• Foster, David (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Buenos Aires is a city of immigrants. An early Argentine statesman, Juan Bautista Alberdi, concerned over what he perceived to be the underpopulation of what had been a backwater of the Spanish colonial empire, asserted:"To govern is to populate." Ever since the final decades of the nineteenth century, immigrants have poured into Argentina, but principally into the port city of Buenos Aires. The interest in promoting immigration was grounded on the repudiation of a society considered the stagnant remnant of Baroque Spain and the need to provide the new Argentine Republic with the dynamism of new blood, new skills, and inhabitants committed to making it in America. The result was that in both Buenos Aires and surrounding rural areas, the traditional Hispanic base was, in little more than a generation, transformed into a society that was non-Hispanic in many ways. In recent decades immigrants to Argentina have included Koreans, people from Southeast Asia (the former Indochina), and immigrants from other Latin American countries. But between 1880 and 1930 (the beginnings of World War II stanched the trans-Atlantic flow), millions of Europeans sought their livelihood in Buenos Aires. Italians (both Northern and Southern) and Jews (who mostly came from East European countries like Poland, Russia, Hungary, todays Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Ukraine, and Romania) constituted the two largest groups, although immigrants did arrive also from a broad array of other countries. So steady was the influx of Jews that Buenos Aires has become the largest Jewish center of Latin America (followed by So Paulo and Mexico City), as well as one of the major Jewish urban concentrations of the world. The purpose of the seminar, which falls squarely within the NEHs Bridging Cultures Initiative will be to examine the enormous impact of Jewish immigrants on the social, economic, political, and, especially, the intellectual and cultural life of Argentina. This can only be 1 accomplished effectively by conducting the seminar in Buenos Aires, where it will be possible, in addition to the close reading of key texts, to meet writers and intellectuals and to visit the forums of Jewish cultural production. Today, the Jewish community remains large and significant, despite the fact that many Jews have left Argentina in the last sixty yearsfirst during the Peronista period (1946-55), then during the neofascist dictatorships (1966-73; 1976-83), and most recently because of the country's erratic economic situation. Depending on how one defines an individual to be a Jew (a perennial topic of debate), best estimates identify 180,000 Jews in the greater Buenos Aires area, which is for many a very conservative figure. The great Jewish institutions of the city remain to serve the still strong population base, despite the consequences of exodus for reasons of politics, economics, commitment to Israel, and professional opportunities abroad.
Effective start/end date10/1/139/30/14


  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): $106,657.00


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