Visiting the Immigration Museum on a wet rainy day in Buenos Aires at the other end of the city from San Telmo, where we were staying was just another adventure and chapter on our journey and this particular chapter discovering Argentina.
We were lucky that the friendly, helpful security guard recognised our broken Spanish and found a student guide who could speak English. Augustine, then spent the next 3 hours trying his best to tour us through the museum and field our questions, it was just as well that he is an inquisitive Historian.
The indigenous were driven south many years ago by the immigrants who originally came from Spain and settled down here in Argentina. In just 100 years between 1820 and 1923 over 55 million people left Europe for the America’s and many of these Spanish, Italian, British, Scandinavians, Eastern Europeans settled in Buenos Aires. The country today looks to find a true national identity in this cosmopolitan mix of a nation born out of immigrants.
Due to the boat loads arriving, immigrants were housed for five days in an ‘Immgrant Hotel’ where they were set-up with a job and somewhere to live. At the hotel, there were about 4000 people at any one time, with support staff and immigration officials buzzing around. People were encouraged to keep their customs and traditions and add these to society to blend their own Argentinian culture out of the many different ones.
There is even a town where they speak Welsh and Spanish and have many Welsh customs and practices to this very day, down in the south of Argentina.
There are rumours that after the hotel was closed down, it was used as one of the infamous torture chambers during the ‘Dirty War’, but no evidence exists and no one is talking. It was just left abandoned using some power with people inside, but not one story to be told, anyhow that’s another story for another day.
People slept toe to toe in the beds with all their belonging’s, this way avoiding theft, but more importantly avoiding the spread of head lice and other from wherever they travelled, similar to quarantine area, but a little less controlled.
Walking the streets and mixing with the people of Buenos Aires it’s easy to see all these different nationalities represented with the huge variety of foods and restaurants.
I am an immigrant to where I live in Cape Town, South Africa but am labelled an expat, so is the label immigrant and expat used based upon one’s origin country rather than their destination country? If you move from an alleged first world country to an alleged third world country, you are classed as an expat, but if you move from an alleged third world country to an alleged first world country you are classed as an immigrant. Ahh labels and pigeon holes, its all designed to keep class systems of society balanced to know who belongs where and who is more important than another. This has been going on for centuries and will continue to do so for many years more.
Labels and pigeon holes, it is all designed to keep class systems of society balanced and intact, so that people know who belongs where and who is more important than another.
Nowadays in modern Argentina, many young people look for some form of national identity, so they can feel a sense of togetherness and belonging and I thought in my naivety that Argentinians had clarity of their identity with my stereotypical definition of an Argentine, wrong again 🙂
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