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What will be the result some generations hence of the enormous influx of immigration from all parts of Europe to Argentina and in, as yet, a much less degree to Uruguay? What manner of man will the Argentine of the future be when he has completed his development as a national type? This is a question often asked, but as to which only the most shadowy answer can yet be given. The elements which are going to his formation are so many and the qualities of those elements so difficult to reckon in regard to their respectively possible likelihood of survival in the settled type. The most that can be done here is to enumerate the chief of such elements in their approximate quantitative values.

The true Argentine of the past is the descendant of the Spanish conquerors with usually some admixture of native Indian blood derived from a remote ancestress, while another less remote has perhaps given him a tinge of black blood in remembrance of the days when African slave labour tended his great-grandfather’s sugar canes and maize.

But Spanish blood is predominant and Spanish qualities distinguish most of the Argentine, and all of the Uruguayan, leading families of to-day. Ceremoniously courteous to a fault—the fault of deeming it rude ever to refuse a favour asked; regarding it as a strange lack of savoir vivre on the part of the suppliant should the latter not understand the granting as a mere polite formality, in no way to be taken as a serious engagement.


An Argentine will ask a favour of another as a mere hint that he would be very glad if the latter granted it; a stranger ignorant of Argentine manners and ways might ask it really expecting to receive a substantial response to his request. Both would be met with a charming if vague assertion that nothing would give the person asked greater pleasure than to do anything the asker desired. Each might attain his object or not, as other considerations dictated; but whereas the demand would be credited to the former as finesse, contempt for boorishness would be the lot of the latter did he present himself expectant of the immediate fulfilment of the promise. Almost as well might he turn up unexpectedly to lunch at the home of an Argentine who on first receiving him had said with a graciously comprehensive wave of his hand, “This house is yours.”

As a matter of fact an Argentine’s home is a very difficult castle for a stranger to enter.

This probably for two chief reasons. For the first of these we must trace racial elements back to the Moorish civilization of Spain and the jealous seclusion of women from all male eyes but those of close relations. The second is a general lack of orderliness (also an Oriental characteristic) usually prevailing in even the richest Argentine households; which makes it inconvenient to receive except on special and specially prepared occasions.

We must follow up the Arab-Semitic blood brought in the veins of the Spaniard to the new world through mingling with Native Indian and Negro blood before we come to the heroes who fought for and won independence from Spanish rule now over a century ago. Since then what intermarryings, mostly with natives of Italy but also with British, French, German, Scandinavian and Belgian men and women.

Guthries, Dumas, Murphys, Schneidewinds, Christophersens, De Bruyns, Bunges, not to mention bearers of the historic patronymics of Brown and O’Higgins, are now among the landed aristocracy of Argentina; though, still, the[42] crème de la crème consists of the descendants of the Spanish families of Colonial days. Among the middle and lower classes, especially in the towns, the Italianate element is now overwhelming; though recently again Spanish immigration has begun to exceed Italian. All this goes to make a strange racial mixture; of which the first generation born on Argentine soil knows little about and cares nothing for the language of its parents, but grows up with a pride, comical to the detached observer, in the glorious Wars of Independence (fought at a period when its own ancestry were, as likely as not, peasants in one or another corner of Europe, and wholly ignorant of the fact of the existence of the River Plate) and patriotically devoted to the blue and white Banner and National Anthem (an Italian composition, by the by) of the land of their parents’ adoption.

Everyone born on Argentine or Uruguayan soil is Argentine or Uruguayan of his own very decided will as well as legally; furiously so with the exclusive fervour of the convert. He cannot or will not speak English, French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish or Flemish as the case may be; nothing but Spanish, River Plate Spanish, that is to say, is worthy of his tongue, and he has a truly Galician contempt for the lisping Spanish of Castile.

Contrarily to a generally accepted but quite superficial view, an Uruguayan differs from an Argentine almost if not quite as much as a Portuguese does from a Spaniard; the reason being that the early immigration to the two countries was drawn from different parts of Spain. The first settlement of what is now Uruguay was chiefly drawn from the Canary Islands and the Basque Provinces; the latter origin being easily perceptible from a glance at any list of the names of prominent Uruguayans, past or present. To this fact of early settlement and because Uruguay has, until quite recently, offered much less attraction to the stream of European Emigration which flowed past Montevideo to Buenos Aires, is due the possession of the high degree of[43] many sterling qualities which distinguishes Uruguayans from their cousins of the other shore of the River Plate. These qualities have sustained the National and individual financial credit of Uruguay throughout all troubles and political vicissitudes. She as a Nation and her individual traders have always paid 100 cents gold to each dollar and her commercial community has successfully negatived any attempt on the part of her Governments to depart from the strictly gold basis of her monetary system. The Uruguayan dollar is worth slightly more than that of the United States. This significant fact is due to the uncontaminated preservation of racial qualities derived through the old Colonists from the Northern parts of Spain; especially from the Basques, than whom no honester, nor perhaps more obstinate, people exist.

Everyone knows that Spanish is the language of the River Plate Republics; but, while the written Spanish of South America is one with literary Spanish all the world over, the spoken language of Argentina and Uruguay differs from Castilian in many respects.

The first of these, and probably the most interesting, is the survival in South America of words in common use in the days of the early conquistadores and colonists but which have long ago fallen into disuse in Spain.

These words gave a deal of trouble a few years ago to certain Argentine amateur philologists who made more or less ingenious endeavours to derive them from the aboriginal Quichúa or Guaraní.

It was reserved for Mr. Paul Groussac, a Frenchman and the custodian of the Argentine National Library, to inform these derivation hunters, in a coldly sarcastic little pamphlet, that they would find all the words that were puzzling them intact in the works of Cervantes and other old Spanish authors.


So it is with many Britons not learned in philology. There are many words and expressions commonly regarded as Americanisms which in truth went to New England in the Mayflower.

There are also several striking differences between the pronunciation of Spanish on the River Plate and in Spain. Thus the “ll” which is liquid in pure Castilian is given in South America a sound very much like the French “j” in je. This, I believe to have come to the New World with the Galician immigration.[11]

In the beginning of historical times the various Galician dialects prevailed over the whole Peninsula; Galician subsequently developing into modern Portuguese and the Castilian dialect, with much more widely divergent steps of development, becoming the accepted language of Spain.

Also the Argentine and Uruguayan disdain the lisping “θ” sound given by Spaniards to the letter “z” and in a lighter degree to “c.” In South American Spanish “z,” soft “c” and “s” are indistinguishable to the ear; all three being given the same sound as an English “s.” There is also, as might be expected, a distinct difference of intonation between Spanish as she is spoken in South America and in Spain. Everyone who has learned to speak Spanish in a South American country ever afterwards carries with him oral evidence of the place of origin of that linguistic acquirement; just as does a foreigner who has learned English in the United States. So it is with South African Dutch; and (may it be said?) Australian English. And all Colonists of either English, Dutch or Spanish origin are consciously proud of their own particular fashion of speaking and, either secretly or openly, regard the intonation of the older country as rather effeminately affected. De gustibus, etc.

Really, I suppose, there is no good or bad “accent,” as these differences of intonation are commonly called. It is[45] like flavour, chiefly, if not entirely, a matter of custom and taste. Pronunciation, however, seems more frequently a matter of fashion, recurrent as are other fashions in easily dated periods.

Probably the South American pronunciation of Spanish mostly dates back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; with, perhaps, an added blunt plainness born of generations of free rough life on the vast expanses of the Pampa.

Modern innovations in the written or spoken language of Argentina and Uruguay can usually be traced to the great stream of immigration constantly flowing to these countries, chiefly from Italy and Spain.

The inhabitants of the two Republics of Argentina and Uruguay are only similar in appearance and natural characteristics to the superficial or hasty observer. There are several points in which they really differ fundamentally, the difference being due, as has just been observed, to the fact that the original settlements of the two parts of the River Plate Territories were drawn from different parts of Spain and that the later cosmopolitan stream of immigration passed by Montevideo, on account of the constantly politically disturbed condition of Uruguay, and disembarked only at Buenos Aires. Therefore the Uruguayan has retained the characteristics of his Spanish ancestors in far greater purity than has the Argentine.

It is therefore impossible to club the two peoples together in any attempt at a description or even indication of their leading characteristics.

By way of rough comparison it may be said that while the Argentine has gained in polish and versatility by interbreeding with immigrants from many European countries, chiefly from all parts of Italy, the Uruguayan has retained a very large share of the dogged honesty, obstinacy and[46] capacity for sustained effort in hard work of his Basque and Galician ancestors.

In passing from comparison to particular analysis one is at once confronted with the difficult question, “What is an Argentine?”

According to Argentine Law, all children born on Argentine soil are ipso facto Argentines, but to attempt classification of the offspring of mixed marriages in several degrees of remoteness of parentage would immediately become a complex impossibility. Certain influences, however, imposed by the life and surroundings in Argentina, affect all individuals brought up there, no matter what may be or have been the nationality of their immediate or remoter ancestry.

But, with this exception, any description or setting forth of the leading characteristics of “Argentines” can only safely be submitted in regard to the direct descendants of the Spanish Conquistadores and early settlers and of the mixed unions between these and the aboriginal Indian women. The further but much rarer admixture of African blood introduced by slave labour, is almost a negligible quantity in the upper classes, though of considerable and noticeable influence in the lower, especially in the Northern Provinces, in which the mixture of Indian and Negro blood is very considerable.

Nevertheless, these elements of Spanish, Indian and Negro became fused into a national type the picturesqueness of which is now (alas!) being rapidly absorbed and transformed in the melting-pot in which it meets strange elements from every part of civilized Europe.

Still, the chivalrous and courteous Argentine to be found to-day not only in the National Senate (and in the Presidential chair), but also in the maize fields and sugar plantations of the far Western and Northern Provinces cannot be overlooked either as very important prime material for the coming race or as possessing many qualities the dilution of[47] which can only be viewed with a sincere, if partly sentimental, regret.

Are you a travelling stranger? The gaucho will offer you of the very best his humble ranch affords with the same native charm and dignity of manner which will strike you on your arrival and welcome on the estancia of his ancestral overlord.

There are still corners of Argentina where the patriarchal system has not yet died out, where every peon and vaquero considers himself a child of the great house whose se?ora sees to the creature comforts and small luxuries of his wife and children on feast-days and in the time of need.

No stately old-world courtesy could ever have surpassed that of an Argentine host of the old school. Truly, on his estancia, all is yours, and he will frequently make you a daily offering of fruit, chosen by him, picked with his own hand, especially and exclusively for you, his guest. The aristocratic Argentine of the old school is a very dignified gentleman indeed, notwithstanding a century of democratic profession. I say “profession,” for though I believe the leading families of the Republic are quite sincere in a conviction that they rank among the world’s most advanced democrats, the government of the country has remained almost exclusively in their truly patrician hands since the days of the Declaration of Independence. What may happen in the present newly commenced era of compulsory exercise of a universal franchise no one can well say, but most of the landed influence still belongs to the great historic Argentine families; who, moreover, form a caste which keeps even the plutocracy of more recently foreign origin at a quite respectful distance. It will be a long time, at any rate, before the prestige of these families ceases to make its influence felt in the capital as well as in the districts over which they have ruled for, practically, at least a century. The apparent familiarity which exists between them and their dependants or humbler provincial neighbours is the[48] outcome of the loyal affection which at one time existed in England between squire and farmer or villager. A feeling born of and sustained by the patriarchal system and very widely different to the “I am as good as you are” pretensions of new democracy.

The true Argentine, be he patrician, estanciero or gaucho peon is never boorish even when he seeks to pick a quarrel with studied insult; and if his humour and language would, at times, severely shock European ears polite, he is studiously careful to keep that sort of talk for the intimacy of his own household and associates. If you are admitted to that intimacy, well, so much the worse for you, if you are of a prudish disposition, but you can console yourself that your privilege is a very special and rare one; bestowed on you by virtue of some exceptionally sympathetic quality with which your host’s kindly imagination has endowed you. He is a kindly, charitable man, the real Argentine: an odd mixture of infantile vanity and strong common sense, hospitable to anyone arriving at his house through force of circumstance or if he can find a reasonable excuse to himself for breaking through the rule of almost hareem-like privacy of his home and intimate family affairs. Courteous himself, he expects courtesy, and will not brook clumsiness of speech or manner. Leisurely in his ways, he will not be hustled over any business. Try to hurry him, and he not only resents your lack of good manners but also suspects that you are endeavouring to lead him into some kind of sharp-dealing trap. Anyway, he not only will not budge an inch from his own deliberate attitude but most probably will oppose the inertia of a closed front door to all your further endeavours to approach him. This Argentine characteristic is a rock on which many a Yankee hustler has seen his best thought-out propositions founder.

In any business or other intercourse with a true Argentine you must not expect him to keep verbally made appointments nor to apologize subsequently for not having done so.[49] Usually you need not trouble to keep them yourself. Whatever you have in hand with him will prosper better and progress just as, or even more, quickly if you are content to take the matter up where you left it at your last interview, the next time you happen to meet him by chance at any at all convenient place or time. Do not talk him to death about it, he is very quick at understanding your wishes and proposed plans from the merest hint. If not, he will ask you very plain questions.

But he must conduct the negotiations, he must clothe your ideas until they bear a respectable appearance of being of his own originating. That is his vanity; but only then may you venture to strip them of certain new features which on close examination will be seen to be more favourable to his interests than your own.

During the changes which your propositions will inevitably undergo in the course of negotiations, he may, if you are not careful, get the better of you in the deal. That also is his vanity; a vanity to guard against without ever committing the solecism of a too bluntly apparent discovery of his aim. If he finds you always politely firm as a gentleman should be, you will have gained his friendship and respect—often valuable assets even if your original business should not go through.

In a word, in Argentina, as elsewhere, one must respect the native customs and conventionalities unless one wishes to encounter opposition. And the vis inertia of the opposition which an Argentine can and does offer to persons and ideas with which he is out of sympathy is invincible.

Such persons or schemes will be remitted by him to a “Ma?ana” which never comes.

That is the true inward meaning in Argentina of ma?ana; a polite excuse for temporarily or definitely postponing matters which have not made a favourable impression. It is not, as is so often thought, a mere lazy pretext for not[50] doing to-day anything that possibly can be put off till to-morrow.

The Argentine is not in the least lazy. On the contrary, he has reserve stores of latent energy the sudden calling into action of which, when he considers such action called for, is apt to astonish those who have formed superficial and hasty judgments on his nature.

It would seem trite to say that the first step to success in a country is intelligent study of the inhabitants were it not so constantly evident that new arrivals, who really ought to know better, seem to bring with them the idea that along with their business, whatever it may be, they have brought a mission to mould Argentine methods on the latest European or North American forms, forms which are the outcome of entirely different racial and climatic conditions. Thus, they, at the outset, impose upon themselves the Sisyphus task of rolling their pet stones up the hill of customs which really are the outcome of the racial and physical necessities of the people and country.

You cannot grow wheat in a swamp nor make much of a retriever out of a pointer, but the swamp may yield good rice and a pointer may be a very good dog in his way.

The sooner an immigrant, be he financier or farmer, realizes such facts the better for his success on the River Plate or elsewhere. By not doing so he fails in his enterprise and blames the failure on to the people or country to which he took projects predoomed only by his own lack of intelligent adaptability.

Another word of didactic advice to the intending emigrant to Argentina. Always be sure, no matter what his appearance and manners may seem to indicate to your first glance at him, that every action of an Argentine is firmly founded on a perfectly common-sense view of circumstances and their influence on his own best interests, although that foundation may lie under, and, for those who do not really know him, be hidden by various strata of personal vanity and easily[51] aroused but ephemeral enthusiasm. He is no fool and most emphatically not a lazy man, but only one who is rather cynically apt to let other people work for him as much and as often as they will. When he cannot get things done for him he can and will do them, very effectively, for himself.

And lest, to some people, the foregoing observations and counsel might seem so much word-embroidery on a canvas composed mostly of the author’s imagination, the reader is humbly asked to compare it with the known facts of Argentine economic history.

In 1810, the beginning of the country’s real development, the great River Plate landowner was a rural patriarch, much after the fashion of the shepherd kings of Palestine.

He ousted the Master-Stranger from his land and only afterwards permitted him and encouraged him to return to it as the servant of himself, the true overlord of the soil. On that soil its patriarchs extended their proprietary rights ever more and more while foreign railways and all kinds of other enterprise constantly enhanced the value of the land held, always almost exclusively, by Argentines. His railway and dock-building servants from overseas got very good wages indeed for their work, as they still do in common with others who have made tramways and constructed water, gas and electrical power works. But he who up to now has had the most durable and the chief profit from all this is the Argentine or Uruguayan; the man who holds and will hold the Government of the two Republics and retains all the appreciated value of the much greater part of the soil of their vast territories. Concessions of land to foreigners made in the past by way of part wages are nowadays secretly regarded as having been errors committed in ignorance of the real value of what was then parted with and with such self-accusation of error goes the resolve not to repeat it. Still it should be stated that at the time of making such grants some such inducement was necessary in a part of the world[52] which had only very recently emerged from half a century of civil war.

It is, of course, self-evident that no new railway enterprise will get a huge grant of land; as did the Central Argentine Company as an inducement to construct. The attitude of the Argentine to-day to all foreigners is that they may come to his country and there enjoy similar rights and liberties with himself coupled with rather less than his own responsibilities. They may keep the profits they make, and very good profits are obtainable by well-conducted, necessary enterprise, after deduction of certain percentage by way of rent for their concessions or licences; but the real property, the value of which is constantly being increased by the activity of foreign industry and commerce, remains in, and even as to formerly alienated parts of it gradually tends to drift more and more into, native hands.

The Argentine is, as I have said, not a fool, even still less is the Uruguayan; on the contrary, he is especially wise in his appreciation of his own natural limitations. He is by long heredity and his own upbringing a farmer, not a commercial man nor a speculator in aught else but land. And to land, therefore as well as for the other good reasons already pointed out, he devotes his best attention.

He cannot, perhaps, build nor manage railways, nor has he generally a genius for banking, but he can and does breed as fine cattle and sheep and grow as good quality maize and wheat as any imported European farm manager. In farming, the special subject which he does thoroughly understand, he gives practical evidence of his judgment in assimilation of the best farming science and of adapting it, or such part of it as is most capable of adaptation, to the conditions and requirements of his own particular lands.

The finest and the most up-to-date model estancias in Argentina and Uruguay belong to and have been brought to their present state of perfection by Argentines and Uruguayans.


Probably these facts dispose of the accusation of dilatory laziness so often brought against him.

In this chapter I have attempted to inform intending emigrants and not to formulate a defence of the Argentine or Uruguayan against the ignorance of his calumniators. He needs none. With a charmingly cynical indifference, which is all his own but which it does not at all times suit his interests to manifest, he goes on piling up colossal fortunes amid surroundings much more congenial to his nature than even the European Grand Hotels or Cafés in which he likes from time to time to disport himself and display his wealth. His estancia always remains his home, in which he spends the best and greatest portion of his life, surrounded by the peons whose great-grandfathers were vassals of his own.

It is rather the fashion among new arrivals in Buenos Aires and Montevideo to laugh at the Argentines and Uruguayans and their ways of managing their affairs, but it appears to me that this is a case of “He laughs best who laughs last.” The native of the River Plate has contrived to get his country developed for him while retaining the entire mastery of it. Men of long residence in these countries have practically adopted their manners and customs simply because experience has taught them that such are best adapted to these countries’ natural conditions. As has been observed earlier in this chapter, the Argentine, especially, is conscious of his own limitations, one of the chief of which is a pretty general incapacity for patient attention to detail in his work. His scientific acquirements are often brilliant as far as study is concerned. He assimilates knowledge rapidly and accurately, but in its application he is often too apt to fail of obtaining satisfactory results just and only because of his lack of patience and appreciation of the value of detail in practice. That is why he prudently abandoned his own past attempts to control certain of his railways which, financial failures under his management, quickly became prosperous concerns in British hands. His hospitals still[54] show many defects due solely to the lack of attention to necessary details on the part of the medical staff. Brilliant exceptions, which unfortunately do not vitiate this rule, are to be found in Mr. Lertora, the Argentine manager of the Western Railway, and Dr. Penna, the President of the National Council of Hygiene and the creator of the magnificently managed Asistencia Publica of Buenos Aires and of all the great sanitary works of that city.

To sum up the average Argentine of the upper classes, in middle age and onward he is a grave and reverend se?or; a rather wild and boisterous young gentleman until he has sown a profusion of wild oats.

Throughout his life he shows a childlike pride in his wealth and all it can give to him and his, is lavish in largesse with occasional and seemingly capricious moments of close-fistedness. Courteous to a fault in manner, he has nevertheless ever a keen eye for the main chance in all matter of sufficient magnitude to really interest him.

In fact he has many characteristics which are reminiscent of the less objectionable qualities of medi?val nobility, in common with whom he is quick to resent anything he deems intentional insult to or disparagement of himself. He will forgive anyone for having got the better of him in a deal (though it is fair to him to say that it is not often he finds himself the victim of such an offence), but he will not for any consideration brook clumsily bad manners. He is by no means a puritanical moralist nor severe on the moral peccadillos of his neighbours, and he leaves religion pretty much to his women-folk.

In the lower classes he is still always courteous, expects courtesy from others, and resents, quickly and often fiercely, any defect in that respect in his neighbour’s behaviour.

Neither will he brook pretentious arrogance in any man, his social superior or his equal. Such arrogance meets immediately not only with his quick resentment but his profound and evident disdain. Treat him as he will treat you,[55] and you will find him uniformly pleasant, light-hearted and humorous. Obligatory education is slowly freeing him from the illiteracy which until recently was very general, especially outside the limits of the Capital or one or other of the largest towns. Even now the lower-class Argentine is usually an exceedingly poor scholar. Therefore, and because of his rapidly growing admixture of Italian peasant blood, he is superstitious and still often has a deeper faith in fortune-telling quacks than in qualified medical science. Wise men and women are still much consulted for love-potions and cures and curses of all sorts for man and beast in the country districts, but while mere fortune-tellers are not interfered with by the law, penal restrictions are being more and more stringently enforced against quack doctors; most of whose remedies have come direct from medi?val Spain or Italy.

Argentine women? This is a subject on which one is not only tempted but almost forced to confine oneself to the usual platitudes concerning beauty of the Spanish type: large-eyed and opulent and at its apogee during the decade between 15 and 25 years of age.

It is seldom that an Argentine woman of any class troubles her head with business matters; still less with theories concerning the rights of her sex. She is usually content to do her most apparent duty in the sphere to which it has pleased God to call her.

She manages her household in a quasi-Oriental haphazard way; if of the wealthier classes does little but order that household in such ways as may correspond to her momentary caprice, if of the poorer, naturally, she does the work herself, but in the same capricious fashion.

Saturday is the great day for domestic cleaning up throughout all classes, Sunday a feast day whereon little work is done.

Apart from these general fixtures, household duties may be said never to be begun and never finished. In all houses[56] one may see the servants or the housewife, as the case may be, besom in one hand and mate in the other at any time of day. What is not done to-day is finished to-morrow, that is all; and what can one do more?

To newly arrived Europeans these methods give an idea of continual discomfort, but the sooner such Europeans become accustomed to the ways of the country in this as in other matters the better for their own peace of mind. Of one thing they may be assured from the commencement of their stay on the River Plate, viz. that it is not they who will change those ways by an iota, and that therefore they may as well abandon all notions of what they would consider as reform of good grace to begin with instead of at the end of a more or less lengthy nerve-racking struggle.

The servant difficulty is particularly difficult in these sunny lands where no one need, and very few do, know what it is to suffer the real pinch of want or of hardship other than such as custom sanctions. The European lady who worries her servants with, to them, new ideas of how her household should be conducted will simply cause them to quit her employ with wonderful unanimity and celerity.

They won’t stop, that is all. She may give them sleeping or other accommodation which they may never before have enjoyed nor probably even dreamed of. These attentions strike no sympathetic chord if they be accompanied by what the native Argentine considers silly pettiness of interference with the way in which he or she is accustomed to do his or her work. Any Argentine servant would sooner sleep, as many do, on a mattress thrown down at night in any passage way in the house of a native Argentine family and suffer the alternate friendly familiarity and impassioned scolding of a mistress whose ways they understand and who leaves them to theirs, than occupy the nicest possible servant’s bedroom in a more strictly ordered establishment. The true and main lesson of all which is that the Argentine, to whatever social class he or she may belong, is a child of nature to whom disciplinary[57] fetters of any kind are unbearable and to the freer nature of whom the monotony of much of the punctual regularity which Europeans are apt to consider a necessary factor of real comfort is impossibly burdensome.

On the River Plate one must live as the Rio Platenseans do if one’s stay is not to be one continued struggle for unattainable domestic ideals. In the best hotels, in the millionaire’s palace or the peon’s hut the same happy-go-lucky spirit prevails and dominates domestic, as it also does public, life, in especially, perhaps, Argentina. Everything is muddled through somehow. But it is muddled through to desired results, which, after all, is the chief practical desideratum.

There is much of the Spanish seclusion in the better-class home life of both Argentina and Uruguay, which adds to the obstacles in the way of criticism or appreciation by a foreigner.

That the children are almost universally what we should call spoiled is, however, evident from the most superficial experience of that life. The Argentine theories, if they can be termed such, of bringing up are largely controlled by a fear of crushing the individuality of the child especially if he be a boy. The most usual reply of an Argentine child to any order given to it is “No quiero” (I don’t want to), and there the matter ends. The parents smile indulgently, the child does not do what it did not want to do, and woe betide the governess or tutor who is possessed of too strict disciplinary ideas. Thus, from the cradle to the grave the male Argentine is used to his own sweet way, while his sisters are made to feel few trammels of a purely household kind. These apart, however, Argentine women seldom, if ever, show any symptoms of rebellion against the domestic seclusion which is their accepted lot, especially after marriage.

The Argentine woman is seldom disturbed by intellectual aspirations, likes creature comforts and facilities for the standard of dress pertaining to her station, and she is contented and happy in her home with the theatre as a distraction.[58] At the theatre she only favours performances which demand intellectual effort for their appreciation if and when fashion impels her attendance thereat; so that she may see and be seen in the foyer and hold pleasant receptions in her box, receptions not always confined to the extr’actes.

In a word, she is not intellectual and therefore feels no need for troubling her usually handsome head with intellectuality.

She is a wife and a mother and a lady bountiful to all the feudal dependants of her husband’s house. Childishly fond of dress and admiration but with as little desire for liberty of action as she has for deep thought.

As will have been gathered from the foregoing, much of the Moorish civilization in Spain remains reincarnate in the woman of modern Argentina.

A word may very well be said here for the much-criticized Argentine jeunesse dorée. In the author’s humble opinion the real wonder about him is that his sometimes objectionably intrusive boisterousness in public places does not outstep its actually not very wide limitations.

In any other country, if you had a warm-blooded young scion of a sunny land who had grown up under the almost constantly approving smiles of an indulgent father and mother, possessed of great wealth and traditions of spending freely on amusement and outward display and, lastly, a native police which would almost as soon dare to rebel openly against the Government as to lock up for anything short of serious and unconcealable crime any son of a great ruling family, it appears to me more than possible that you would have much more trouble with such a gilded youth, who, moreover, would probably succumb to early physical and financial ruin instead of developing, as has been said, into a grave and reverend se?or, capable in either Chamber of Congress or in a ministerial or diplomatic capacity, as the Argentine fils de famille eventually does. That he does so[59] develop and does not succumb, I attribute to his underlying quality of common sense, coupled with his mainly open-air upbringing in the Camp.

Also, the young Argentine may be and often is, exceedingly fond of sowing a vast quantity of wild oats, but he is very seldom ill-natured or fundamentally bad. His very vices are strongly tempered with redeemingly generous qualities.

As good a comparison as any I can hit on between the upper-class Argentine and his Uruguayan cousin is that of the smart Londoner and the resident in a provincial Cathedral town. The latter is less given to display of such wealth as he may have and much less likely to make any pretence of greater. The Uruguayan is usually unpretentious in his way of living and at the same time gives an impression of greater solidity if more modest dimensions of fortune. Among both there is the same aristocratic assuredness of social position; but whereas each better-class Argentine seeks to outvie his immediate associates in luxurious outward appearance, the Uruguayan is content with a more solid if less showy all-round level of comfort. If one may use so discredited a term, the Uruguayan is the much more “eminently respectable” of the two, a man who derives his greatest pride from the fact that his word always has been and is every bit as good as his bond.

He has some contempt for Argentine showiness; while on the other side of the River Plate estuary he himself is considered as too slow-going to be very interesting. The Argentine is certainly jealous of the sounder general credit enjoyed by Uruguay, a jealousy not soothed by a certain quiet assumption of superiority of a nation which has always turned a deaf ear to any suggestions of convenient financial juggling, however critical or difficult the times.

There can be no doubt but that while the Uruguayan is possessed of common sense in much the same degree as is the Argentine, this quality is in the former tempered by a large quantum of Quixotic obstinacy.


Roughly speaking—very roughly, for generalization is almost as hazardous as prophecy—it may be said that while the Argentine is often apt to be guided rather by opportunism than fixed principle, the Uruguayan will only begin to listen to the voice of opportunity when he feels sure that no one of his inflexible principles is likely to be affected by so doing.

As we have seen, both the White and Red political parties in Uruguay have over and over again racked the whole country with civil war for the defence or assertion of pure principles, in regard to which no compromise seemed possible to one side or the other.

Argentina also had her period of Civil War brought about in a very great measure, no doubt, by similar causes; but her politicians have during the last fifty years learned the pecuniary value of, at least apparent, adaptability.

The Uruguayan of to-day is just as inflexible in his convictions as he was a century ago, and if he now chooses peace rather than civil war it is because he has become sincerely persuaded that peace is the only real way to his country’s best good and prosperity. Peace with honour, that is to say. He would rather commit public or individual suicide than accept any other.

For this reason (and for others) there is no likelihood of the Banda Oriental ever becoming a part of Argentina. Uruguayans could never be peacefully governed by Argentine policy, and Argentina would never wish to be burdened by such a troublesome community as would be the Uruguayans if they should come under her nominal rule. As historical fact, Argentina has already refused Uruguayan territory as a gift, and acted wisely in such refusal.

The lower classes and rural populations of Argentina and Uruguay differ, pari passu, as much and in similar fashion, from one another as do their respective social superiors, though Camp life is in many ways Camp life in both Republics alike. But ruggedly uncompromising staunchness to those[61] principles which he has adopted for his own—which, however, may differ from European standards—is as evident in the Uruguayan peon as in his master.

Once you really know the Argentine or the Uruguayan, it is seldom difficult to forecast what either will do in any given circumstances. Needless, perhaps, to add that your study of them must be sympathetic; as must all such study in order to obtain positive or any at all satisfactory results.

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