If we take into account the definition given by the Oxford Student dictionary, migration is : “a movement of a large number of people, birds or animals from one place to another”. 1 In the nineteenth century a huge migration took place, in which people from different countries of Europe left their homes to search for a new one. One of this communities which decided to move was the Italian one.
In the following project, I am going to analyze this huge movement, taking into account various aspects of it. in the first place, it would be necessary to mention that I will only take into account Italian migration to Argentina. Once this is stated, I will investigate the reasons for such movement, including economic and socially mainly. I will also mention the reasons for people choosing Argentina as their new home.
My essay will also include a deep investigation of one of my family members, my grandfather, who lived in Italy in the early years of this century, and I will also add to my project photographs, documents and all the possible information which proves he lived in Italy and then moved to Argentina. I will also ask him to tell me the conditions in which he lived here, what attracted him to move to this country and who migrated with him.
The reason why I chose Italian migration is because my grandparents coming from Spain died some years ago and they were a very small family. As a consequence, I couldn’t find the way to get information from them. Moreover, I find more interesting Italian migration.
Finally, so as to conclude my work, I am going to write, my conclusion, analyzing the historiographical debates about migratory polices in Argentina.
It is often thought that migration begun with the beginning of the XX century, when the First World war broke out in Europe and later the Second World War begun. This idea is not completely wrong because the when the greatest amount of people decided to move was during those periods, but it should be taken into consideration that migrations didn’t start during those days, in fact, it started about seventy years before the First World War started.
Between the years 1815 and 1871, Italy was constantly facing economic and social and political problems. Italy’s population was poor, dedicated to working in the fields and tried to obtain as much benefits as possible from them. The population didn’t now or used any new techniques, and therefore progressed little or didn’t progress at all. Italian community had many reasons for wanting to migrate out of their country, this can be divided in several factors.
Physical factors: several kind of factors such as deforestation and dryness of the fields had made Italy’s land very unproductive in general. Moreover, since 1860, the illness known as Malaria appeared in the country, and the insect which transmitted this illness attacked mainly the areas where there was more fertile land. Italy also suffered of constant earthquakes, which destroyed all the crops and cultivations.
Economic factors: Italy had enormous amount of land, but, during the feudal system , those lands were mainly owned by the landlords. Although the feudal system ended later, this didn’t help at all. Those vast areas of land which were previously owned by the high class nobles passed to the prospering middle class, so they made really no change. Something similar happened with the lands that were taken away of the church, which were handed over to powerful land owners. The methods used to work in land were antique and they didn’t use new techniques at all, therefore, production was of low quality and quantity as well. People working in the rural areas lived in terrible conditions, they received low salaries and couldn’t do anything with them, just eat small amount of food. This usually lead to crimes and fights, and lots of social problems.
Social factors: as I mentioned before, social problems appeared mainly due to economic problems, and the devastating working and living conditions of people all around Italy. One of the social problems that appeared was the complaining of the working population, which reclaimed better working conditions, higher salaries, lower taxes and more land so that they could produce food for themselves. Another problem was the education. Surveys made during those years prove that there was a high proportion of people who were an alphabetized. Finally, the population in Italy grew constantly, and there were not enough resources for the whole population.
On the other hand, we have Argentina, a fairly new country which was full of opportunities for anyone looking to start new life. As Argentina was too big and didn’t have enough population to work on the land, the government tried to attract the immigrants so that they could help the country to progress economically and socially. So as to achieve this, the country made a set of arrangements with the Italian government, in which they reinforced their friendship and agreed to let the immigrants come to the country. Argentina was always kind and generous towards any immigrant community, not just the Italian one.
“(…) further facilitating the process of absorption was the receptive and usually friendly attitude maintained by Argentina toward immigrants, at least until the world depression of the 1930’s. European immigrants had always been accorded preferential treatment by Argentina constitutions, treaties and laws. Religious freedom in this predominantly Catholic nation was guaranteed (…) by the Constitution of 1853. Foreigners might be stereotyped…but rarely were they discriminated against, rejected or isolated because of their nationality(…)”2
Most Italians coming to the country didn’t bring capitals nor businesses with them. They offered the country the possibility of having a greater amount of working force so as to begin to work on land.