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Buenos Aires, Argentina


ARGENTINA, South American Federal Republic, general population (2004) 39,150,000; Jewish population 190,000.

Reasons for the Disintegration of the Agricultural Settlement Enterprise

The disintegration of ICA's farming project in Argentina can be attributed to a series of factors. One factor was the unfavorable location of a large proportion of the colonies on the margins of the "Wet Pampa," influenced mostly by droughts from the south and by almost annual invasions of locusts from the north. One of the colonies, Dora, was even located in an arid region, dependent on irrigation. Another basic factor was the extreme dependence on foreign markets and the inability of the Argentinean farmer to influence marketing conditions. In search of greater income, the settlers kept shifting from grain crops to cattle raising. Jewish agriculture, based on monoculture, was therefore extremely sensitive to the fluctuations of the markets and lacked stability. A third general factor was the extensive cultivation in Argentina, which necessitated large units of land, thus creating a low population density. This type of settlement, in which the farmer lives at the center of his property and far from his neighbors, was rejected by Jewish settlers from the outset because it obstructed the fulfillment of their religious, social, educational, and medical needs. Attempts to establish concentrated villages failed, however, and had to be abandoned. The fourth decisive factor was the attraction of the town as an easy and more secure source of employment, providing opportunities for rapid advancement for those with initiative. The town also provided a social center with well-developed educational, religious, and cultural services. Since the Perón government (1946–55) encouraged urbanization and the Jewish settler came from an urban background (some of his children had already left for the town, either to study or to engage in trade), the attraction of the town became especially strong. The overall increase in land values enabled him to sell his lands at a profit and arrive in the town with a large sum of money. ICA tried to counteract some of these disintegrating factors. For a long period it tried to prevent settlers from leaving the colonies by delaying absolving them of their debts. ICA exerted pressure on the settlers to diversify their farming, helped them to develop dairy herds and chicken farms, and experimented with new crops and modern methods of cultivation. It established an integral school system in the colonies that was financed by charging the settlers. ICA even tried to recruit settlers with previous agricultural experience from southern Russia and later from among agricultural laborers in her own colonies. However, the lack of flexibility in policy and the bureaucratic administrative structure, requiring the obedience and submission of the settlers, caused continual undermining of good relations in the colonies and the diminution of the moral influence of ICA on the settlers. ICA's bitter and prolonged refusal to recognize that the colony Narcisse Levin and part of Barón Hirsch, Montefiore, and Dora, located on the edge of the fertile regions, required larger areas of land, resulted in bitter and prolonged disputes. Moreover, ICA's prolonged opposition to facilitating the settlement of children near their parents' farms made it difficult for the younger generation to settle in the colonies. It was for the same reason, as well as to promote intensified farming of their own plots, that ICA refused to lease its vacant land to the settlers. All these factors led to the strengthening of the second central force in the colonies, the settlers' cooperatives (see below). Established and run with ICA's support, the cooperatives fought disintegration, but also became the settlers' chief weapon in fighting ICA. The steep decline in agricultural settlement brought about a concerted action by the two forces to preserve the existing state of affairs.

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