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Cousins and Strangers: Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850-1930 / Edition 1

Cousins and Strangers: Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850-1930 / Edition 1

by Jose C. Moya


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520215269
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 03/31/1998
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 586
Sales rank: 1,063,133
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Jose C. Moya is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Cousins & Strangers

Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires
By Jose C. Moya

University of California Press

Copyright © 1998 Jose C. Moya
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780520215269

Five Global Revolutions
The Macrostructural Dimensions of Emigration in Spain

Late in 1882 Lazaro Carrau, the Argentine vice consul in Matars, an industrial town of 20,000 on the Catalan coast twenty-nine kilometers north of Barcelona, sent a dispatch to Buenos Aires' Ministry of Foreign Relations with the following information: "The strikes and labor unrest that have driven 5,000 workers into public charity push hundreds across the ocean, attracted by the flourishing economy of the River Plate."1 The central question in the next three chapters is a simple one: Why did these Mataronese and 2 million other Spaniards migrate to Argentina between the midnineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth?

To vice consul Carrau the answer was as simple as the question: adverse conditions in Spain and auspicious ones in the River Plate. Unknown to him, this minor official explained migration in the manner that scholars would employ for a century and that many still do. The very simplicity and directness of this "push-pull" scheme, sometimes elaborated into a theory, provides, at the very least, a useful heuristic device.2 It has, however, one basic flaw. We could find amyriad of places in which labor unrest, famine, wars, starvation, and a whole array of "push" factors never led to emigration and in which fertile, empty lands, flourishing economies, high wages, and other "pull" factors never enticed immigration. In other words, push and pull conditions have concurred in countless areas and countries of the world from time immemorial to the present, yet mass transoceanic migration occurred only during a particular historical epoch: from the midnineteenth century to the Great Depression of 1930. Close to 60 million Europeans (and 10 million Asians3 ) left their native continents during this period. No population movement of that magnitude had ever occurred before. None has occurred since.4 Clearly, then, the explanatory value of an ex post facto list of the most conspicuous ills of sending societies and of the most obvious attractions of receiving areas is limited, because one could easily compile similar lists for periods and places where no migration took place.

Our main question may thus be simple. The answer is not. The conspicuous and the obvious do not always explain. The strikes and labor unrest that the vice consul in Matars saw as causes, as push factors, represented only symptoms of something bigger, symptoms of the expansion of a world system of which mass migration was both a part and a consequence.5

In general terms, five concurrent and interrelated trends, often referred to as revolutions, can explain why the massive displacement of people occurred between the midnineteenth century and the Great Depression. Spanish emigration to Argentina was part of, and can only be understood in the context of, these world trends.

The Demographic Revolution

What has been referred to as the "Malthusian devil," the "vital revolution," and, more often, the "demographic revolution" formed one of these trends. The overall picture of European demographic cycles that K. F. Helleiner presented in his 1967 survey has not been sharply altered by numerous recent studies: depression in the fifteenth century; some recovery in the sixteenth; reverses in the seventeenth; and growth from the second half of the eighteenth on.6 It is to this last stage that the term revolution has been applied. Even though the continent lost some 40 million of its natives through emigration, its population grew from 140 million in 1750 to 429 million in 1900, and its share of the world's inhabitants increased from 17 percent to 25 percent.7 What recent studies have shown is that growth before this last stage was not only slow (around 0.2 percent per year) but intermittent (periods of high growth rarely lasted more than two decades). The demographic revolution implied not only high growth rates (more than 1 percent per year in the nineteenth century) but also, for the first time in the continent's history, continuous, unbroken expansion virtually unchecked by decimating plagues or—as long as the Pax Britannica endured—devastating wars. As one scholar put it, Europe broke out of the demographic system of l'ancien rigime .8 In a sense, mass emigration and declining fertility replaced plagues and wars as the checks in this emerging system.9

The broad demographic cycles in Spain resembled those in Europe as a whole and had a direct impact on the magnitude and regional compositionof emigration.10 The population increase of the sixteenth century particularly affected the central plateau, formed by Castile and Lesn, and neighboring Estremadura and Andalusia (see Map 1). Although other factors played a role, it is significant that even though this area contained fewer than 70 percent of the country's inhabitants, it supplied 91 percent of the Spanish settlers—and 97 percent of the women—in the Americas during the first century of colonization.11 The revival of population growth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, replaced, in the words of Catalan historian Jaime Vicens Vives, "a centripetal demographic tendency with a centrifugal one"; that is, the periphery of the peninsula—particularly the northern periphery—supplanted the central plateau as the fastest growing area in the country. At times almost synchronically, at others with a lag, the northern coastal zones (Galicia, Asturias, Santander, the Basque country, and Catalonia) began in the late eighteenth century to replace Castile, Estremadura, and Andalusia as the main source of settlers in the Spanish empire. In his study of Bourbon Mexico, David Brading found that "most immigrants came from the mountainous seaboard of northern Spain"; and Susan Socolow, in her prosopographical study of Buenos Aires merchants during the late colonial period, reached a similar conclusion.12

By the middle of the nineteenth century, when emigration from Spain resumed, the trend was firmly established. My analysis of all the manuscript returns of the unpublished Buenos Aires census of 1855 shows that, by that date, more than 80 percent of the Spaniards in the city came from the northern Atlantic, Cantabrian, and Mediterranean coastal areas (see Table 1 and Map 1).

Overpopulated Galicia, the "Ireland of Spain,"13 where, as the local proverb went, "Children are the wealth of the poor," provided by itself almost four-tenths of the newcomers, a proportion that would grow as high as 54 percent in the decades to come. Gallego had already become a generic—and often demeaning—term for all Spaniards in Argentina. At about midcentury, when Juan Manuel de Rosas asked the musician Francisco Gambin, "Are you gattego? " he responded, "No, sir, I am a native of Cadiz." The dictator impatiently replied, "Well, gallego from Cadiz."14

Basques, many of whom were fleeing the devastation of the Carlist Wars, followed in numeric importance and accounted for about one-quarter of the Spaniards in the city, a proportion that would decline by the end of the century. During these early years the Basques were attracted by opportunities in the nascent sheep-raising industry and in the saladeros (meat-salting plants), where they were replacing the Irish as butchers. To a Scot visiting a Buenos Aires slaughterhouse in 1865, "This

Table 1 Regional population in Spain and regional origins of Spaniards in Buenos Aires, selected years (in percentages; less than .5 = 0)



Buenos Aires











Basque country










(Non-Castilian speakers, cumulative)















(Northern periphery, cumulative)















Canary Islands





(All periphery, cumulative)





Old Castile





New Castile




















(Central Spain)










SOURCES : For Spain, Junta General de Estadmstica, Censo de la poblacisn de Espaqa segzn el recuento verificado el 21 de mayo de 1857 (Madrid: Imprenta Nacional, 1857).

(continued on next page )

Table 1 (continued)

For Buenos Aires in 1855, municipal manuscript census returns. I took all the cases, rather than a sample, of Spaniards living in the city, except for a section of sixteen blocks that was missing. In addition to the 4,191 in the table there were 1,184 cases of Spaniards for whom the variable "place of birth" (usually recording the region, province, or town of birth) was either not recorded or not legible. Unless the sixteen missing blocks and/or the unknown cases included a disproportionate number from a particular regional group—a remote probability—the reliability of the figures should be close to that of a statistical universe.

For Buenos Aires, 1878-1884, the source is a list of the province of birth of all the Spaniards treated in the Spanish Hospital of Buenos Aires during those years, from Memorias de la Sociedad Espaqola de Beneficencia (Buenos Aires, 1879-1885). At the time this was the only Spanish hospital or clinic in the city. The only factor that could distort the representativeness of the figures, then, would be for a particular regional group to have a greater or lesser tendency to use the hospital or to become ill, a highly unlikely tendency.

For Buenos Aires, 1900-1910, the sources are the membership forms for all of the Spaniards who became members of the Asociacisn Espaqola de Socorros Mutuos de Buenos Aires during that decade. I stopped at 1910 because after that date the growth of regional associations would have slanted the sample against those regional groups that had developed their own mutual-aid societies. Nevertheless, although the association was at the time by far the dominant one in the Spanish community and open to all Spaniards, it is still possible that some groups could have had a greater associative tendency than others, tilting the sample.

I used Argentine sources instead of Spanish emigration statistics because the latter start only in 1882 and include the provincial origins of emigrants to Argentina only for 1885-1895 and after World War I. Even for those years, the official figures for Basque emigration are, by their own account, totally unreliable due to heavy Basque departure from the port of Bordeaux. Emigration from provinces near other foreign ports, such as Marseille, Lisbon, or Gibraltar, was probably also undercounted.

robust, resistant, and industrious race . . . with their blue berets and naked legs and feet covered by dry blood" resembled "Scottish highlanders after a battle."15 Catalans, "the Jews of Spain," mostly from the province of Barcelona and the Balearic Islands, represented a little more than onetenth of the Iberian-born population in the city. The fact, then, that Spanish—that is, Castilian—was not the native tongue of three-quarters of the "Spaniards" in the city (see Table 1) points to the relevance of assessing regional origins. Perhaps the tendency of observers to compare these groups with non-Spaniards was not altogether fortuitous.

It was not a coincidence either that these regions showed the first, second, and third highest population density, respectively, in the Spanish census of 1857. Perhaps as significant, on the other end of the scale, the twenty Spanish provinces (of a total of forty-nine) with the lowest population densities represented the birthplaces of a mere twenty Spanish immigrants in midnineteenth-century Buenos Aires, even though together they contained more than 5 million inhabitants.

This correlation of provincial population density with rates of emigration led the Catalan demographer Jordi Nadal to conclude that "the demographic excess has been the principal cause of the phenomenon."16 Yet the demographic development of the country as a whole does not coincide with the timing of the emigration flow. The rate of population growth was highest in the first half of the nineteenth century, outpacing or at least keeping pace with the general western European rate, in contrast to Italy and Portugal.17 Yet Spain's emigration reached a peak at a relatively late date, resembling the pattern of Mediterranean and eastern European rather than western European emigration. In fact, as Figure 1 shows, in the case of Argentina, Spanish immigration reached massive proportions only in the first decade of the twentieth century, later than Italian immigration.

Many scholars have commented on the questionable nature of early Spanish censuses, and this may explain the difference between the timing of demographic expansion and emigration.18 But it may also be that Spain, like Russia on the other end of the continent, presents the not too common pattern of early population growth but late emigration.19 What makes Spain's pattern more intriguing is that, unlike Russians, Spaniards were not only the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic but also one of only four national groups present at the genesis of modern transoceanic emigration in the eighteenth century, particularly its second half. The other three were the British, mostly English and Scotch-Irish heading for their North American colonies; the Germans, mostly Palatines and other southwesterners from the Upper Rhine sharing the same destination; and the Portuguese, mostly northeasterners from Entre Douro and Minho attracted by Brazilian gold.20

The pattern of Spain and Russia indicates that demographic expansion by itself does not lead to mass migration. The fact that after the interruption of the eighteenth-century transatlantic movement caused by the Napoleonic Wars, Britain and Germany rejoined the flow with soaring vigor but Spain and Portugal did not, suggests that the tardy development of the other four revolutions on the Iberian Peninsula can explain the paradox wherein the first Europeans to migrate to the New World were also among the last to join the nineteenth-century exodus in a massive way.

The Liberal Revolution

Moses' demand to the pharaohs illustrates a basic point about emigration: in order for it to happen, rulers have to let people go. The spread of liberalism as the dominant European ideology facilitated this basic prerequisite

Image not available.

Figure 1
Spanish and Italian emigration to Argentina, 1857-1930. 
Data are from Argentine official statistics.

in the nineteenth century to a degree unknown in the mercantilist past or in the socialist and "quasi-liberal" future.21

The mercantilist view of population was akin to contemporary bullionism and can be conveniently summarized in two often quoted statements, one by a Prussian minister—"No nation can have too many inhabitants"—the other by the marquis de Vauban—"By the number of their subjects is measured the grandeur of kings." Because the wealth of kingdoms could be measured in grams of metals and thousands of inhabitants, it followed that the Crown should do its utmost to prevent the flight of both specie and subjects.

Several developments in the late eighteenth century began to challenge this view. One was the demographic revolution and the interpretation of it by what could be called the pessimist classical economists. Among these were Gianmaria Ortes, David Ricardo, and the man whose name would become a synonym for overpopulation crisis, Robert Malthus.22 Their labyrinthine essays conveyed a straightforward message: population increased faster (geometrically in Malthus' famous argument) than did the means of subsistence, and this imbalance would eventually have catastrophic effects. The message found a particularly receptive ear in countless municipal administrators who had experienced the threats of overpopulation firsthand. The earliest advocacy of free emigration originated not from royal dignitaries but from these minor local officials.23

A different sort of challenge to emigration restrictions ensued from "optimist" classical economists, such as Adam Smith. Although they devoted much more ink to the free movement of merchandise, support forthe free movement of people was implicit in their writings. The "invisible hand" that naturally and efficiently moved goods and capital could logically do the same for labor. From a different perspective—that of the general welfare instead of economic laissez faire—Utilitarian philosophers, such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, agreed. Most importantly, as we should soon see, other liberals went farther and, as good heirs of the Enlightenment, transformed freedom of movement from a matter of economic policy or social utility into a question of philosophical principle, of personal, inalienable rights.

As the nineteenth century progressed, one European country after another extended this right, and this time the trend spread in roughly the same geographical pattern as mass emigration itself: from Britain to Germany, to Scandinavia, and to southern and eastern Europe.24

The partial revocation of bans on emigration came to Spain later than to northwestern Europe and, as had been the case in other places, thanks to the goading and insistence of local authorities. In 1853, after years of petitions from local officials, a royal decree lifted the prohibition on emigration to the newly independent republics of the Americas for Canary Islanders.25 The stated purpose of the decree—"to give a convenient outlet to the surplus population of the Islands, surplus, that, far from being an element of prosperity, serves to delay progress"—clearly forfeited a mercantilist tenet. In 1857 the Crown extended this right to the rest of its subjects, and two decades later the liberal constituent Cortes enshrined it in the Constitution of 1869.

During the rest of the mass-migration period restrictions mostly targeted potential military conscripts.26 Males between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three had to leave a deposit of 6,000 reales de vellsn (#60, about four times the ship fare to Buenos Aires in the midnineteenth century) or find substitutes to serve in their places before departing. Bans on departures, however, have historically proved less efficient for this particular sex and age group. Even in modern police states, where the efficiency of emigration controls dwarfs that of nineteenth-century Spain, thousands of male adolescents have surmounted legal barriers by using anything from rafts and inner tubes to homemade tunnels, airplane wheels, and even pole vaults and kites. Spanish youths did not have to reach those levels of ingenuity. They simply had to circumvent or bribe low-paid port officials or leave from foreign ports—an easy task for those who lived close to international borders. For instance, of the 160 draft-age males listed as residing in the Americas in a local 1864 census of the Navarrese municipality of Baztan, in the Pyrenean piedmont, I found only 36 (22percent) who had bothered to leave the required deposit or to find a substitute.27 Although this represents only one verifiable case, qualitative contemporary sources often listed draft evasion as a main cause of emigration and agreed with my quantitative evidence that prohibitions did little to inhibit the flight of determined draft dodgers.28 Indeed, the cleavage between legal controls and actual routine was conspicuous enough for an 1889 Madrid comedy to use as a farcical ploy a twenty-two-year-old youngster emigrating with the papers of a sixty-year-old man and vice versa.29

Despite the swelling tide of liberalism, mercantilist views on population continued to color the thinking of key sectors in Spanish society for most of the mass-emigration period. In 1881, for example, an advocate of the southern landed aristocracy still maintained that "the more populous a country, the richer it is," described emigration as a national calamity, and urged the government to promote internal migration to regions with labor shortages.30 In that same year, a newspaper editor from Madrid published a booklet which asserted that "population is the wealth, the strength, the standard by which one nation is ranked above others" and proposed an obligatory program of primary-school indoctrination about the evils of emigration.31 At the start of the twentieth century, two Galician physicians expressed the contemporary tendency to associate social problems with epidemics when they ascribed tuberculosis, leprosy, and syphilis to emigration.32 And as the mass exodus neared its end, Wenceslao Fernandez-F1srez's 1930 novel Luz de luna condemned the "tragic flow, full of tears and blood . . . that empties Spain."33

The tenor of many contemporary titles on emigration sounded equally mournful—Adios a la patria (Farewell to the Motherland), Hijos que se ausentan (Sons [and Daughters] Who Depart), La zafra de carne (The Harvest of Flesh), La peregrinacisn de los vencidos (The Wandering of the Vanquished)34 —or insulting—El tacaqo Satomsn (Solomon the Miser), Benito Pirez Galdss's thespian lampoon of Spaniards in Buenos Aires.35 Other anti-emigration writers simply relied on the unimaginative but popular El problema de la emigracisn , sometimes followed by a more execrative subtitle like "and the crimes committed in it."36 Whatever the titles, the writings of the contemporary political and literary elite exposed a strong anti-emigration bias. Of the twenty-seven pre-1930 Spanish books on the subject that I located and examined, eighteen clearly condemned emigration as a drain on the nation's labor supply and/or a threat to its morals—a fear exacerbated by the departure of married men and by the increasing departure of single women by the early years of the twentieth century.37 Female "morality," after all, had been a constant concern of emigration foes. In an 1873 play, for example, the tobacco smoking and dissoluteness of a female character was recurrently explained with, "Well, you see, [she was] raised in America."38 A decade later, a more sanctimonious Navarrese complained about "girls" who "left home pure and chaste, laborious and Christian and come back, when and if they return, licentious and unbridled, indolent and irreligious. The body unwilling for rustic work or even hard domestic tasks; the soul possessed by a ravenous desire for dazzling diversions; the fancy flying after unfeasible ambitions."39 Some anti-emigration writers again relied on the impact of titles: Ebano blanco (White Ebony);40 or the less equivocal Carne importada (Costumbres de Buenos Aires): Primera parte de la trata de blancas (Imported Flesh [Customs of Buenos Aires]: First part of White Slavery).41 Others relied on fictitious characters. In a comedy playing in Oviedo in 1913, when Pepa, an illiterate peasant in her fifties, tells the parish priest that her daughter is going "pa Guenos Aires," the priest responds with displeasure: "Uhf! To Buenos Aires. . .. Ah, Buenos Aires! Of so many women the perdition. . .. That's where they go to get a man when they have lost all hope here . . . and then there without their parents' supervision . . . you can imagine."42 At about the same time the government echoed the concern when it established a "Royal Patronage for the Suppression of White Slavery"43 and when its Consejo Superior de Emigracisn, in blatantly misogynous language, concluded that "the sex most chastised by the demoralization [of emigration] is the feminine one. Its characteristic weakness, inferior education, mental indigence, causes, in summary, of a physiological nature, combined with material ambition, give women an instinctual tendency to prostitute themselves. . .. Emigration and prostitution: Both affairs appear intimately connected."44

Yet despite their overwhelming pragmatic and moral apprehensions, few foes of emigration dared to propose legal bans on it. The same advocate of southern landed interests who in 1881 affirmed the mercantilist tenet, "The more populous a country, the richer it is" and who urged all sorts of legislation to cure the emigration malady acquiesced to the dominant liberal discourse of the day when he diplomatically added "but without denying the individual the right to be the final arbiter of what is best for him."45 The newspaper editor who in the 1880s advocated primary-school indoctrination to prevent emigration also wrote: "No, it is not licit to ban emigration nor to reproach those who have the drive to cross the ocean in search of opportunities denied by the obscure villages where their ancestors' bones rest. How can we censure them! Isn't that innate drive, afterall, the origin of human knowledge, wealth and progress?"46 And a Madrid legislator who, in a 1910 speech, attributed many of the country's economic problems to emigration, went on to defend "the paramount human liberty, the one that deserves the most respect, that of movement," adding, "The door has to remain open."47

This negative attitude toward emigration, combined with the assertion of the individual's right to emigrate, also appears in contemporary creative literature.48 The Asturian playwright who condemned sinful Buenos Aires through the character of the priest and who in the prologue to his 1913 play wrote, "He who forever abandons his nation does it more harm than he who takes his own life because the latter leaves everything to his country and the former deprives it of his person and some of his goods," also claimed that it would be "absurd for the government to abuse the force of law and drown individual liberty or repress economic freedom."49 And the popular Galician bard Manuel Curros Enrmquez, who depicted immigrant steamers as "perfidious slaveships," said of the emigrant:

Non o culpo, ! coitado!, no o axo,
non pido pragas nin castigo pra el,
nin de que i dono de coller me esquezo
pra onde lle conviqer.
!Que aquil que deica seu natal curruncho
e fsra dos seus eidos pon os pis,
cando troca o seguro polo incerto,
motivos ha de ter!50

Careful! I neither blame nor judge him,
I don't wish him ill or seek his punishment,
nor do I forget that he is free to go
wherever it suits his interests.
That he who leaves his native hearth
and faraway from his haunts plants his feet,
when he trades the secure for the uncertain,
plenty of motives must he have!

Liberalism had freed a genie that could not easily revert to the bottle. What as late as the first half of the nineteenth century was taken for granted, the state's prerogative to prohibit the departure of its citizens, had now become preposterous, anathema to the accepted wisdom and "political correctness" of the day. The dominant liberal elites, particularly those who opposed emigration, found themselves hostage to their own discourse. Indeed, the rhetoric of individual liberty had become so ingrained in the official political culture that royal decrees intended to curb emigration dutifully repeated the right of citizens to go where they would, and deputieswho introduced restrictive legislation in Parliament sessions outdid each other in their elocutionary defense of "sacred freedoms."51 To do otherwise would betray Spain's separation from the "civilized countries of the Continent," would confirm the fear of Spanish liberals that, as the French claimed, "Africa begins in the Pyrenees." Moreover, the ambivalence of many liberal opponents of emigration went beyond the issue of freedom. As the previous quotations about aspiration and drive suggest, in a land with a scarcity of entrepreneurs, the figure of the emigrant epitomized for many personal initiative, restlessness, and ambition, indeed, the quintessence of classical liberalism.

If the liberal dogmas, ideals, and apprehensions of the modernizing elite prevented restrictive legislation, so did the emerging world view of the masses. As the nineteenth century progressed, elements of liberalism deeply penetrated popular culture. For the majority, freedom remained a grand abstraction; freedom of speech, of finite use for villagers of few words; political freedom, of even less use in a realm dominated by clientism and caciques, or corrupt political bosses; but freedom of movement, the right to go where one pleased, seemed completely tangible and was put to use by more than 4 million Spaniards. At this level, the concept of individual liberty rooted itself in popular public morality. When I asked an emigrant from a small Galician village if the draft or other restrictive laws had posed an obstacle, his definition of personal liberty was less elegant but more palpable than that of the Madrileqo legislator mentioned above: "What damned law was going to stop me?" Freedom of movement had now become part of both natural law and masculine bravado.52 And when Spanish nationalists denounced emigration as the unpatriotic abandonment of the motherland, the Andalusian and Galician popular wit responded with the following rhymes questioning the motherland's motherliness:

Adios Espaqa querida
querida tierra donde yo nacm
para el rico madre eres
y madrasta para mm

Farewell, dear Spain,
land where I was born.
For the rich you are a mother
and a stepmother for me.

!Vamonos a Buenos Aires,
miqa cariqa de rosa,
vamonos a Buenos Aires,
qu-esta terra non i nosa!53 Let's go to Buenos Aires,
my darling rose,
let's go to Buenos Aires—
this land is not ours!

The liberal revolution, then, proved instrumental to emigration by rooting the concept of freedom of movement in both official and popular culture. It proved equally instrumental by uprooting many other things. If liberalism brought greater liberty for the common folk, it also brought greater amounts of those ingredients inherent to social freedom and conducive to migration: change, competition, disruption, insecurity, and inequality. However anachronistic, mercantilism in the nineteenth century served to protect Spain from changes, challenges, and dislocations. It protected inefficient farmers from external competition, outmoded rural artisans from factory-made wares, unproductive peasants from ambitious neighbors, autarkic villages from the imperatives of market forces. As the century progressed, however, a barrage of liberal measures, from support for free trade to attacks on entails, mortmain, and municipal commons, lifted much of this protection. The liberal revolution was, thus, intimately related to the transition from the static, seignorial agricultural system to a more dynamic, capitalist one. In Spain this relationship was, as we shall now see, a particularly strong one.

The Agricultural Revolution

In some European countries the transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture resulted in a remarkable increase in efficiency and productivity. In England, where this revolution first took place in the eighteenth century, it was associated with "improving landlords," who introduced the drill planting, horse hoeing, and crop rotation that made the multiplication of yields possible, and with the "enclosure movement," which signaled the disappearance of communal lands.54 Increased productivity meant that fewer farmers were able to feed more people, and the disappearance of commons ruined those yeomen who could not afford to become "improving landlords." Both trends, together with the demographic revolution, created a surplus rural population that became the major source of migrants and emigrants. In France, the demise of the seignorial agricultural system came about through a revolution from below, which bolstered a large and secure middle class of peasant farmers. This, combined with the lowest demographic growth in Europe, gave the country the lowest emigration rate in the Continent (an annual average of 0.2 per thousand population during the 1860-1910 period).55

In Spain, unlike France, the demise of the seignorial agricultural system was accomplished relatively late and by a liberal revolution from above.56 Unlike England, the transition to commercial agriculture did not signal dramatic improvements in technology and efficiency. But, as in England, it brought about—aided by demographic pressure—disruption in much of rural Spain, the reduction of communal lands, and a stimulus to population movements.

Physiocratic ministers of the Bourbon kings had made some efforts to rationalize agriculture during the second half of the eighteenth century, but the first serious attack on the seignorial system came after the First Carlist War (1833-1840). Ecclesiastical disentailment, begun by the progressive government of Mendizabal in 1836, acquired such an impetus that in less than eight years more than three-quarters of the Church's lands had been sold off.57 The next major liberal attack on the old system came from 1855 on and at the expense not only of the clergy but also of civil corporations, including municipal commons. All together, one-quarter of the country's territory had been transferred from corporate to private hands by the end of the century.58

Catholic conservatives, not surprisingly, blamed ecclesiastical and civil disentailment for depriving the peasantry of the usufruct of Church lands and village commons and for the ensuing army of beggars that roamed the country. That large numbers of peasants joined their cause and opposed bourgeois reforms suggests that they may have had a point, and many modern scholars concur.59 Contemporary observers often attributed mass emigration to this agrarian misery. When at the beginning of the twentieth century a writer summarized the opinions of seventeen so-called experts on the subject, he found that twelve pointed to rural destitution as the principal cause of emigration.60

Empirical evidence, however, weighs against this contemporary consensus on the nexus between rural penury and emigration. After the middle of the nineteenth century, when the effects of disentailment had reached a peak, the most affected, impoverished and latifundista regions of the country (Estremadura, western Andalusia, and most of the Castilian plateau) provided a puny portion of the Spanish immigrants in Buenos Aires (2 percent in 1855 and 3 percent in 1878-1884), even though they comprised 22 percent of the national population. Inversely, the Basque country, the richest and most equitable rural region of Spain, contained less than 4 percent of its population in 1877 but provided 25 percent of its emigrantsin 1855 and 17 percent in 1878-1884. And the two Galician Atlantic provinces, where disentailment had expelled few peasants from the land, furnished between 37 percent and 51 percent of the Spanish emigrants, even though they accounted for only 5 percent of the national population.61

This inverse relationship between rural poverty and emigration can also be observed at a more confined territorial level. For example, Andalusia, a land of latifundia and destitute, landless laborers, was the birthplace of about one-tenth of the Spaniards in Buenos Aires during the nineteenth century. However, a closer look reveals that the bulk of them (89 percent) originated from either cities or more prosperous rural areas of widespread landownership.62

A probe into the other geographical extreme of the country and the more limited scope of a single province produces similar results. The northern Navarrese mountains not only enclosed the most fertile valleys in the province but also enjoyed one of the most democratic land-tenure systems in the country. Middle-sized granges with sturdy Basque farmhouses dotted the dales, and this part of the province relishes the distinction of being the one area in Spain to retain its municipal commons intact until this day.63 As a modern scholar put it, "All Spain had opposed disentailment, but only [northern] Navarra opposed it with success."64 A traveler in the 1880s termed the tenure system comunismo and observed that "it calls the attention of the tourist to see no beggars. . . . The well-being is so general that if one of those swarms of paupers that cause pity and shame in the forsaken places of Old Castile, between Avila and Burgos, would suddenly appear in these valleys, the alarmed inhabitants would, even though they are not pusillanimous in war, flee in horror."65 Yet it was precisely in these relatively prosperous rural valleys, rather than in the more arid and less egalitarian south of the province, that emigration attained massive proportions in the nineteenth century. As early as the middle of the century, emigration per capita had reached levels surpassed in Europe only by some famine-struck Irish counties.66 And during the rest of the century these northern valleys provided 87 percent of the rural Navarrese immigrants in Buenos Aires, even though they only contained 51 percent of Navarre's rural population.

But if impoverished and/or inegalitarian rural areas did not produce a large number of emigrants, what took place within the relatively better off and more democratic areas that did? Can we find the link between poverty and emigration here? That is, were poor and landless peasants more likely to emigrate than their more fortunate neighbors? Because no published material or aggregate data exist that would allow us to answer this question, I collected and analyzed manuscript census data from three rural Spanish zones of emigration. The initial results suggested that the better off, rather than the poor, made up the bulk of the exodus. For example, in Zas, a rural municipal district in the Galician province of La Coruqa, 70 percent of those who had emigrated by 1897 were literate, in comparison with only 29 percent of those who stayed behind. This, however, misrepresented reality because the nonimmigrant population contained a much larger number of women and older people, whose literacy rates were substantially lower than that of young men—the main emigrant group. After controlling for gender and age by comparing the cohort of fifteen-to-forty-year-old men, the gap dropped sharply but nevertheless remained: 70 percent of the emigrants but only 57 percent of those who stayed behind were literate.67 The pattern repeated itself in the two other rural areas (five hamlets in the municipal district of Corcubisn, La Coruqa, and the village of Val de San Lorenzo, Lesn): even after accounting for distortions created by age and gender differences, literate peasants were more likely to emigrate than illiterate ones.68

If, instead of literacy, we use occupation and landownership as a measure of socioeconomic background, the results are even more explicit. When compared with their more prosperous neighbors, the landless and poor in the village of Val de San Lorenzo were twice as likely to stay home: only 12 percent of the village landless laborers emigrated, but 23 percent of the landed peasants and 27 percent of the larger proprietors did. A similar breakdown is difficult to make for the municipal district of Zas because, despite having five times as many inhabitants as Val de San Lorenzo, it was much more rustic, with its population of mostly small farmers disseminated through more than a hundred tiny villages. Yet it is significant that members of the small group of merchant-artisans were three times as likely to emigrate as was the peasant population in the late nineteenth century. The social structure of the handful of agricultural villages encircling the maritime town of Corcubisn was, if anything, more horizontal. But even in this rather flat milieu, the relatively more skilled were more likely to leave. One-quarter of the peasant households but two-thirds of the artisan-peasant ones (those that included a carpentry shop) had at least one of its members overseas in 1905.

The proclivity of nineteenth-century reformers, politicians, journalists, diplomats, and poets (and of present-day pundits) to blame rural impoverishment for pushing people to abandon their homes and loved ones echoed a mix of genuine sympathy and phony commiseration for, as John Denham put it, "those who groan beneath the weight of want." On a more cerebral plane, it reflected the ostensible logic of the push-pull concept. Indeed, the link between adversity and emigration seems so inherently rational that when in 1884 a perplexed Argentine consul in Cadiz tried to explain why "in spite of good crops and a relative well-being among the local working-classes, emigration to Argentina is increasing," he resurrected a decade-old push factor: "the drought of 1873."69 He probably could not even conceive of replacing "in spite" with "because" in his report. Yet, in spite of our emotional and intellectual leaning, ascribing emigration to relative prosperity is actually more accurate than blaming real or putative ills and adversities. As I have shown, whatever the method and lens of analysis—national, regional, provincial, municipal, parochial—the evidence consistently reveals that the exodus originated not from the most impoverished and inegalitarian areas but from the relatively better off and more economically democratic ones and, within these areas, not among the poorer peasants but among their more fortunate neighbors.70 My intent has not been to demonstrate that the liberal agricultural revolution did not engender poverty—it clearly did—but to show that the link between the transition to capitalist agriculture and emigration lies elsewhere, because the communities and people it pauperized rarely emigrated.

Penury for many, after all, represented just one of the ingredients in the Pandora's box of capitalist agriculture. Among the other ingredients were dislocation, insecurity, dissatisfaction, opportunities, and ambition, all inseparable siblings of emigration. Surely, as revisionist medievalists have stressed for decades, the precapitalist rural world was not a motionless one. But at least by comparison, the more autarkic agriculture of l'ancien rigirne offered both a level of Spartan security, broken only by occasional famines, and a lack of opportunities for all except a few enterprising landlords. The sociocultural corollary of this was a relatively stationary rural milieu and a rather static worldview. Commercial agriculture consistently undermined both. It disrupted the stillness of the countryside by introducing absolute property rights (which turned land into a commodity and subverted the security of the customary tenancies and emphyteutic lands of the seignorial past), fluctuation (in land value, demand, prices, national or world supply), acquisitiveness (from the increasingly greedy rural bourgeoisie, who often coveted the lands of their less enterprising, or rapacious, neighbors), and competition (anywhere from the next-door neighbors to the faraway lands to which many would emigrate). And it subverted peasant satisfaction with the modest safety of subsistence agriculture by fostering concepts of ownership and social motion, usually idealized as progress or betterment.

In Galicia, for example, between the late nineteenth century and the mid-1920s emigration in part obeyed the peasantry's dissatisfaction with the mere usufruct of foros (quasi-emphyteutic, fixed-rent leases that could be inherited through three generations) and their desire for the "perfect property" of direct ownership. Thousands of peasants fulfilled their desires thanks to money made in the Americas. Indeed, the redemption of foros trailed closely the inflow of remittances, which by the early 1900s reached 50 million pesetas annually. Many were even buying out leases in Galicia while still in Buenos Aires.71

Emigration also seemed the perfect expression of motion as betterment in rural Navarre. Three-quarters of the 812 northern Navarrese emigrants who expressed a motive for leaving in nineteenth-century notarial records listed mejorar fortuna , which has the dual connotation of "improving one's fortune" and "increasing one's wealth."72 With fruitful lands and access to them for the majority, these people were among both the contemporary world's most fortunate and its most footloose inhabitants. Mejorar fortuna did not mean fleeing the ills of fortune but seeking the promise of it. Contemporary observers and modern scholars have blamed the practice of primogeniture in these regions for excluding younger siblings from the farm and forcing them to emigrate.73 But primogeniture excluded the younger progeny from ownership, not from the farm. The census lists show that the spacious Basque farmhouses often included younger brothers and sisters, with or without their spouses .and children.74 The preservation of municipal commons, which covered 80 percent of the land, further facilitated the livelihood of noninheritors. The belief in movement as progress, however, truly looms in the cases of would-be inheritors who preferred departure to property. My analysis of the 1897 census list for the Baztan Valley in northern Navarre shows that 28 percent (62 out of 219) of all emigrants were firstborns from farm-owning families. Many of them heeded the local proverb "Kanpoak ikusi ta etxera geros (Go see foreign lands, but return home)." Many others simply chose the potential riches of the pampas over the security of ownership in Pyrenean valleys. Of twenty-four emigrant eldest sons of farm owners whom I was able to trace throughout their lives, fifteen died in Argentina. Ambition, not necessity, had moved them.

Necessity, no doubt, moved many. What contemporary observers described as "swarms of vagabonds roaming the peninsula" obviouslyroamed out of necessity. Some of the most impoverished Galician and Asturian peasants sojourned to the Castilian wheat plains for generations before and during the overseas emigration period.75 In the Leonese village of Val de San Lorenzo, those who could not afford the transatlantic passage often walked or rode a mule to Asturian mines.76 Poorer peasants from the Galician village of Zas labored in Portuguese fields and swept the streets of Madrid rather than those of Buenos Aires.77 But for those who "crossed the puddle," the popular metaphor for emigrating overseas, the disruption and opportunity of capitalist agriculture proved more causal than did its poverty. Despite omnipresent pitiful images of rural emigrants in contemporary literature, most of these people confronted the imperatives of capitalism with diligence and vigor.

The Industrial Revolution

Like the other three revolutions I have discussed so far, the industrial revolution was not one of those ten-days-that-shook-the-world upheavals. Prolonged and lingering, it nevertheless changed the world in a more radical and revolutionary way than did any—perhaps all—radical political revolt.

Despite its momentousness, its takeoff in the late eighteenth century was rather modest and affected only textile production, specifically cotton; its greatest invention, besides Watt's steam engine, was the humble spinning jenny. As the nineteenth century progressed, the escalating use of coal, iron, and heavier machinery exposed its repercussions. Toward the end of the century steel and electricity propelled production to new heights. By this time industrialization had spread from its English cradle to most countries in the North Atlantic, and farther, drastically changing the world.

A mobile labor force was a sine qua non of the industrial revolution. Industrialization fed on the surplus rural labor released by demographic swelling and commercial agriculture and in turn encouraged further population movement by both displacing and attracting rural artisans. Its relationship to urbanization and internal migration is evident. Its link to the overseas exodus is less obvious but no less direct. With some exceptions, such as the Irish case, the industrial revolution and emigration spread together over the European map: from England to Germany, to Scandinavia, to southern and eastern Europe, and, hurdling much of the Eurasian landmass, to Japan.78 Spain's first attempts to industrialize started at the same time as England's and were also based on cotton-textile production for colonial consumption. Unlike England's, these first steps proved clumsy ones and, given the limitation of the national market, halted with the loss of the empire. The next, and this time sustainable, spurt came in the 1840s, with the rebirth—and increased mechanization—of the Catalan textile sector.79 Ironically, capitalist agriculture, which in England supplied much of the money for manufacturing ventures, had drained the country of capital by steering resources into the acquisition of disentailed lands.80 Thus financing was provided, again ironically, by returning expatriates from the ex-colonies whose downfall had previously ruined the industry and by fortunes made in Cuba.81 The other regional industrial focus developed some decades later, with the expansion of Basque metallurgy and shipping. By the first decades of the twentieth century this region had surpassed Catalonia as Spain's foremost industrial area.

The relationship between the spread of industrialization and emigration in the European continent is also partly noticeable in the Iberian Peninsula. Not only did Catalonia and the Basque region join the overseas exodus relatively early, but their emigration rates declined earlier than did those in other areas of the peninsula (a pattern observable in other European countries, Italy being one of the best known examples). My data on Spaniards in Buenos Aires around the middle of the nineteenth century indicate that even in those cases in which the early streams originated in nonindustrialized areas, such as Galicia and Andalusia, most immigrants departed from larger towns where some proto-industrialization was already taking place.82

The regional disequilibrium in industrial development similarly affected the occupational background and skills of the emigrants. Jaime Vicens Vives maintained that whereas Galicia exported "unskilled labor exclusively," Catalonia and the Basque region "also sent technicians and even factory owners and businessmen."83 Spanish statistics tend to support his statement. In the first decade of this century, 45 percent of the overseas passengers with occupations departing from the Basque provinces were listed as industrialists and artisans, 20 percent as businessmen, and 17 percent as professionals. The comparable figures for Catalonia were 15 percent, 20 percent, and 5 percent; and for underdeveloped Galicia, the main source of emigrants for the last two centuries, they dropped sharply, to 2 percent, 6 percent, and 1 percent.84

The industrialization of these two areas also affected the rest of the country. Without the hindrance of internal customs barriers, the waresof their factories displaced many of the artisan or homespun industries throughout the peninsula. The rapid development of a Catalan wool industry in the midnineteenth century, for example, dealt "a crippling blow to thousands of small looms all over Spain."85 As in most places, early mechanization was accompanied by the proletarianization of artisans and a deterioration of their living conditions.86 As was the case with the commercialization of agriculture, the demand for labor in these industrial centers also served to encourage internal migration and to weaken the traditional ties of rural folk to their birthplaces. As early as 1877 more than one-quarter of Barcelona's inhabitants were not Catalan, and many of those who were had come from the rural interior of the region.87 Bilbao had a similar impact on the people of the Cantabric.

Although in a sense internal migration to industrial centers and emigration overseas were parts of the same process of population dislocation and shifting that accompanied the development of capitalism, the relative timing and causation of the two is difficult to pinpoint.88 It has been argued, for example, that the pull of national industrial centers successfully competed with the attraction of the New World and actually lowered rates of emigration.89 But then why did the spread of emigration follow industrialization so closely? One would be tempted to conclude that the disruption caused by the early stages of industrialization (when along with capitalist agriculture and demographic acceleration, it displaced more people that it could absorb) encouraged emigration but that as the process matured, it acted as a check on it.

Overall, this seems to have been the pattern, but the process was not always that linear. In the case of England, for instance, Brinley Thomas argued that periods of high internal migration (and high rates of domestic investment) and of high emigration (and high capital export) occurred in cyclical intervals over a long time span.90 In Spain, a country that exported little capital, these cycles of internal and transoceanic movement were not as visible, although, as the vice consul in Matars reported, periods of disinvestment in industrial areas often caused upsurges in emigration.

Some of my data also show that: 1) industrialized areas that attracted internal migrants at the same time sent natives overseas;91 2) these areas often served as stepping stones in stage migration, that is, many immigrants from rural zones in Buenos Aires had previously resided (as indicated by the birthplaces of their children) in industrial towns; and 3) there was also a sort of delayed stage migration, that is, members of one generation migrated from the countryside (or from nonindustrial towns) to theindustrial center, and their grown-up children emigrated from the industrial town where they had been born to Argentina. It is difficult to calculate exactly what percentage of the total emigration from industrial zones was made up of these types of movements. But regarding the third type, the case of Matars may be illustrative: 47 percent of the parents of Mataronese immigrants in Buenos Aires had migrated to Matars before their children were born. Of those, roughly half had come from the surrounding rural districts; one-quarter, from other places in Catalonia; and the remaining one-fourth, from other parts of Spain. As I demonstrate in chapter 3, this type of short- and long-range internal mobility facilitated overseas emigration in more than one way.

Industrialization spurred migration not only by attracting and displacing labor but also by creating new demands and desires, particularly among the young. In 1912,for example, a Galician priest detected the origins of Atlantic crossings in the acquisitiveness of youngsters who coveted patent-leather boots, leisure suits, flamboyant cravats, and other consumer articles.92 In the same vein, a fictitious Asturian parish priest in a 1913 play blamed the exodus on the younger generation's craving for factory-made shoes and garments instead of homespun espadrilles and blouses; for watches, jewelry, and combs instead of the folksy rosaries, scapularies, and shawls; and for new gadgets such as guns, phonographs, and bicycles. The easiest way to acquire these, it seemed, was to make money overseas, where, the youngsters thought, "they leash dogs with sausages."93 And another product of the industrial revolution, the photograph, carried those illusions and yearnings across the ocean, as an immigrant observed:

Every time one of these aristocrats of the duster and the broom [Spanish servants in Argentina] takes a picture in her Sunday best ('tailleur' dress, stockings, patent leather bootees), she immediately sends a copy home. The photograph passes from house to house throughout the village, and in every one enthusiastic comments are made, inferring from those seignorial attires an enviable well-being. If there is a young maid in the house, a desire awakens in her to leave for Argentina, and that night the meek bumpkin dreams of faraway lands, of palaces and gold, of fortune and happiness. The most determined decide to take the trip.94

The combination of the four revolutions described thus far created, over the course of the nineteenth century, a situation in which population movements and outflows were almost inevitable. However, another element was needed to make mass transoceanic emigration a reality: an inexpensive way to transport not photographs and dreams but masses of people across the ocean.

The Transportation Revolution

Improvements in transportation were usually designed to move goods rather than people. But as people began to move en masse they, from the perspective of ship owners, became cargo. By the first half of the nineteenth century emigrants to North America had become one more article of freight used as a profitable way to fill up ships only partially loaded with English wares on their way west but fully loaded with bulky Canadian timber, Virginian tobacco and Southern cotton on their way back. Emigration was thus intimately related to trade. As Marcus Lee Hansen, the pioneer historian of the movement, once put it, "Large-scale peasant emigration was possible only when the European demand for American products was so steady as to insure an adequate supply of vessels and when the tentacles of trade pushed inland to facilitate transportation on land."95

The trade of the industrial revolution, rather than trade in general, promoted improvements in transportation. As long as specie and spices furnished the main articles of exchange, galleons, the sextant, and the marine chronometer sufficed. As heavy and bulky items with limited value per weight or mass (such as coal, iron, machinery, timber, cotton, or wheat) became the main commodities of trade, advancements in the means of transporting them became a necessity; and the technological and innovative capacities that the industrial revolution unleashed made them possible. From the midnineteenth century on, steamships increasingly replaced sailing vessels, the screw propeller supplanted the cumbersome paddle wheel, and iron (and later steel) hulls superseded wooden ones.96 Meanwhile, the sequential introduction of the double-expansion, triple-expansion, steam-turbine, and diesel marine engines kept cutting down fuel consumption and pushing up speed.97

Like the three previous trends, the transportation revolution was a late development in Spain. Technologically, the country did not possess the capacity to participate in it. Spain's transoceanic trade, one of the major driving forces behind transportation improvements elsewhere, had dwindled (after a short-lived renaissance in the late eighteenth century) with the loss of its overseas colonies. Not surprisingly, most of Spain's emigrants were transported to their destinations by British, German, or French ship companies.98 Before the 1870s small Spanish maritime entrepreneurs had controlled much of the trade, but as emigration and opportunities for profits increased, the giant emigrant shipping firms stepped in.99 Ham-burg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt A.G. became a household word in thousands of Iberian villages as la amburguesa ;100 Koninklijke Lloyd and Nordwestdeutsche Lloyd became las loids ; and the Royal Mail Steam Packet received the rather unfortunate translation of la rnala real (the real bad) or, shorter and better, la mala . Spanish companies improved their standing after the turn of the century but only came to dominate the trade again during World War I, when the shipping of competing, nonneutral nations was disrupted. No matter what the nationality of the liners, the larger ships and the faster, safer, and more frequent crossings facilitated the emigration of Spaniards as much as that of other Europeans.101 To a Spanish poet writing in 1915, "the waters" did not separate his nation and Argentina anymore, thanks to:

Los grandes vapores, dulces mensajeros
de paz y progreso, de dicha y de calma,
nos ligan, nos juntan, nos traen y nos llevan,
rompiendo y saltando las olas atlanticas.102

The great steamers, sweet messengers
of peace and progress, of joy and calm,
link us, unite us, bring us and take  us,
breaking and jumping the Atlantic waves.

What occurred with the fares on the duke mensajeros fares is less clear. Historian J.D. Gould asserts that in Europe as a whole, "transatlantic fares altered very little, in the trend, after about 1830."103 Yet an analysis of the lowest advertised fares from Galicia to Buenos Aires by two major companies (see Figure 2) shows not only yearly but also long-term fluctuations. Taking the whole period, from 1850 to the outbreak of World War II, Figure 3 shows that the displacement of Spanish vessels by foreign steamers in the early 1870s raised fares, in constant currency, during the last three decades of the nineteenth century by about a third.104 The improved technology and greater competition, however, eventually slashed prices to levels lower than those of the 1850s during the first two decades of the twentieth century. But they shot up again to all-time peaks after the mid-1920s.

The real cost of transatlantic transportation, however, dropped more than what fares in constant money indicate. For instance, in the 1860s Galician-owned vessels charged an average of forty-two gold pesos for a trip to the River Plate, which took some sixty-one days. At the time, unskilled laborers in Buenos Aires earned about one gold peso a day arid worked six days a week. If we add to the fare the cost of unearned wages during the fifty-two workdays lost during the ocean crossing, the real cost of the trip for the immigrant laborer rises to ninety-six gold pesos. In the

Image not available.

Figure 2.
Lowest yearly ship fares (in constant 1913 pesetas)  from Galicia to Buenos Aires.  Sources : Alejandro Vazquez, 
"Coordenadas de la emigracisn gallega a Amirica, 1850-1930: Un estudio comparativo" (paper presented at IV 
Coloquio de Metodologma Aplicada, Poio, Spain, June 26-28, 1989), 13; and idem, "Alguns aspectos do transporte 
da emigracisn galega a America, 1850-1930," V  Xornadas de Historia de Galicia  (Orense, Spain) (1990):117-34.

Image not available.

Figure 3.
Length of trips and fares from Galicia to Buenos Aires, 1850s-1930s.  Sources : See Figure 2. 
Vazquez gives the fares in constant 1913 pesetas; I converted them to gold pesos.

next decade, British-owned steamers raised the fare for the same trip to sixty-two gold pesos but shortened its duration to twenty-six days (twenty-two workdays).105 Thus, in spite of the higher prices exacted by the British companies, the true cost of the trip for a Gallego laborer had dropped by 12 percent, from ninety-six gold pesos in the 1860s to eighty-five in the 1870s. For skilled workers, whose wages tripled those of day laborers, faster journeys represented even greater savings (see columns B and C in Table 2).

It is likely that this formula exaggerates the value of unearned wages during the trip and thus the drop in the real cost of transportation. After all, the passengers not only earned no money on the ship but also spent none on room and board. Yet, even if we assume that once in Buenos Aires these basic necessities consumed three-quarters of wages (a rather high estimate, because the rest would cover not only discretionary income, savings, and remittances but also essentials like clothing, furniture, debt payments, and so forth), days at sea continued to represent lost real earnings. Calculating these losses at only one-quarter of wages still shows that faster crossings reduced the real cost of the Atlantic voyage to a much greater degree than shifts in passenger fares would indicate (in Table 2, compare column A with columns D and E). And the reduction tran-

Table 2 Trends in the passenger fares from Galicia to Argentina (column A) and in the real costs of the trips, calculated as fare plus value of unearned income during the ocean crossing (columns B-E), 1850s-1930sa (cost in 1850s= 100)









Fare plus lost wages for a day laborer

Fare plus lost wages for a skilled worker

Fare plus 1/4 lost wages for a day laborer

Fare plus 1/4 lost wages for a skilled worker























































SOURCES : For fares, see Figure 2 (Vazquez gives the fares in constant 1913 pesetas; I changed them to gold pesos to facilitate the calculation of columns B to E, which include Buenos Aires wages in that currency). For 1850-1870 wages, Marma Saenz Quesada, El estado rebelde: Buenos Aires entre 1850-1860 (Buenos Aires: Editorial de Belgrano, 1982), 210; and sundry examples gathered from newspaper advertisements and municipal manuscript ledgers in the archives of Instituto Histsrico de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Divisisn Archivo Historico. For post-1870 wages, Guy Bourdi, Urbanisation et immigration en Amirique Latine, Buenos Aires, XIXe et XXe sihcles (Paris: Aubier, 1974), 242—48; Roberto Cortis Conde, El progreso argentino, 1800-1914 (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1979), 211-39; James Scobie, Buenos Aires: Plaza to Suburb, 1870-1910 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), 266; Guido Di Tella and Manuel Zymelman, Las etapas del desarrollo econsmico argentino (Buenos Aires: Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1967), 317, 328, 341, 369, 399.

a The "real" cost of the trip in column B is calculated as follows: (price of fare) plus(6/7 of days spent on sea; that is, lost working clays because Sundays did not count) times (average daily wage for an unskilled laborer in Buenos Aires during the given decade). The calculation for column C is the same, except that wages for skilled workers are used. Columns D and E offer an alternative way of calculating the true cost of the trip: the same formulas are used as for columns B and C, respectively, but the number of working days lost on the ocean crossing are multiplied by 1/4 of the unearned daily wages. The rationale here is that loss of potential wages during the trip was offset by the fact that during the journey the passengers spent little or nothing on room and board, which would become necessary expenditures once they arrived in Buenos Aires. The loss of potential earnings was thus conservatively calculated at 1/4 of wages; that is, the proportion that would be either saved or spent on items other than rent and food, such as light and durable consumer goods, insurance, debt payments, recreation, and so forth.

scended the purely monetary. Most ocean crossings in sailing ships were not the odysseys of sea novels—but neither were they leisure cruises. If, as the English poet-satirist Samuel Butler put it, "Nothing makes a man or woman look so saintly as seasickness," the steadier steamers definitely reduced the number of godly faces. The psychological effects probably equaled the physiological ones. By reducing the trip from two months to two weeks, steamers facilitated the emigration of those earthy country and town folks who concurred with that other famous English wit, Dr. Johnson; namely, that "being in a ship is being in jail, with the chance of being drowned."

The transportation revolution that carried millions across the waves moved even larger numbers across the land. As late as the middle of the eighteenth century, Spain could have been described as "some nine million people in a country without roads," where the existing untended trails dated mostly to Roman and Medieval times.106 The next hundred years, particularly the 1840s, saw the first significant infrastructural improvement in more than fifteen centuries: a network of thirty-to-sixty-foot-wide royal roads, usually built on a limestone foundation and paved with gravel or slabs.107 According to historian David Ringrose, this system proved to be costly, inadequate for the transportation requirements of the Spanish interior, and a primary cause of its stagnation.108 But whatever its cost or deficiencies for the hauling of freight, the expanding network of wider, macadamized roads, bridges, and stagecoach companies spiraled the mobility of people. Between 1775 and 1850 the speed of journeys tripled, fares fell by one-half to two-thirds, and passengers proliferated from fewer than 2,000 to some 825,000 a year.109 And the expansion of royal roads continued in the second half of the century, from 5,100 kilometers in 1850 to 35,400 in 1900, and to 43,200 by 1910.110 Of particular significance for migration, this expansion connected the ports of La Coruqa and Vigo to the Galician, Leonese, and Old Castilian hinterland (which by 1900 supplied more than half of the Spanish emigrants to Argentina), and it consisted of roads for wheeled traffic (obviously, horseback riding to the port was a poor option: few Spanish peasants owned horses, and those who did would either have to sell the animal in the port city before setting sail or have someone take it back to their hometown).

The importance of paved roads and horse-drawn carriages for internal and overseas travel was eventually dwarfed by "iron roads" and the "iron horse." The first train in Spain appeared in 1848, twenty-three years after its English birth. This twenty-eight-kilometer-long line connected Barcelona with Matars, the town with which this chapter began, and in part owed its existence to emigration, because rich Mataronese returnees from the Americas were among its backers.111 In turn, it modestly eased further Mataronese emigration by dropping traveling time to the port of Barcelona from three hours by stagecoach to one hour (in both cases including stops) and cutting third-class fares from fourteen to six reales, less than the eight-real daily wage of local unskilled laborers.112

The relationship between trains and emigration was neither automatic nor immediate. In maritime towns like Matars, a three-hour carriage ride to the port most likely never deterred anyone from crossing the ocean. In the interior, the political centralism of the day tended to direct lines toward Madrid rather than toward seaports. The first long-distance line, which connected Madrid with Valencia and Alicante, ran through provinces with few overseas emigrants and did little to change that. On the other hand, Galicia, the area with the highest real and potential emigration, was the last Spanish region to get the railroad.113

Eventually, however, the train did enlarge the pool of prospective emigrants by making it easier for the hinterland to participate. By the early 1880s, the emigration ports of La Coruqa and Vigo had been connected to the rest of Galicia, Lesn, and the north in general. By 1900 the Spanish railroad system had basically reached its modern extension: 11,039 kilometers of rails linked much of the country to all of the main ports and carried 23.4 million passengers a year, at an average commercial speed of thirty-eight kilometers per hour. Two decades later only 405 kilometers of rail had been added, trains rode only five kilometers per hour faster, but riders almost tripled, to 61 million a year.114

Turn-of-the-century popular verses trolled the massive, multiclass nature of train travel:

La genre mas elevada
va en primera acomodada.
En los coches de segunda
la gente mediana abunda.
En los asientos de tercera
va la gente bullanguera.115

The most elevated people
go comfortably in first class.
In second-class coaches
the middling kind abound.
On third-class seats
ride the rowdy crowd.

The third-class fare of 0.045 pesetas per kilometer plus 25 percent tax meant that prospective "rowdy emigrants" from, say, Madrid would spend 38.5 pesetas for the 685-kilometer trip to the port of Barcelona, the equivalent of nineteen days of a common laborer's wages, eleven days of a carpenter's, and one-fifth of the ship fare to Buenos Aires. Others, like the emigrants from the village of Val de San Lorenzo in Lesn, combined the oldest forms of locomotion with the newest: a 9-kilometer walk or donkey ride to Astorga and a 425-kilometer train trip to the Galician port of Vigo. Compared with the pretrain days of 1850, traveling to the port by 1900 had become more than half as expensive, five times faster, and also much safer;116 the trains, along with the rural guard, reduced a feature of travel in Spain that was immortalized in Goya's drawings: highway robbery.

Together with safety, affordability and speed, the railroad offered emigrants a greater choice of embarkation points and the chance to circumvent the monopolistic practices of shipping firms.117 More and more they began to depart not from the closest seaport but from the one that offered the best services and fares. For example, in the midnineteenth century almost all Navarrese emigrants departed from the neighboring ports of Pasajes (San Sebastian's port), Bayonne, or Bordeaux, but by the early twentieth century more than half were taking advantage of fare wars on the Mediterranean routes and riding the train to Barcelona for embarkation to the River Plate. This greater internal mobility made price fixing by steamship companies more difficult, because emigrants could ride to ports serviced by other independent companies. In the years before World War I, for instance, the Spanish emigration commission noticed how attempts by ship companies to fix prices on the Cantabrian and North Atlantic ports backfired, because they led thousands of emigrants to travel to southern and foreign ports.118

Taking people to the port and across the ocean was not the only way in which the transportation revolution fueled emigration. The same steamers and trains that carried millions to the Americas carried the American grain, the British manufactures, and the Catalan textiles that competed with millions of peasant and artisan producers and induced many of them to emigrate or send their children overseas as a way to confront the new challenges. The railroad companies, which by 1900 employed 100,000 people, were the first to lure many future emigrants from their native villages. For instance, brothers Esteban, Julian, and Francisco Pueyo, from Tafalla, Navarre, migrated to Catalonia in the mid-1890s to work on the last section of the southern Zaragoza-Barcelona railway, the same line theylater rode to embark for Buenos Aires in the early 1900s.119 If some people moved to work on the railroad, others moved when it made their jobs obsolete. A nineteenth-century Navarrese tune put it this way:

Cocheros y carreteros,
ya podiis tocar a luto,
que ya se ha secado el arbol
que solma daros fruto.120

Coachmen and cart drivers,
you can begin to mourn
that the tree has withered,
the one that used to bear you fruit.

Indeed, some of the Pueyo brothers' older relatives had departed for Buenos Aires two decades earlier, when the matapobres (the "poor-people-killer" as the train was christened by those it ruined) withered the tree that used to bear them fruit, a mule-and-carriage service to Pamplona.


Contemporary Spanish observers ascribed the massive exodus from their country to a myriad of so-called causes: agrarian backwardness and poverty, lack of industry and economic stagnation, political corruption, abusive taxes, the demoralization of society the machinations of shipping companies and their agents, bad harvests, floods, rural inheritance practices, labor unrest, the spirit of adventure, and so on. Some modern scholars have taken a similar approach. The author of one of the few articles on Spanish immigration in Argentina, for example, assigned two major causes to it: "indigence" and the "spirit of adventure that is identifiable with the very nature of Spaniards."121 At certain times and places, of course, there was some relationship between bad harvests, floods, labor unrest, high taxes, and so forth and the escalation of emigration. But the immense majority of crop failures, floods, strikes, tax increases, and other banes of human existence have never led to emigration. The same is true of industrial backwardness, economic stagnation, and indigence. Indeed, as I have showed, emigration was tied not to lack of industry but to the unsettling effects of early industrialization, not to socioeconomic stillness but to change, transition, and disruption, and the flow was thinnest in the poorest areas and among the poorer folks. The spirit of adventure is of even less etiological value because one can simply—and arbitrarily—iden-tify this nebulous concept with "the very nature" of those groups that have emigrated and deny it to those that have not.

Producing an ad hoc list of national maladies and camouflaging them into push factors would have been both facile and sterile. After all, I could have compiled an unending list of such push factors for Cuenca, a province that sent as many people overseas as did Inner Mongolia. So instead of listing ex post facto causes or searching for what are at best immediate causes, I have examined how the five key trends in the early phases of capitalist modernization (demographic expansion, liberalism, the commercialization of agriculture, industrialization, and advances in transportation) created in Spain a migration-prone situation—perhaps a situation in which emigration was all but inevitable. If mass migration was caused by something, that something was not backwardness but modernization, a process that engendered poverty for many, opportunities for others, and change, competition, disruption, and motion for a greater number. Indeed, movement and flux—of capital, goods, services, technologies, ideas, and peoples—became the mark of modernization, and as it spread so did overseas emigration. The fact then that, with the probable exception of demographic expansion, the key trends in the modernization process unfolded later in Spain than in much of Europe explains, a grosso modo , why the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic were among the last to join the nineteenth-century exodus en masse.

To come back to where I began, the strikes and labor unrest that the Argentine vice consul in Matars saw as causing emigration were no more than symptoms of a developing capitalism and at best immediate causes. The macrotrends examined in this chapter, not the strikes of one year or the unemployment of the next, explain why Spain became a country of emigrants when it did. This answers only the first part of our main question, however. The second part is why Argentina became a country of immigrants.


Excerpted from Cousins & Strangers by Jose C. Moya Copyright © 1998 by Jose C. Moya. Excerpted by permission.
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