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The Invention of the Jewish Gaucho

The Invention of the Jewish Gaucho

Judith Noemí Freidenberg
Foreword by June Nash
Copyright Date: 2009
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    The Invention of the Jewish Gaucho
    Book Description:

    By the mid-twentieth century, Eastern European Jews had become one of Argentina's largest minorities. Some represented a wave of immigration begun two generations before; many settled in the province of Entre Ríos and founded an agricultural colony. Taking its title from the resulting hybrid of acculturation,The Invention of the Jewish Gauchoexamines the lives of these settlers, who represented a merger between native cowboy identities and homeland memories.

    The arrival of these immigrants in what would be the village of Villa Clara coincided with the nation's new sense of liberated nationhood. In a meticulous rendition of Villa Clara's social history, Judith Freidenberg interweaves ethnographic and historical information to understand the saga of European immigrants drawn by Argentine open-door policies in the nineteenth century and its impact on the current transformation of immigration into multicultural discourses in the twenty-first century. Using Villa Clara as a case study, Freidenberg demonstrates the broad power of political processes in the construction of ethnic, class, and national identities.The Invention of the Jewish Gauchodraws on life histories, archives, material culture, and performances of heritage to enhance our understanding of a singular population-and to transform our approach to social memory itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79515-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword (pp. ix-xii)
    June Nash

    In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Latin American countries began to open their borders to European immigrants. Th e national goals were often expressed in racist terms of “civilizing the nation,” with the covert—and sometimes overt—aim of settling the immigrants in national territories still occupied by indigenous people. Argentina was late in extending the institutional organization of the pampas, which were occupied by indigenous people and Creoles until the mid-nineteenth century. As immigrants began to settle in the expansive pampas to the north of Buenos Aires, a new vibrant culture emerged as they interacted with the...

  4. Preface: The Story behind the Story (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgments (pp. xix-xxii)
  6. Chapter One Social Memory as Part of Villa Clara’s History (pp. 1-12)

    Several thousand Eastern European Jews immigrated to Argentina at the close of the nineteenth century, and Jews had become one of the country’s sizable minorities by the mid-twentieth century. The largest early influx of Jews arrived in the northeastern province of Entre Ríos and settled in an agricultural colony, Colonia Clara. By 1902, as the railroad meandered around thecolonia’s outskirts, some farmers moved closer to the station. They gave birth to a more urban settlement, Villa Clara, and played a central role in its initial growth and prosperity.

    By the mid-1930s over a thousand villagers could reminisce about the...

  7. Chapter Two Entre Ríos, Mi País: Immigrants Becoming argentine in a Province (pp. 13-40)

    To understand the social history of Villa Clara in the province of Entre Ríos, we need to cast a wider net, including the history of European immigration. Despite the enormous geographical distance from their countries of origin, newcomers grounded their linked histories of emigration and immigration in the province, adopting the region of settlement as if it were the country of destination. Nobody painted this phenomenon better than Alberto Gerchunoff, who coined the phrases “Jewish gauchos” to refer to the Jewish immigrants’ symbiotic relationship with the indigenous rural population in Argentina and “Entre Ríos, mi país [my country]” as emblematic...

  8. Chapter Three Colonia Clara and the Emergence of the “Jewish Gauchos” (1892–1902) (pp. 41-64)

    The Jewish immigrant settled in rural areas upon arrival in Argentina: 64 percent of the total Jewish population of Argentina lived in Entre Ríos in 1895 (Elkin 1978), and Jews continued to be in the majority until the early 1940s.⁴ Colonia Clara and Colonia San Antonio, the first Jewish agricultural colonies in Entre Ríos, added 102,671 hectares to the jca in 1892. While San Antonio specialized in fruits, dairy, and poultry, Clara concentrated on farming and cattle raising. A focus on Clara crystallizes larger contexts: events in Europe leading to the emigration of the Jews, the evolution of a philanthropic...

  9. Chapter Four From Jewish Gauchos to Gaucho Jews: Regional Economic Development and Intercultural Relations at the End of the Nineteenth Century (pp. 65-80)

    Through this expression of devotion to the new land, the man who coined the phrasegaucho judío(Jewish gaucho) revealed how the natural environment of Entre Ríos inspired awe for the new homeland and helped effect the transformation from foreigner to national. But what are the links between citizenship (a legal status of belonging to a nation-state), immigrant identity (a sense of belonging to a diaspora), and nationality (a civic right conferred by birth or naturalization by a nation-state)? How do social actors construct those links over time? The social history of Villa Clara, or the biographical and historical past...

  10. Chapter Five The Rise and Demise of Jewish Villa Clara (1902–1930s) (pp. 81-102)

    Two major sources of information to reconstruct the early history of Villa Clara are historical documents and recollected life histories, which generate two separate thematic data banks. While historical documents represent scholarly renditions of past facts, the testimonial record expresses how historical facts were experienced, what they meant to real people, and how facts were perceived as changing or otherwise affecting daily lives. In a word, the memories of the informants provide meaning for the documented past. Neither historical documents nor memories of the past present a full picture; however, both are indispensable for establishing a chronological periodization for Villa...

  11. Chapter Six Rural Depopulation and the Emergence of a Multiethnic and Socially Stratified Landscape in Villa Clara (1940s–1990s) (pp. 103-122)

    In the postwar era Argentina experienced a decrease in the size of European immigration and a decline in its international role as a major exporter of basic foodstuffs. Although its status as a “promised land” or a “mill of the world” became untenable, images of infinite wealth were still crafted in political discourse, particularly during the presidency of Juan Domingo Perón (1945–1955). During this populist decade, the image of unlimited Argentine economic potential underlined an apparent shift in the concentration of power, from a landed bourgeoisie to a new middle class, and nurtured the emergence of a highly politicized...

  12. Chapter Seven The Present as Politicized Past: Legitimizing Social Structure through Heritage (1990s–2000s) (pp. 123-142)

    A social history of Villa Clara as a memory site and the examination of cases that illustrate the process of producing heritage through memorializing activities and invention of traditions are in order. Whether private or public, does the process of heritage production, dissemination, and use contribute to reifying and legitimizing the current social structure through created versions of the past? The village has visibly changed, transforming its public persona from a producer of goods and services at the start of the twentieth century to a producer of heritage by the beginning of the twenty-first. What has in fact changed, and...

  13. Epilogue: The Jewish Gaucho Revisited (pp. 143-150)

    Integrating Argentine history and its social memory in a locality helps us understand the metaphor of the Jewish gaucho. Villa Clara as a case study of the construction of national identity can be broadened to stimulate research in three different fields of study: immigration, memory, and a historically grounded ethnography. None of the current theories of immigration processes seriously focuses on the referent when discussing assimilation or acculturation. What are the major characteristics of the society and culture of destination that would help isolate the factors promoting a successful integration? Two important cultural mechanisms are embedded in social memory in...

  14. Appendix I: Methodological Notes (pp. 151-158)
  15. Appendix II: Chronology of Relevant Events in Villa Clara (pp. 159-160)
  16. Notes (pp. 161-170)
  17. Glossary of Terms (pp. 171-172)
  18. Bibliography (pp. 173-178)
  19. Index (pp. 179-184)