Argentines have a fascinating culture that combines the beauty of Spanish communities with that of Italians. There are many such examples in every aspect of Argentina’s culture, from music and art to food and education. Let’s delve into the history behind how Italians came to call Argentina home!
There are a lot of Italians in Argentina because a massive immigration movement brought two million Italians to Argentina between 1880 – 1930. They left Italy due to poor living conditions, and Argentina was in dire need of immigrants due to the Conquest of the Desert and the War of the Triple Alliance.
Why Is Argentina So Full Of Italian People?
Modern-day Argentina’s population boasts the third-largest community of Italians in the world, with Brazil taking second and Italy first. Experts believe that 62.5% of Argentines have partial or full Italian descent.
The primary reason for Argentina’s large representation of Italians stems from an immigration movement between 1880 – 1930. The end of the nineteenth century was difficult for many Italians, as Italy faced severe societal and political challenges.
Widespread poverty was an everyday battle, and exorbitant tax rates made it difficult for the average person to sustain a family. However, as fate would have it, Argentina desperately needed immigrants.
The recent Conquest of the Desert (Patagonia) and War of the Triple Alliance left Argentina with a population of only 1.1 million as of 1850. Argentines had a lot of growth potential because their land was nine times larger than Italy’s.
The mutual relationship that was to start would greatly benefit both peoples. In an attempt to encourage immigration and development, the Argentine government offered free or low-cost land in 1876. It extended this offer in 1882 by giving every family 25 hectares of land at no cost.
In light of these historical developments, Article 25 of modern-day Argentina’s constitution still supports immigration. It states that the federal government supports European immigration. It does not hold the power to restrict, limit, or impose any tax to enter Argentina.
They emphasize these points, particularly for foreigners who aim to better Argentina through land cultivation, sciences, art, and industry professionals.
How Did Italians Influence The Argentine Culture?
Italian influence trickles into many facets of Argentine life. It’s prevalent in language, food, music, art, and education. Let’s discuss each of these in more depth and see how Italian society integrated into Argentina.
Most people in Argentina speak Spanish, but Italian’s profound mark on how people communicate is extraordinary! Many Argentines use words or expressions that derive from Italian dialects.
Lunfardo is a dialect used by Italian immigrants and found its roots in Buenos Aires. Its name comes from the Italian dialect called Lombardo, which is common in the northern regions of Italy. Modern-day Argentines use many Lunfardo words, with most people describing it as slang.
Here are some everyday examples:
- Birra – beer
- laburo – work, from the Italian lavoro
- pibe – boy or child, from the Genoese pivetto
- fiaca – laziness (colloquial), from the Italian fiacca
- mina – girl or woman (colloquial), from the Italian feminna
- cheto – posh or snob, from the Italian ceto
Some Argentines also speak various Italian languages, like Venetian, Sicilian, Piedmontese, and Neapolitan. Interestingly, there’s also a pidgin language called Cocoliche, which mixes Spanish and Italian elements.
Italian cuisine is a popular choice for many Argentines. Pizzerias and Italian restaurants await hungry customers at most street corners, like Pizzería Güerrin and Cadore in Buenos Aires. Argentina has its very own style of Italian cuisine, too.
People enjoy a type of pancake or crêpe made with chickpea flour called fainá or farinata. Milanesa is a tasty breaded meat cutlet that goes well with a side of vegetables. Those with a sweet tooth will love alfajroes, a cookie made with flour, honey, and nuts.
Another massive Italian influence is Asado, a barbecue of various meat types, a national tradition in Argentina. The tradition originates from Italian immigrants who brought along their meat preparation and grilling skills.
Italian music influences many aspects of Argentine music, including pop, folk, rock, and even tango. Tango’s Italian roots date back to the nineteenth century with folk dance influences like Tarantella and the vocal inspirations of Canzonetta.
Many tango lyrics also derive from Italian dialects and Cocoliche. In fact, some of the most famous tang composers were Italian, like Aníbal Troilo, Astor Piazzolla, and Carlos Gardel. Argentine folk music also shares similarities with Italian folk music, particularly with sounds from the guitar and accordion.
The Italian influence in Argentine art made it possible to paint, sculpt, and design some of the world’s most exquisite art pieces. Artists like Antonio Berni studied and worked in Italy to perfect their craft and gain inspiration.
Argentine artwork contains various Italian artistic styles, like impressionism, realism, and spatialism. Italian sculptors also contributed to creating many monuments and statues in Argentina, such as the Obelisk of Buenos Aires by Alberto Prebisch and the Monument to the Two Congresses by José Fioravanti.
Italian architects also designed many buildings and landmarks in Argentina, such as the Teatro Colón by Francesco Tamburini and Vittorio Meano.
Many educational institutions like universities and schools have the support of Italian culture. Some were even founded by Italian people, like the University of Buenos Aires. Manuel Belgrano and Bernardino Rivadavia founded the university in 1821.
The National University of Córdoba was founded by Juan Larrea and José de San Martín in 1613.
Students can take classes in Spanish or Italian, and universities have exchange agreements. These are formal contracts between two or more institutions allowing students to study at each other’s campuses.
Many of Argentina’s brightest minds and scholars carefully study Italian writers and thinkers to further their intellectual pursuits. These include incredible people like Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the second president of Argentina and a brilliant writer, statesman, and intellectual.