Our country was founded following an apothegm set the course of our desire of achieving integration. It was coined by one of our most emminent statesmen, Juan Bautista Alberi. It says: ”To Govern is to Populate”.
Based on this proposition, and in the framework of a determined policy towards the attraction of immigrants, President Nicolás Avellaneda takes by means of the Law of Inmigration and Colonization passed in October 1876, what would be the kernel of a new social model for our country.
Hands were needed to toil the land. The policy of Open Doors encouraged new social conditions, permitted a new class mobility which would bring progress and prosperity to the Nation. It is in this context that the arrival of thirty families of brave men and women to this birthplace of palm trees took place. They came from Russian territories far away.
The story of these eight hundred or so persons, arriving in the steamship Wesser is well known. We also know how they were at first deceived, mistreated, housed in overcrowded dwellings in the area of Palacios, just a few kilometres from Las Palmeras.
The humanitarian task carried out by Dr. Loewnthal is also well known. He transmitted his concern about his compatriots to that other great humanitarian: Baron Maurice de Hirsch who, by means of the creation of the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), provided the tool which enabled the Jewish colonization of these territories: Santa Fe, as well as Entre Ríos and the Province of Buenos Aires, to be carried out with dignity and in an orderly manner. Thus, these heroes from far away arrived, fleeing from horror and in search of liberty and bread, strengthened by the hope of toiling in a free country, in a republic where all men were equal, leaving behind the phantom of the Cossack, of Zarism, of antisemitic violence and discrimination.
Argentina became the Promised Land. When they arrived, the Pampa appeared to them as uncontainable: it possessed the size of freedom; but also the size of their own helplessness. The political ”Generation of the Eighties” made ‘the melting pot of races’ their official motto. Thus, to the ‘gringo’ (foreign) forefathers who came to ‘make their America’ were added the criollos (native argentineans) who, little by little, intruduced themselves into the microclimate of the colonies. In community and union, Catholics and Jews had to overcome all kinds of hardships, from beaurocratic matters to rigidities and demands that did not contemplate the difficulties that the labour of the soil implies. They learned to labour the land and they experienced failure, but with the strength of their determination they converted adversity into knowledge, and many of the innovations that resulted from that process are of common use in agricultural labor in this country today.
Draught and floods, locust and other calamities taught them that it was not convenient to depend exclusively in the grain harvest. So, they gave an important contribution to the Cooperative Project which from the Jewish settlements proceeded to all the rest of the country.
The official date of foundation of Las Palmeras is that of the installment of the first railway station, in 1904. But, as we said, many years before a prosperous community was already established. A community determined to carry on the effort of integration. Wombs that opened to the land, sons and daughters who somewhere in of the world feel the presence of their towns and carry them in their thoughts. Las Palmeras, blood that exists and works indefatigably day after day and does not give up.
And we speak of those sons and daughters who somewhere in the world feel the presence of their town. In that respect I must express the pride and honour that it is for me to share a meeting like this with Baruch Tenenbaum. Baruch is not just any Argentinean. He is not just any Jew. He is a humanist, he is a pacifist, he is a man of ecumenic thought who has carried the values of dialogue and understanding throughout the world, a man who has received an award from the Congress of the United States, a man who has been especially acknowledged by Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations.
A few days ago, we read an article in the newspaper La Nación about the documentary film ”Legado” (Legacy). It tells the story of the Jewish Colonization in Argentina. It was mostly filmed in Moisesville and other localities of this area. Thank you very much for this gesture, Mr. Tenenbaum, we shall keep a copy of this film with great affection, as we keep the things that we treasure in our hearts.
Town of Las Palmeras: happy birthday, thanks for the demonstrations of affections that you show us. I thank God for allowing me to be here in such an important moment as this. Thanks to Baruch Tenenbaum for his presence, Shalom, congratulations to all, and happy birthday again.
Translation from Spanish: María Lía Macchi