Colonia Mauricio: two complementary visions.
Jewish Colonization Association, 1904 (1)
"These are the latest official data (1930) on Colonia Mauricio, which, by all accounts, no longer exists as a Jewish colony."
D. Aranovich, 1931 (2)
In 1891 Baron Maurice de Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association (J.C.A.), which was to become one of the largest philanthropic firms of their time, conducting a gigantic experiment in social welfare consisting in the organized immigration of thousands of people from the Russian Empire to Argentina and setting up agricultural colonies.
Colonia Mauricio, close to Carlos Casares, in the Provincia of Buenos Aires, was established in 1891 on the first land acquired by the J.C.A. in Argentina and by far the most fertile. As pointed out by Haim Avni (January 1983), when the Baron de Hirsch chose Argentina as a repository of his project he dreamed of a vast extension of fertile land, this vision is adjusted to the humid pampas, while the quality of the periphery land progressively deteriorates. The colonies, with the exception of Mauricio, were located very close to the margins of this region, in lands of very poor quality.
In the early 20th century, the prosperity of the colony reflected the ideal of Hirsch, who in 1892 had stated in an interview with the New York World: "These exiles are so poor that if they are given the means to work and they are taught to work the land, so that the harvest would be sufficient to feed their families and earn some profit as well, I have no doubt that they will make good use of the opportunity."
However, Colonia Mauricio rapidly disintegrated. For 1930 the colony was only a memory. What happened?
In this paper we reconstruct the history of Colonia Mauricio from two complementary primary sources: the memories of Boris Garfunkel, one of the first and more important settlers, and the historical review written by Demetrio Aranovich, the first Russian Jew who earned a Doctorate degree in Medicine in Argentina, who attended the health needs of the colony in the early 20th.
Boris Garfunkel was born in Russia in 1866, he emigrated to Argentina in 1891 with one of the first contingents of the J.C.A., he was settled in Mauricio and resided in the colony during the first 15 years of its live. He moved to Buenos Aires in 1906, opening a furniture store and, over the years, he became an icon of the Argentine business society.
Unlike the vast majority of immigrants colonized by the project of Baron de Hisch, Boris Garfunkel did not emigrate from Russia to escape from poverty and he would have not move to any country in the world, whatever the proposal of the philanthropic sponsor. (3) Garfunkel, a rich man, cultured and deeply observant, emigrated by his own choice, following an ideal conceived in his teens. He wanted to become a farmer in the Holy Land and the project of Baron Hirsch, in tune with their aspirations, altered his destiny. This led him to remain with his family in Colonia Mauricio for 15 years, suffering the greatest privations, when he could have moved to Buenos Aires when he would liked it, given the capital he had.
Thus his Memoires are not those of an immigrant who came to Colonia Mauricio by chance, but of someone who gave up a comfortable lifestyle to realize his aspirations, being the testimony of a settler, but also of a critical observer of the project, given his genuine interest in it.
Demetrio Aranovich was born in Taganrog, Russia, on October 20, 1871 and died in Buenos Aires on June 21, 1945.
Aranovich was a man of remarkable formation. He completed his secondary education at the Gymnasium of the city of Nikolayev, which is evidence of outstanding academic conditions, given the limited quota for Jewish students existing under the constraints imposed by the government of the Czar.
In 1896 he was hired by the J.C.A., traveling to Argentina and settled in Villaguay, Entre Rios, taking charge of the secretary of the administration of Colonia Clara. Before long he moved to Buenos Aires, enrolling in the Faculty of Medicine.
In 1903 he obtains the degree of Doctor in Medicine, becoming the first Jewish doctor in Argentina.
In 1904 the J.C.A. hired him again, this time to cover for one year the health needs of Colonia Mauricio, settling at the end of his contract in Carlos Casares where he would practice his profession until November 1916, when he moved to Buenos Aires. Over the next 30 years he practiced in the Hospital Israelita Ezra, becoming its President.
The personal characteristics of Aranovich, the first Jewish doctor graduated from the University of Buenos Aires in 1903 and a member of the Socialist Party; the fact that he was hired by the J.C.A. to meet the health needs of Colonia Mauricio in 1904, he practiced in Carlos Casares between 1905 and 1916 and he was a prominent leader of the local Jewish community; the methodology of his work, a detailed statistical report which helps us to understand the economy of the colony; the contemporaneity of his study to the facts, since it was published in 1932; and the fact that it covered the period of disintegration of the colony, not included in the memories of Garfunkel, given his settling in Buenos Aires in 1906, makes the analysis of his review the perfect complement to the study of the memories of Boris Garfunkel.
The organization of the paper is as follows. In the next section we will study the position of Baron de Hirsch on philanthropy, essential to understand many of the events of everyday life in Colonia Mauricio. Section III will report the background of the project. Why Russian Jews arrived in the late nineteenth century to settle in Mauricio, in the distant and unknown Pampa Argentina? The following section presents our analysis of the memories of Boris Garfunkel, we will begin to reconstruct the history of the colony and identify a potential trigger of its disintegration. In Section V we will study the historical review of Demetrio Aranovich, we will continue our reconstruction of the history of the Colony, we will cross check many of the statements expressed by Garfunkel and we will identify the main reason, in the author's point of view, of the disintegration of Mauricio. Close the paper a brief section in which we will evaluate the four hypothesis proposed by Aranovich as responsible for the dissolution of the Colony, which we will collate with the vision of Garfunkel on this event.
II. THE POSITION OF THE BARON DE HIRSCH ON PHILANTHROPY
Baron Maurice de Hirsch was born into a wealthy, aristocratic family in Munich on December 19, 1831. (4) He was a dynamic personality. Concessions granted by the governments of Austria, Russia and Turkey for the building of railroads provided him with the opportunity to display his financial and organizational skills, and he dedicated 25 years to the gigantic undertaking that was to enable him to build up an immense fortune. Its exact size is unknown. S. Adler-Rudel (1963) estimates his fortune at between 14 and 30 million pounds sterling. (5) It is clear that the magnitude of his wealth provided him with a privileged position among the most powerful and influential millionaires of his age.
Having built up such a fortune, increasing it for the mere pleasure of doing so lost its attraction to him, and he needed to channel his energy in a different direction, a possibility that was provided to him by large-scale philanthropy, not through the dispensing of charity but by generating a genuine philanthropic undertaking. In this enterprise he was as tough and stubborn as he had been in his business dealings.
In 1887, shortly after the death of his only son, Lucien, Hirsch decided to retire from business altogether, dedicating the rest of his life to his philanthropic activities; this devotion is evident from his reply to a letter of condolence on the death of Lucien, when he wrote "My son I have lost, but not my heir; humanity is my heir. " (6)
Hirsch's vision of philanthropy is on record from a wide range of sources. For example, the day after he died, the Neues Wiener Tageblatt, a morning paper in Vienna, published the following obituary:
"His philanthropy was not important so much because of its amounts, but because of the practical approach: economic rehabilitation." (7)
The economic rehabilitation aim of the undertaking was stressed by S. Adler-Rudel (1963):
"One of the few outstanding Jewish philanthropists in Western Europe who were determined to meet the needs of Eastern Jews not with alms but with constructive plans and substantial financial resources was a scion of German Jewry: Baron Moritz von Hirsch." (8) it was also given express recognition by one of the beneficiaries, A. D. Goldhaft, a student at the Baron de Hirsch Agricultural School at Woodbine, N.J., USA:
"Baron de Hirsch was a person ahead of his time as a philanthropist. In the history books they say that most of his attempts of solving the Jewish problem turned out to be failures, and that hundreds of millions of dollars was wasted. But I wonder if such things can ever be measured. Perhaps some of the settlements that he set up failed to have a spectacular success, and most of them failed in time, but my life was helped by his work, as I suppose were many others." (9)
This is mentioned even today on the web page of the Jewish Colonization Association: "Hirsch was contemptuous of traditional charity with its emphasis on the distribution of alms as a means of bringing relief. He was convinced that he could secure the future of the Russian Jews by providing them with the opportunity to become self-reliant through productive work." (10)
Hirsch himself publicly stated this vision on several occasions. For example, in 1873 he addressed the following note to the Board of the Alliance Israelite Universelle (A.I.U.): "During my repeated and extended visits to Turkey I have been painfully impressed by the misery and ignorance in which the Jewish masses live in that Empire ... progress had bypassed them, their poverty stems from lack of education, and only the education and training of the young generation can remedy this dismal situation." (11)
To complete this picture, the brief paper that Hirsch published in The North American Review, in July 1891 is highly illustrative. The following paragraph speaks for itself: "I contend most decidedly against the old system of alms-giving, which only makes so many more beggars; and I consider it the greatest problem in philanthropy to make human beings who are capable of work out of individuals who otherwise must become paupers, and in this way to create useful members of society." (12)
and it was in this vein that he undertook his philanthropic work.
III. THE ANTECEDENTS OF THE PROJECT
We will devote the first part of this section to describe the deteriorating situation of Jews in the Russian Empire during the 19th century, whose extremely poor living conditions would lead to the intervention of Baron de Hirsch.
In March 1881 Alexander II was assassinated and Alexander III, his successor, sought to direct the anger of the population, caused by the death of the Czar, towards the Jews, encouraging, or at least tolerating, a series of pogroms shaking the south of the Empire in 1881/82; these pogroms were the first of a series of physical attacks on Jews and their property. The so-called May or Temporary Laws, promulgated in May 1882, re-established the Pale of Settlement. Even inside the Pale, the Jews were prohibited from settling in the outskirts of cities and towns, from acquiring land in rural areas, and from doing businesses on Sundays or any other Christian feast days. Jews residing in urban regions had no alternative but to remain there, and rural residents were forced to move to the former. The territory where they could legally reside was reduced by 90%.
The Jewish population was frightened by violence and by the new restrictions and started seeking the way to come out of the Russian Empire. Thousands of people started on their way towards the borders; emigration, which had mildly begun in the second half of the 70's gathered strength again. Upon crossing the western border they were in Brody, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where their living conditions were not much better; thus, they began a steady process of spontaneous emigration towards the USA, where the Jewish population would double within 10 years.
When in 1888 the Czar intensified restrictions, provincial authorities reduced even more the territory open to settlements, since small villages and towns were redefined as rural areas and consequently, prohibited for Jews; those who had moved to these regions after the decrees of 1882 were again forced to emigrate.
On the other hand, there were other strong restrictions such as the numerus clausus established in 1887, setting an admission quota for high schools and superior schools (for example, in the Pale of Settlement schools accepted 10% of Jews, while outside this area, the ratio decreased to 5%, and in Moscow and Saint Petersburg it was 3%), and special limitations imposed in 1889 for admission of Jewish lawyers to the bar.
In 1891, those Jews who still resided in Moscow and Saint Petersburg were suddenly forced to sell the properties where they had lived for generations, and to abandon the cities. Those who were not able to sell their properties fast (in most cases at prices below cost) were taken to jail. In this way, 20,000 Jews living in Moscow were obliged to move to the Pale of Settlement.
Confinement in the overpopulated Pale of Settlement, the absence of possibilities to acquire lands and to carry out farming work, to have access to education and to practise certain professions, plus the strong demographic growth, made living conditions deteriorate considerably, since the aforementioned factors increased competence among small retailers and reduced even more their already very low income due to urbanization of the Russian Empire during the second half of 19th century. The urbanization had created a huge demand for consumer goods, replacing the individual artisan's work for industrial production, and developing railway networks. Large-scale trade, encouraged by industrialization, passed by the small local traders, usually Jews due to the restrictions imposed on their exercising any other activity. Towards the end of the 80's, the severe deterioration of living conditions again encouraged spontaneous emigration.
In this context, Baron de Hirsch first attempted to improve living conditions within the Pale of Settlement, as he had done in the Near East and in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He proposed to the Czar the creation of a Fund with an endowment of US$ 10,000,000 for the purpose of founding and operating technical and agricultural schools in the Pale of Settlement; negotiations with the government were carried out during one year, but his initiative was rejected unless the Fund were to be administered by the government itself, a condition that was quite unacceptable to Hirsch. As revealed in the following quote from his article published in The Forum in August 1891, from that moment onward, he considered that the only viable alternative consisted in organized emigration and resettlement in other countries:
"The measures now being enforced against the Jews which are equivalent to their wholesale expulsion do not appear to me to be altogether a misfortune to the Russian Jew. I think that the worst thing that could happen to these unfortunate people would be to continue for an indefinite period the wretched existence which they have led up to the present time, crowded altogether in narrow streets, merely vegetating without hope and without future, reduced to a condition incompatible with the dignity of human beings. The only means to raise their condition is to remove them from the soil to which they are rooted and to transport them to other countries, where they will enjoy the same rights as the people among whom they live where they will cease to be pariahs, and become citizens. What is going on in Russia today may be the prelude to their beneficent transformation." (13)
Although USA was the preferred destination for spontaneous emigration, it was not the adequate destination for a project of such a magnitude as imagined by Hirsch, and having to seek other destinations Baron de Hirsch would be inclined in favor of Argentina.
But why Argentina? To find the answer to this question it is necessary to go back to October 19, 1876, when President Nicolas Avellaneda enacted the Immigration and Colonization Act (Law No. 817) which was to define the image of Argentina as a country. Although it placed no restriction on spontaneous immigration, it provided a strong stimulus to organized immigration; that is to say, to immigration promoted by the Argentine government.
The Act was not to have an immediate effect. The four years following its enactment were of great importance for Argentina. The Conquest of the Desert, which took place between 1878 and 1879, placed vast areas under the effective control of the Republic, and the federalization of Buenos Aires set the seal on the process of national organization. On October 12, 1880, when Julio Argentino Roca became President, Argentina was unified and Roca had at his disposal enormous extensions of virgin territory, ideally suited to the start of the active policy for population and colonization that had been outlined during the presidency of Avellaneda.
The timing could not have been better, as news of the pogroms of May 1881 spread across Europe, reaching to the representative of the Argentine Department of Immigration in Paris, Carlos Calvo, who immediately got in touch with his important connections in St. Petersburg to ensure that some of the Jews anxious to emigrate could be guided towards Argentina. This initiative was backed by the Roca government, which issued a decree on August 6, 1881 naming Jose Maria Bustos honorary agent in Europe, with special responsibility for directing towards Argentina the Israelite emigration originating in Imperial Russia.
Bustos was to last only one year in his job. The first attempt to take large numbers of Jewish immigrants to Argentina failed, but it was to have a long-term impact through occasional articles published in the Jewish press in Europe, by means of which Argentina began to become known in communities in Russia as a country with potential for the settlement of Jews. This process was to culminate eight years later, on August 14, 1889, with the arrival in Buenos Aires of the S.S. Weser, which carried among its 1,200 passengers 820 Russian Jews, equivalent to half the Jewish population in Argentina.
The history of this group had begun in 1887 at a meeting held in Katowice (Silesia, Poland) by delegates of the Jewish communities in Podolia and Bessarabia, where the conditions of life were extremely severe; at that meeting it was decided that emigration was the only solution, and a delegate was sent to Paris to seek the support of Baron de Rothschild for emigration to Palestine. These negotiations failed, but whilst he was in Paris, the delegate, Eliezer Kauffman, learnt by chance of the existence in the city of an office promoting immigration to Argentina, a country about which he knew very little, and which had not even been considered at the Katowice conference. At that office, Kauffman was informed by J. B. Frank, the government agent in charge, that a gentleman by the name of Rafael Hernandez was interested in selling land to European immigrants; the land was in Nueva Plata, Province of Buenos Aires, close to the city of La Plata. The transaction was completed, and thus the 120 families that Kauffman represented began their trip to Argentina.
They had barely disembarked when they learnt that the land they had purchased was no longer available. During the lengthy trip, land prices had more than doubled, so it did not suit Hernandez to hand over the land on which a deposit had been paid, and he simply failed to fulfill his side of the contract. The rabbi of the incipient Jewish community in Buenos Aires, Henry Joseph, put them in touch with Pedro Palacios, the owner of extensive tracts of land in the Province of Santa Fe. The proposal was accepted, contracts were exchanged, and a few days later they traveled to that area.
Their first impressions were bleak indeed. The families were lodged in freight trucks in a railway shed by the side of the railway line. They waited fruitlessly to be transferred to their fields, and to be provided with farm animals and implements, as had been agreed in the contract. It is reported that the workers on the railroad distributed food among the hungry children; sadly, a typhoid epidemic, spread because of the lack of hygiene, ended the lives of 60 of them.
News of this misery reached the national authorities, who ordered the General Commissioner for Immigration to discover the reasons for the difficult situation the immigrants were in. At this stage Wilhelm Loewenthal, a Romanian doctor who had graduated from the University of Berlin, specializing in bacteriology, appeared on the scene. He had been hired in Paris by the Argentine government for a scientific mission. Before he left Paris, the A.I.U. requested him to intervene on behalf of the immigrants from the Weser.
Loewenthal visited Palacios Station, confirmed the misery in which the colonists were living, and their desire to become farmers, despite their numerous adversities, and in a report to the Foreign Minister, Estanislao Zeballos, he dedicated a chapter to the so-called affaire of the Russian immigrants, repeating that they had been at Palacios Station for six weeks, often with no more to eat that a portion of biscuit each for 48 hours at a time. Loewenthal also met with Palacios to demand that he comply with his obligations.
Back in Paris, Loewenthal detailed in writing to Chief Rabbi Zadoc Kahn a project for agricultural colonization by Jewish families in Argentina, which was to benefit in the first place the Palacios colonists,
"The project furthermore proposes that assistance to persecuted Jews should not be in the nature of a charitable gift, and that it would be most constructive if they were to be provided with the possibility of dedicating themselves to farming, founding agricultural colonies to that end." (14)
Loewenthal considered that ideally 50,000,000 francs should be made available to be able to settle 5,000 families in the short term. He was aware that two years earlier, Baron de Hirsch had attempted to invest precisely that amount in the setting up of technical and agricultural schools in the Pale of Settlement, and therefore thought of Hirsch as a candidate to finance the project. Hirsch learnt of the plans through the A.I.U. and gave the project his approval in January 1890,
"The constructive nature of the project for assistance to the Russian Jews coincided precisely with Hirsch's own point of view on the spirit of philanthropy in general, which is contrary to the old system of charity, which only succeeded in forming more beggars." (15) Hirsch decide on a vast undertaking to establish large colonies in Argentina, and as a first step in that direction, sent out a commission made up by Loewenthal and two experts in emigration and colonization problems, C. N. Cullen, a British engineer, and Colonel Vanvinckeroy, a Belgian, to make studies of the soil and other aspects essential to the success of the project. In March 1891 the Commission sent Hirsch a favorable evaluation, having in addition obtained the approval of the Argentine government. Argentina was considered as a country suitable for the colonization project because of its size, small population, ease of cultivation even for the most inexperienced of colonists, its liberal political regime, and the advantages offered by the country's laws to immigrants seeking agricultural work.
Mass emigration such as that proposed required the selection of the immigrants, their transportation to Argentina, and the opening of administrative offices at destination to receive them and settle them in their new homes. To carry out these tasks the Jewish Colonization Association (J.C.A.) was set up. The purposes of the Association, as stated by Hirsch himself, were:
"To assist and promote the emigration of Jews from any part of Europe or Asia--and principally from countries in which they may for the time being be subjected to any special taxes or political or other disabilities--to any parts of the world, and to form and establish colonies in various parts of North and South America and other countries, for agricultural, commercial and other purposes." (16)
IV. THE MEMORIES OF BORIS GARFUNKEL
In this section we will allow Boris Garfunkel to tell us by himself different events related to his life in Colonia Mauricio. We will begin to reconstruct the history of the colony and we will identify a potential trigger of its disintegration. To this end we will use the following timeline:
* The birth of Colonia Mauricio (1891-1893)
* The maturity of Colonia Mauricio (1894-1905)
* The beginning of the disintegration of Colonia Mauricio (1906)
The Birth of Colonia Mauricio (1891-1893)
Boris Garfunkel left Kamenetz, Podolia, on July 1, 1891, traveling in a carriage to Czernovitz, just crossing the Russian-Austrian border; thence he traveled by train to Berlin and then to Hamburg, where he would embark to Argentina. In Berlin and later in Hamburg, he came into contact with those who would be his traveling companions for the next 15 years: young adults, for 25 to 35 years old and extremely poor, in their the vast majority.
On August 2, Garfunkel embarked on the Petropolis with other 236 immigrants. The single class ship was built especially to drive immigrants to South American countries. On September 4 the ship landed in Buenos Aires. The passengers were driven by employees of the J.C.A. to the Hotel de Inmigrantes. A week later they were transported by train to Carlos Casares, where they were greeted by a native who guided them to a warehouse of zinc, located 200 meters from the station, where he would spend the night on two rows of straw and hay covered with tarps and bags. On the morning of September 11, after a journey of two hours in several two-wheeled carts pulled by six horses, the contingent arrived at a place called Algarrobos where, in one of the highest places of the area, it had been installed the Administration of the future Colonia Mauricio.
They were 5 km away of their final destination. Garfunkel mentions the unfounded expectation that flourished in the minds of the settlers, that they were on their way to their own fields, since they had no opposite information about it. Finally, upon their arrival they found no homes as such, but three rows of independent tents linked by common walls of canvas. Ten meters away there were another series of three rows of rectangular marked lands, of four meters by eight, where the newcomers have to build their tents by themselves.
The immigrants were greeted by several people of the first group settled in Mauricio, who had arrived one month earlier on the steam Tyoko. At dinner time the Garfunkel family was invited by the Polak family, neighbors of the camp. The talk described in the memories is a clear picture of the frustration of the immigrants who arrived that morning to Colonia Mauricio and the resignation of those who lived in the colony for a month. Polak describes the harsh initial conditions faced by the immigrants who arrived a month before, the open field that they found, the need to build their own tents, the food, consisting of meat in abundance but lacking of milk for the children, and the use of dry cow dung given the lack of fuel wood. The birth of Colonia Mauricio, at the light of the memories of Boris Garfunkel, could not have been more precarious and improvised.
For the rest of 1891 it is possible to rescue three episodes of interest, all of them associated with the discomfort that had developed between the settlers to continue living in the tent camp waiting for the allocation of the lands. Such episodes highlight the strict non-welfarism of the imigration project, the chronic disagreements between the inmigrants and the Administrators of the colony, often motivated by their ineptitude or even their corruption, the precariousness of the life in the colony during its early stages, and how complicated was the start of the colonization project, given the untimely arrival of the beneficiaries when there were not even given the conditions for their reception, and the J.C.A. was not properly organized in Argentina. In the first episode, Garfunkel explicitly mention the discomfort:
"Time went on his way. The days were going and our uncertainty grew. The progressive discontent was aggravated by the idleness and shame to eat unearned bread. Well, that's what we thought. Eventually we had to know that everything given to us was bore in mind, every cent. The J.C.A. considers all these as part of the loan provided for our support during our first year in the colony." (17)
The second episode describes probably the first of many revolts that were to succeed in the colony, with the participation of immigrants who had traveled alone to Argentina, leaving their families in Europe to move them later, since their forced inactivity made them impossible to send money for their livelihood, so they asked the Administrator for any type of work.
The Administrator with the help of a police officer convinced the revolutionaries (a term used by Garfunkel) (18) that he should seek instructions from the Director of the J.C.A. in Buenos Aires. A few days later arrived to Algarrobos a cart full of shovels. The immigrants, whose families remained in Russia, would dig and smooth a road leading from the Administration to the main road leading to Carlos Casares. It would be charged two dollars a day. For this, the Administrator appointed, among the J.C.A. employees, supervisors, who allocated the tasks and would verify their compliance. Of course, it would be inequities in the distribution of the jobs, not without settlers bribing foremen to receive wages without working or supervisors that seek such bribes, hurting other settlers in whose notebooks were not written down all their working days.
On the evening of December 26 it happened the third of the episodes that seems interesting to note. A strong storm hit the area, completely destroying the camp, claiming the life of a settler's wife and of the young son of another, and causing mass casualties, which would generate the second revolt against the Administration.
Thus came the month of January, although there was some improvement in the quality of life of the immigrants with respect to the first three months in the colony, there was a growing discontent because of the continued inactivity and the lack of signs of an early distribution of the land.
By then Loewenthal try to replace the Administrator, Guerbel, but given his resistance he would not have the necessary determination to carry it out. After confirmation, Guerbel became more accessible and provided an explanation of why the colonists had not yet been allocated to their land. The fields were occupied; when Loewenthal completed the acquisition of the land (August, 1891, contemporaneously with the arrival to Buenos Aires of the first contingent of prospective colonists), some of the previous owners had their lands leased, so the J.C.A. had to wait until the leasers raise their latest vintages (probably during the summer of 1892), to measure and fraction the lands.
Guerbel would be removed from office by Colonel Albert Godschmid, the new Director of the J.C.A. in Argentina a few months later. His visit to the colony would become the main event of 1892.
On the morning of May 12, Colonel Goldschmid arrived to Algarrobos with the mandate of Baron de Hisch to bring order to the colony. This decision was clear from his first speech, forceful plea for the non-welfarism concept imbued in the philanthropy of Hirsch. In the speech he promised his support for the settlers but he also warned them that he was willing to disarm the colony should not shown an iron will to work: "I know all about your desires and your sorrows. When I left the Baron, he asked me to tell you that he puts at your disposal all the necessary money, but added that if I shall find in the colony people who do not show willingness to work, I will have to undo all without mercy." (19)
Loud applause approved the speech, but after a few minutes some groups of colonists began to gather outside the gates of the Administration building expressing their demands loudly. The vigorous reaction of Goldschmid did not take long:
"I demand of you composure and respect. It is essential that you be disciplined. The rush, which do not conform to the expected logic of each start, the impatient and the rebels have to leave. I am but the faithful servant of the Baron, who sent me here to clean the house and put some order in it. I will fulfill my mission in all loyalty, but those who disagree with the order and discipline that must prevail in every good organization are undesirable elements and should be radiated. The disgruntled may ask tickets for anywhere in the world other than Russia and they will receive them for free. Let them go and the sooner the better! People who demonstrate excessive impatience andfear have to leave, but to the others, who have sufficient moral energy to take those troubles with faith of fate, I say: In a very short time the tents will be dismantled and the settlers will be established in suitable housing on their own farms. It will be abolished the notebook that records the products that each family gets from the store and this in turn will be liquidated. Instead of the notebooks we will give you cash loans and you can freely buy whatever you like. The money to be distributed monthly to each household will vary according to the number of dependents. Of yourself, my dear fellows, your ultimate fate depend." (20)
The speech implied the virtual reorganization of the colony: the possibility that leave the colony those who wished, the beginning of the distribution of the lands and the consequent end of the inactivity, and the elimination, as often requested by the settlers, of the annotations in their notebooks of the goods bought at the store of the J.C.A.
Those immigrants eager to leave the colony would be able to do so, opening one hour after the speech ended, a record for that purpose. About 300 immigrants, of the 2,500 settlers of Mauricio were recorded in it, getting free tickets to Buenos Aires by train and from there to the country they wanted by boat, except Russia (which was forbidden, as Hirsch had negotiated with the Tsar's government the permission for the emigration of the Jews on the condition that they would never return).
Moreover, some undesirable elements had to be subsequently expelled, as the offices of the Agency for Jewish Emigrants had been no prior selection among the candidates who applied to emigrate. This would be in effect mid 1893. The decision of the Colonel Goldschmid to expel from their farms the settlers who prove negligence or inability to agriculture could be inferred from his speech, it was clear he was willing to act with all the energy that was necessary to order the colony.
The episode was not for free and would have sequels. Regional inspectors, qualified by Garfunkel as real spies, had the mission to inform the Administration about the conduct of the colonists. Obviously, these reports were subjective and sensitive to the will of the inspectors, for which, besides being driven out undesirable elements were committed injustices. Beyond all the excesses, the colony was cleaned.
Let us return to May 1892, two weeks after the departure of Colonel Goldschmid. Mr. Wulf, the new Administrator, began to draw the lands, each 80 to 100 hectares. Mr. Wulf gave each family a hand plow, a harrow, a shovel, four oxen, a cow with a calf, four horses, and wheat seeds for the sowing of 1892.
The colony has been consolidated. It has spent just under a year since her traumatic birth. The introduction of cash grants, the abolishing of the settlers notebooks, and the closing of the J.C.A. store, would give the immigrants a sense of freedom that they never have enjoyed before, but they also imply a responsibility that the colonists do not know. Of themselves would depend from now on the use they give to their money.
The Maturity of Colonia Mauricio (1894-1905)
In December of 1893 representative members of the colony began to interact to organize the communitarian life; it is clear that the degree of development of the colony allowed them to do so.
During the first years of the colony, when the immigrants lived in the campings of carps, a slaughterer concurred three times per week to sacrifice cows property of the J.C.A.; the meat, extremely cheap, was distributed between the colonists and its cost loaded in their notebooks. In the middle of 1892 the J.C.A. suspended the distribution of meat, given the new policy of subsidies in cash. The Administration began to sell the meat to a butcher in Algarrobos and to another one in Alice, who exerting monopoly power increased its price in a 150%. For worse, the colonists had to go to the butcher's shops, which sometimes implied long-hauls from their farms. It took the colonists a pair of years to decide the hiring of two wagons so that they acquired the meat and they directly sold it to the colonists in their respective farms.
A second episode of the year 1893 that seems interesting to highlight happened in the first days of December, when Garfunkel and five neighbors acquired to the J.C.A. a harvester, which would be used communitarianly. This fact demonstrates a remarkable growth of the colonists, it is the first investment in a capital asset to the aims of being more efficient in their work.
During 1895 it would take place the event of the greatest relevance of this period: the signature of the contracts by the possession of the lands. Before studying it in detail we will focus our attention on an episode of the same year that will allow us to construct a better image of the geography of Colonia Mauricio and in a digression of Garfunkel on the education in the colony, which, although it is not dated, it is clear that he talks about the first years of life of the colony.
Garfunkel tells us that the harvest of wheat which he made by the end of 1893 had a poor yield; he mentions two elements on his defense, the fact that his lands in Algarrobos (where there is the lagoon of the same name) were low and subject to flooding and the unfavorable climatic conditions. Since the situation did not improve with the harvests of corn nor of wheat of 1894, in January of 1895 he decided to change the ranch in search of higher lands in Alice, where there were a good number of vacated farms. This operation was allowed, adjusting, of course, the price of the land in the debt of the colonist with the J.C.A.:
"This extension of land was indeed the one that with the running of the time would be the more populated part of the colony. It was the group of the so called 15 farms; their sizes were 210 hectares each one. I had to sign a written promise to pay by the new land a price that double the previous one." (21)
Now let us see the beginnings of the education in the colony, central element of any philantropic project carried out by Baron de Hirsch. The opinion of Garfunkel is forceful: "To the Administration of the J.C.A. few things can not be censured, but at the same time they do not lack some reasons for praise. Between these last ones it is without a doubt the way in which the education of the children of the colonists was managed." (22)
The colony had two schools, located a pair of kilometers of Algarrobos and Alice, respectively; they were far away of most of the groups of farms (even 15 km), thus the children had to make long walks or they have to go by horse. It was offered Judaica and general education according to the official program of the schools of the Province of Buenos Aires. Maths, language, Argentine history and geography, were dictated by sefaradi teachers who had finished their studies in normal schools of Turkey and the Middle East, operated by the A.I.U.. These teachers, beyond having the necessary pedagogical knowledge, talks spanish fluently but also they could communicate in idish, indispensable requirement to educate the children of the colonist that did not speak spanish.
At the beginning of 1895, after three years and a half of the birth of the colony, the J.C.A. presented to the colonists the contracts for their lands. The original terms were the following ones:
"It was specified, in effect, that the maturity of the contract would be of 12 years, and the value of the land would have jointly to be paid in the course of that term with an annual interest of 5%, like thus also any loan in money, machinery or species that the J.C.A. had granted to the colonists. The harvest that he would obtain every year would have completely to be deposited in the sheds of the J.C.A. in Carlos Casares or in any other place that the local Administration indicated; such deposit already had taken place from the beginning. Of the value of the sale of the cereal, a part would be assigned to the Administration that corresponded to the amortizable annuity of the debt of the colonist plus the interest of 5%, but if the product of such sale was inferior to the annuity, the Administration could pospone for the following year the payment of this last one. In any way, the total amount of the price of the land plus the interests had to be satisfied at the end of the contract, during whose course, on the other hand, the colonist could not leave his farm nor make it work by others. At any time some could be evicted without indemnification if, in opinion of the Administration, they miss to pay some annuity by carelessness and laziness in the agricultural tasks." (23)
The colonos refused to sign the contracts, like those of the rest of the colonies. The Direction of the J.C.A. required that each colony sent two delegates to Buenos Aires, with the purpose of meeting the Directors.
The delegates exposed their points of view on the conflicting clauses: the impossibility to leave the fields or to make them work by others, that were not members of their families, and the lack of indemnification for the cases of eviction. The answer of Cazes was reasonable:
"He said that the J.C.A. had to make sure at all costs that the postulates of the company initiated by Baron Hirsch were fully fulfilled. It was necessary to dissuade the colonists, from the beginning, of all intention to take comercially advantage, in the short term, of the doubtless progressive valuation of the lands." (24)
The delegates were in agreement with this argument, but they distrusted the power that the contracts granted to the Administrators, who actually could throw the colonists of their lands to their single will, since history demonstrated the dishonesty of many of them. In addition, they raised that:
"The distrust of the J.C.A. by the possible disposition of the lands by the colonists could be, at the end, more detrimental than beneficial, since nobody works with happiness when he has been crushed by obligatory exigencies that limit his freedom to think and to act." (25)
This quotation has great significance; immigrants, who three years and a half ago everything that they wished was to leave Russia, where they lived in the greatest of the miseries, argued with the Directors of the J.C.A. by their freedom to think and to act. The colonization advances, is clear that the immigrants continue growing.
Three days after their leave the delegates returned to Mauricio; it was decided to send a letter to Baron Hirsch, being solicited the reform of the contracts. Although they did not receive an answer, the contracts were modified, extending the term of the quotas to 20 years. The new contracts did not satisfy the demands of the colonists but they improved the original conditions; this stimulated them to sign them, regularizing, after a long way, their legal situation.
Meanwhile the colony continued evolving; some colonists of several groups jointly rented threshing machines, alternating themselves in its use; a colonist chosen between the involved ones fulfilled the overseer roll and ordered the work.
Lets go to year 1896, dominated by the episode of the death of Baron de Hirsch. The sensation of gratitude of the colonos towards Hirsch, beyond the mix-ups with the Administrators and still with the Directors of the J.C.A., was attested by Garfunkel: "We were like orphans abandoned in the solitude. But even when this graphically testifiee what we felt at those moments, there was an underestimation of the magnitude of the work that had carried out the man whose loss we cried. And it would be demonstrated obviously in the subsequent years. It is that a project or system of organization is good and feasible when, disappeared of the scene his creator, it is continued without difficulties by his successors. In our case, after the death of Baron de Hirsch the direction of his work of root of Jewish blood in the feracious Argentine plains could be transmitted without shocks and interruptions to his successors, who were chosen in the way that he himself had indicated." (26)
From 1897 to the birth of the new century we found two ilustrative episodes of the evolution of the colony: the acquisition of milk cows, extending the activities of the colonists, and the beginning of cattle operations, diversifying, still more, their activities.
The dairy arrived at the colony in 1898, when some immigrants acquired milk cows to the Administration. The cows produced up to ten liters of milk daily, which the colonists sold to one cremeria that a private company had installed in Mauricio, being sent the cream to an establishment in Carlos Casares where the butter was made.
On the other hand, the cattle ranch arrived at the colony around 1900. By the way, the contracts did not mention this type of activity, but since they did not prohibit it either, the J.C.A. was not against its. The colonists acquired cows and bulls, in the suitable proportion and also young cows for their fattening. It could be won a worthy sum in each animal, at a time at which the casualties inflicted by the bad harvests required some type of compensation. The cattle ranch brought the necessity to pay attention to the alfalfa, since it constituted an essential input.
It is clear that at the beginning of the 20th century the situation in Colonia Mauricio had improved considerably, nothing had in common with that open terrain at which the immigrants had arrived near 10 years before. The colonists had become accustomed to the tasks of the farming, they had diversified their activities and there did not exist greater problems in their future.
Two episodes which happened in the first years of the new century will endorse this conclusion: the extension of the colony and one frustrated purchase of lands in the Province of La Pampa.
In 1902 the J.C.A. acquired a land of 9,914 hectares denominated Santo Tomas, with the purpose of being used like a reserve for the future installation of the sons of the colonists. The division was made at the rate of 150 hectares the farm, planning their sales by means of mortgages to the habitual term of 20 years. They were alfalfados, ideal for the cattle ranch and more expensive than the located in Algarrobos or in Alice, but the investment was attractive for families who wished that the new generation followed the steps of their parents. This purchase was carried by the requests of colonists from several years ago, worried about the future of their sons since it was not profitable that several of them jointly operated the family land.
Around 1905 we found the second of the episodes. A colonizing company was arranged to sell, in quotas to 20 years, an important extension in La Pampa, near General Acha. It required a 10% for sign, which was advanced by 28 colonists that decided to participate in the operation. The operation would finish of the worst way, since the sale were fraudulent and they lost the sign.
The magnitude of the frustrated operation provides new evidence about the economic well-being of the colonists. Their motivation was, once again, to assure the future of the following generations. The colonists had reached their redemption. Only a memory was left of the misery and oppression in which they vegetated in their native Russia, before being rescued by the project of Baron de Hirch; for that reason, they could already dedicate to think about the future of their children.
The Beginning of the Disintegration of Colonia Mauricio (1906)
We have chosen 1906 to locate in the line of the time the beginning of the disintegration of Mauricio not because in this year have taken place particular conditions, but because in 1906 Boris Garfunkel begins the process of his moving to Buenos Aires, which would culminate in 1908 with the transfer of all his family. The result of his dispute with the J.C.A. in order to be allowed to leave the colony, since the contracts tied the immigrants to their lands during 20 years, would be a trigger for other colonists to do the same. It is clear that this fact is not the cause of the disintegration of the colony but demonstrates that there were given the conditions so that it happened: "When my family came to Buenos Aires, the J.C.A. demanded me the fulfillment of the contract, that is to say, that they did not allow me to make abandonment of the colony. The J.C.A. based their pretension in the abandonment of the field on the part of settler, although I had solved not to sell the land, but to rent it ... According to the interpretation that the J.C.A. gave the contracts that there were suscripted in its opportunity, the colonist and their children were virtually enslaved to the land and could not leave it of any way. To my repeated protests it was answered that doing an exception with me would be equivalent to seat a dangerous precedent, for the possibility that an exodus in mass of the colonists would take place towards the city. It was alleged that the contract established that the colonists had to personally work the land and, therefore, as much the sale as the renting meant a violation of the stipulated." (27)
Garfunkel decided to take the case to justice, but it was not finally necessary because the J.C.A. retired their demands allowing him to take root in Buenos Aires. Two relevant remarks; Garfunkel relates that when he decided to litigate to the J.C.A.:
"A student of law, near his graduation, Isaac Nissensohn (son of colonists of Mauricio), aware the details of the subject, gentily offered his services to me for the case that other colonists, in the same conditions than me, were decided to leave the colony." (28)
Garfunkel also adds, with real sadness, that: "But the sad thing of the case, I fulfill an obligation of conscience in saying it, is that many colonists took advantage of the antecedent to make as well abandonment of the colony, although the reasons that determined them to make that decision, in the great majority of the cases were not the same than mine. (29) It hurt to me deeply that it happened and gave the reason to the J.C.A., as far as the fear that my attitude seated a bad precedent." (30)
For that reason, it seems to us adequate to propose this episode as the trigger of the disintegration of Colonia Mauricio.
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|Title Annotation:||texto en ingles|
|Publication:||Serie Documentos de Trabajo|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2012|
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