countryside, there are a number of injustices that Ivonne fights against, particularly poverty and corruption, defending the right for youths to have an education.

 

There are insufficient schools in the countryside, furthermore there are often forty or more teachers to a class and the salaries are as low as $200 per month. Yet the biggest injustice seems to be that the children who live far away from schools have no access, which is Ivonne’s strongest complaint about the government of Misiones. In addition, medical facilities and sanitation are scarce in the area and Ivonne’s hostel, as well as providing a term-time home for the children, has become a type of Samaritan's inn in the village where the poverty-stricken locals often come for medical attention and moral support.

 

Her work has become quite well known throughout the province as one journalist highlights; 'The five thousand inhabitants of the area feel abandoned and isolated from the interest of the government. Nurse, nun and humanitarian dedicates her time and solidarity to the small village.'[24] The inhabitants of the countryside appear to be at a disadvantage, which is why Ivonne’s religious sacrifice and vocation are so important. Her religious path has become a socio-political one as she has always fought against injustice and for 'les droits de l’homme, contre la dictature, pour les réformes agraires.'[25] At present, her mission is to 'défendre le droit de la jeunesse à l’éducation' as she strongly believes it is through education that the youth of today will open their eyes to the unjust situation that surrounds them in the hope that they, unlike their predecessors, will not accept the situation but attempt to change it: 'Je crois que la première chose est de lutter pour tous les jeunes argentins pour les études at la formation culturelle, parce que l’éducation et la culture ouvrent les yeux.'[26] The government is partly responsible. The last ten years could be described as a type of armed economic and cultural corruption against the nation, which has perhaps culminated recently with the collapse of the economy. Values in Argentina are not the same as Europe, the main difference being in Misiones, that labourers feel exploited and education is not accessible to all, which could be summed up as 'le sectarisme parfait, la démagogie totale'[27] in the face of a helpless community. Ivonne’s mission is to provide a voice for these people and to make a stand against corruption. Her work over the last years has not been in vain as she has gained recognition from the government and an increase in funds with more supplies.

 

After surviving the occupation and dictatorship, Ivonne’s strength continues to provide inspiration to her adopted children and to any one who has the opportunity to meet her. Her courage is infallible, a symbol of the most exemplary French tradition of 'liberté, égalité et fraternité'. Ivonne upholds religion in a place where people have lost faith in their government urging people to make a stand. Is it possible that an education is enough to make these youth turn their adverse situation around? Is awareness through education the key to a brighter future?

 

 

A cultural presence

 

 

The influence of French immigration to the country and region of Posadas has left strong linguistic and cultural imprints. Following the Italian and the Spanish, the French are the third important influx of immigration as Michelle Guilbard, President of the French community in Obera, Misiones explains, 'Les immigrants français sont après les Italiens et les Espagnols, la troisième souche en Argentine'[28]. Argentina is a country that has evolved and grown because of the contribution of its immigrants remembering that since acquiring its independence from Spain, Argentina has not ceased to expand, incorporating immigrants from all over the world in a very special manner which is referred to in Misiones as the 'crystallisation of races' and throughout Argentina as the ‘nación’. President Mitre in 1853 opened the port of Buenos Aires to the world in a policy aimed at reconstructing the country, improving industry, agriculture and the development of this young country, attracting a wide spectrum of immigrants. France played a major part in the expansion of this country, in which the population of Buenos Aires almost tripled in volume. Hernan Otero stated that between 1857 and 1924, 226,894 French immigrated to Argentina.[29] The most interesting aspect of French immigration as many have confirmed to me is that in comparison with French immigration elsewhere, in Argentina they easily adapted and integrated to the nation 'en contribuant à la naissance d’une nouvelle population d'une façon étonnamment rapide'.[30]

 

The majority of immigrants remained in Buenos Aires where they had a huge influence upon the architecture, gastronomy and culture. A considerable number moved towards Misiones; an agricultural area home to the Yerba Mate, forestry, paper and tobacco industries. At present there are about 150 families of pure French descent as many others have mixed with the local populations such as the Swiss and Germans. It is essential to consider that ‘the north-east of Argentina, Misiones is the land of colonisation’[31]. It is made up of immigrants who, now third generation, consider themselves ‘Misioneros’ a product of the rich land they have contributed to and lived off over the years. The majority of Europeans arrived to Misiones at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century. In many cases German’s, Swiss and Polish fled their homes due to political differences in search of a better quality of life. They regarded South America as the land of new opportunities.

 

As far as cultural and linguistic variety is concerned, Misiones is an exemplary phenomenon in which the diverse impact of immigration helped to cultivate the land and develop the economy. Other nationalities such as the Germans or the Japanese tended to form more close-knit colonies however the French were more open-minded and independent. They were often businessmen, entrepreneurs and intellectuals as Estella Lagier confirms.[32] Estella has investigated and written a series of articles about important French figures such as Martin de Moussy[33], a great intellectual who arrived in the country in 1820 with the aim of producing a study of Argentina’s geography and statistics, a volume still consulted today.[34] The national college of Posadas carries the name ‘Martin de Moussy’, in honour of his achievements since 1963.

 

Emilio Poujade is another example of the true spirit and character of the French pioneer. He was responsible for improving contact and communication throughout the province. His story is truly exceptional, if we trace back his steps to the age of thirteen, when he decided to leave his humble home in France. He was in search of a better life, an immense courage on his part. When he arrived at the port of Buenos Aires with no one awaiting him, he simply lifted his hat and threw it in the air saying 'Je vais lancer mon chapeau en l’air et vers l’endroit de son point de chute je dirigerai mes pas.'[35] Once in Misiones, the first step he took was to open a small business for stock and merchandise in the province, which became an essential means of transport and communication between the colonies that felt isolated from the capital. In 1917, he and others founded the first bank of Misiones. His entrepreneurial impulse was an inspiration to the members of his community who admire his work and follow his values and examples. Emilio died in 1935. He had six children. I had the pleasure of interviewing his grandchildren, André and Chiqui Poujade, along with Nilda Poujade, who was married to one of his seven grandchildren. All exclaim their admiration towards their deceased grand-father whom they regard as a role model. They have also re-established contact with Emilio’s relatives from Blars in France and there was an emotional reunion in 1997 when Danielle, Emilio’s niece paid a visit to Argentina; the land of her prosperous and famous ‘Uncle Poujade’, as he is known to his overseas relatives.

 

After his death, a number of articles were published in honour of his extraordinary and visionary presence[36]. His ‘quartier’, the Villa Poujade, remains as a memory of his actions. The members of his community also named the school and the central square after him. André explained: 'Les gens qui habitent dans ce quartier ont plus de valeur aux yeux de mon grand-père que nous parce qu’il a réussi à changer leur mentalité.'[37] Studies carried out by the University of Misiones show that the ‘quartier Poujade’ developed more quickly and became richer in comparison with other villages, which confirms that the systems and values he introduced were preserved and continued. Like Clermont, Gelliot and Blosset, Poujade has contributed to the special impact left by the French that continues to exist not only through their memory and landmarks but also through their grandchildren. André Poujade is Vice-President of the Alliance Française, he and his family travel to France as often as possible in order to preserve the link between France and Misiones. As Nilda confirmed: 'Par Emilio il existe une présence française importante; les Français en Misiones ont eu un impact significatif, bien que la présence soit restreinte, elle continue d’être importante et très marquante.'[38]

 

French immigration has also had a crucial influence upon the sphere of education as French culture is one of the bases of Argentinian culture. At present, the French language, which has been an integral part of the Argentinian syllabus of Secondary Schools in Misiones since 1927 is on the brink of extinction because of the ‘Mercosur’[39]. French has been taught alongside English in the ‘EGB’ system however its popularity has decreased largely because more students opt to learn English as a second language. As a result of the cultural and commercial alliance with Brazil, Argentina’s neighbour, Portuguese is gradually replacing French. In Misiones, the ‘Profesorado de Francès’ (teaching qualification), was terminated in 1995 by the Ministry of Education to inaugurate that of Portuguese, which signifies a gradual halt to the training of qualified French teachers. The Alliance Française and the French Teachers' Association have joined forces in defence of the French language and protection of French teachers in the province. Their principal argument is based on the notion of ‘Pluralinguism’[40], a reality in Misiones due to the phenomenon of immigration. Estella Lagier, President of the Association states that it is important to preserve all former languages giving students the option to study French, German or Italian at secondary school otherwise the history, heritage and language of the hybrid Misioneros will be lost, 'C’est une bataille, on va mettre le portuguais mais au moins on peut continuer à enseigner le français à l’école. Ce n’est pas impossible, seulement une question de budgets'.[41] It is largely down to the decision of the heads of each establishment and the funds available as to whether the teaching of French is continued. The association and Alliance française are doing their best to promote the language, organising activities such as 'la semaine française' and writing petitions to the ‘governor’ of Misiones and the Ministry of Education.

 

I personally attended classes at the Alliance française (a private/public institution) that was originally founded in 1922 by Leon N.R. de Naboulet, a French journalist who lived in the region.[42] Mado Clermont re-founded it in 1953 and since then, it has experienced an incredible amount of success with over 150 students annually. In Argentina, the Alliance Française has played a very important role in the perseverance and promotion of the French language and culture with over 100 institutions throughout the country. On a visit to Misiones, the ex-French Ambassador, Paul Dijoud stated that the Alliance is ‘un point de connexion importante entre nos deux pays’.[43] It is the ‘heart of the French presence in Misiones’[44], where the language is upheld and the former country is kept alive through the many cultural events, concerts and soirées it holds in collaboration with the French Consulate. However the present situation is difficult as the number of students decreased to 50 last year. It is evident that changes such as the ‘Mercosur’ along with the instable economy of Misiones is not only affecting public but private education also. André Poujade, Vice-President of the Alliance, believes that the problem is economical and that classes are no longer accessible to French and non-French families as the province is experiencing a particularly difficult time. All teachers hope that this phase is a passing one and continue to encourage the teaching of French. The Alliance Française introduced internationally recognised certificates (DALF and DELF) to keep up with the times and give students international opportunities such as scholarships to France.[45]

 

It is important to question why the continuation of French is so important in the country. The answer may be found in the growing commercial and political influence of France in Argentina. There are over three hundred French companies in Argentina such as Telecom, which is why French as a second language opens greater commercial opportunities for the young Misioneros. Furthermore, the current Governor of Misiones, Rovira with the intention of preserving the interest of France in the region maintains excellent relations with the French Embassy and with French deputies that have frequently visited Misiones to import natural products and promote tourism in the region.[46]

 

In February 2000, I interviewed Coronal Amédée Ray, the appointed deputy of Misiones at the French Embassy regarding the economical, political and commercial connections between France and Misiones. I have summarised the role of the French Embassy within Argentina into three categories: the first is the maintenance of good relations between the two countries; the second is the observance of French investments in Argentina and thirdly, the analysis of the evolution of Argentina’s economy and politics. Misiones is considered as 'a type of laboratory'[47] due to its frontier character where there is a drug problem but also a strong forestry and tourist industry. The Embassy is interested in following activities in Misiones so as to compare them with other French colonies throughout the world. In the view of the French Embassy, the French influence exists today in a commercial manner through French companies showing interest in the products, tourism and agriculture of each province. In terms of a cultural and linguistic presence, Coronal Ray believes that as a result of integration it is difficult to conserve, yet he upholds that the Embassy is doing its very best to promote it by supporting the Alliance française and encouraging French investment and cultural exchanges between the two countries.[48]

 

In my opinion, the French presence in Misiones has been positive, they did not form colonies or attempt to impose their culture or lifestyle. They possess an exemplary sentiment of nationalism in that they have adopted Argentina and confirm their love and appreciation for their second home. As Ivonne exclaims: 'L’Argentine, m’a donné énormément'[49]. The French influence exercised by Ivonne will continue to perpetuate among the youth of Misiones and all those that she has helped, myself included. Her honesty and will to fight for what is right confirm the importance of her mission as a symbol of French Catholicism in Argentina. The future of the Alliance française and teaching of French in schools is uncertain and depends on a number of factors such as the economic situation and the future interest of France in Argentina. In any case, I believe that whatever the outcome, the French presence will remain strong with the strength of those that support and uphold it.

 

The process of evolution and immigration in South America is a complex subject. It is possible to state, with regards to French immigration that there are no definite patterns and it would be very interesting to compare and contrast the different evolutions. Returning to the French influence in Misiones, I would like to insist upon its exceptional character in the numerous domaines it exists from official and vocational to cultural and economic. The fact that the French had such an impact upon the region, not always under the easiest of circumstances, reinforces the exceptional character of their presence. In conclusion, the French influence in Misiones has left a strong, romantic and magical imprint upon the red earth of the province. It has been a process of evolution in which they have incorporated their values, adapting and integrating to the country achieving a strong union between the former and adopted country whilst promoting French culture and preserving a heritage, contributing to the birth and evolution of a province.

 

'Partir c’est mourir un peu, on laisse un peu de soi même à chaque étape et à tout lieu et jusqu’à l’adieu suprême, c’est son âme que l’on sème dans chaque lieu.'[50]

 

                                                                                                (Mado Clermont)

References:

 

Interview with Françoise Clermont                  29th March 2000.

Interview with Bertrand Gelliot                        20th April 2000.

Interview with Ivonne Pierron              26th March 2000.

Interview with Michel Guilbard                       22nd May 2000.

Interview with Nilda Poujade                           26th April 2000.

Interview with André and Chigi Poujade         18th May 2000.

Interview with Estella Lagier                            29th April 2000.

Questionnaire — Liliana Cardoso                   May 2000.

Interview with Coronal Ray Amédée               10th February 2000.

 

Articles:

 

Clermont, G. ‘République Française’ La Tarde, 13 Juin 1915.

 

Giacani, H. ‘Pueblo Illia: fundado con ilusíon pero abandonado a su suerte’, El Territorio, 20 November 1999.

 

Lagier, Estella. ‘Los Hermanos Ramón y Robert de Blosset’ La Primera Edicion, 31 Octobre 1999.

 

Lagier, Estella. ‘Martin de Moussy no es el nombre de un colegio’ La Primera Edicion, 10 Octobre 1999.

 

Padula, S. ‘Varios agricultores franceses visitan Misiones para conocer su realidad.’

El Territorio 1 March, 2000, p15.

 

‘El embajador francés confía en el desarollo de Misones’ El Territorio, 15 June 1998.

 

‘Leon Nabulet’ La Tarde, 11 mai 1921.

 

Lettre du Consulat Général de France, Buenos Aires, 29 de Novembre 1999

 

Works consulted :

 

Alfonsín, Raúl, Nunca Mas: Informe de la Comisíon Nacional sobre la Desaparicíon de personas. University of Buenos Aires, 1984, pp.387-388, 351-352.

 

Bartolomé, J.L, Colonias y Colonizadores en Misiones Universidad de Misiones, 1976.

 

Boleda, M, En torno a las Migraciones en a Argentina 1869-1970, Universidad de Misiones.

 

Lagier, E, Una Aproxiamcion al Multilinguismo en Misiones. Posadas, 1999.

 

Otero, H. Redes Sociales Primarias, Movilidad Espacial Y Insercion Social de los Imigrantes en la Argentina: Los Franceses de Tandil, Buenos Aires University Press, 1981. pp.81-93

 

Jornadas sobre Poblamiento, Colonizacíon y Immigracíon en Misiones, Posadas, Misiones 1999. Montoya University, pp.113-122 (Emilio Poujade 1874-1935)

 

Le Livret du Français à l’étranger. Edition 1993-1994, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères.

 

 'Todo es Historia', Los Franceses en Argentina. Buenos Aires Press, Novembre 1999.

 

Romero, L.A, Breve Historia Contemporánea de la Argentina, Fondo de Cultura Economica de Argentina, Buenos Aires, 1994.

 



[1] Le livret du Français à l’étranger, Edition 1993-1994. Ministère des Affaires Etrangères. p. 21

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lagier, E, ‘Los hermanos Ramon y Robert de Blosset’, La Primera Edicion, 31 October 2000.

[4] An announcement by Robert Blosset in La Tarde, 15 June 1915.

[5] All information regarding dates of office has been taken from an official letter from the general Consulate in Buenos Aires dated 29.09.99 and signed by Marie-Claire San Quince, Consul Générale.

[6] As Françoise Clermont, his wife explained to me in our Interview — 29th March 2000.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Interview with Estella Lagier, Researcher and President of the French Teachers’ Association — 29 April 2000.

[10] Interview with Françoise Clermont, 29 March 2000.

[11] Interview — Bertrand Gelliot — Ex-Consul of France, 5 March 2000.

[12] Interview with Sister Ivonne Pierron, 26 March 2000.

[13] For general information regarding dictatorship consult Nunca Mas, Informe de la COMISION NACIONAL SOBRE LA DESAPARICION DE PERSONAS, Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1984, p.15-22 and Luis Alberto Romero, Breve Historia Contemporánea de la Argentina, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1994. p.283-296.

[14] Nunca Mas, Informe de la COMISION NACIONAL SOBRE LA DESAPARICION DE PERSONAS, Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1984.

[15] For more details refer to ibid. pp.387-388.

[16]ESMA: The military section of the dictatorship.

[17] Ibid. p. 15-17.

[18] The official government building in Buenos Aires near the ‘Plaza de Mayo'.

[19] Francesc Relea, El Pais, ‘Veinticinco anos buscando la verdad’, 24 March 2001.

[20] For more information consult — Tomás Eloy Martínez, El País, ‘Argentina: las cuentas pendientes’, 24 March 2001.

[21] Carlos Fuentes, El País, ‘Democracia latinoamericana: anhelo, realidad y amenaza', 15 May, 2001.

[22] Interview with Ivonne Pierron, 26 March 2000.

[23] 'Quienes se niegan a discutir el terror del pasado y a recordar lo que hicieron bajo ese terror siguen viviéndolo todos los días, de otra manera.' Martíne Tomás Eloy, El País, ‘Argentina: las cuentas pendientes’, 24 March 2001.

[24] Giacani, H, El Territorio, ‘Pueblo Illia: fundado con ilusíon pero abandonado a su suerte’, 20 Nov 2000.

[25] Interview with Ivonne Pierron 26 March 2000.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Interview with Michel Guilbart, 18 May 2000. In Obera there exists a French community and a considerable French influence upon the commerce and agriculture.

[29] Otero, Hernan, Redes Sociales Primarias y Insercion de los Imigrantes en la Argentina. Los Franceses de Tandil, Buenos Aires University Press, 1881. p. 81-93

[30] Ibid. p. 85

[31] Bartolomé, JL, Colonias y Colonizadores en Misiones, Universidad de Misiones 1976.

[32] Interview with Estella Lagier, 20 March 2000.

[33] Lagier, E, Primera Edicion, ‘Martin de Moussy no es el nombre de un colegio’, 10 October 1999.

[34] Martin de Moussy, Description Geographique et Statistique de la Confederation argentine, 1860.

[35] Jornadas sobre Poblamiento, Colonizacion y Immigracion en Misiones. Posadas-Misiones 1999, Montoya University.

[36] La Nacion, Buenos Aires, 23 February, 1935. La Tarde, Posadas, Misiones, 23 February, 1935.

[37] Interview with André and Chiqui Poujade, 18 May, 2001.

[38] Interview with Nilda Poujade, 26 April, 2001.

[39] Commercial union between Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay

[40] Lagier, E, Una Aproximacion al Multilinguismo en Misiones, Posadas, 1999

[41] Interview with Estella Lagier, 20 March 2000

[42] As La Tarde, 11 May 1921 confirms.

[43] ‘El embajador frances confia en el desarollo de Misiones’, El Territorio, 29 November 1998.

[44] Interview with Chiqui and André Poujade, 18 May 2000.

[45] As Liliana Cardoso, President of the Alliance explains in a questionnaire I distributed in May 2000.

[46] Padula, S. El Territorio, ‘Varios agricultores franceses visitan misiones para conocer su realidad.’,

1 March 2000.

[47] Interview with Coronal Amédée Ray — 10.02.00

[48] Ibid.

[49] Interview with Ivonne Pierron.

[50] Mercedes, V, ‘La estrella que alumbra à Mado Clermont’ El Territorio, 5 November 1981.