Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide

Argentina

Lithuanians began migrating to Argentina before World War 1 (about 5000 migrated) but the main wave of migration took place between the World Wars (~30 000), after USA has curbed immigration while much of the rest of the world was ravaged by World War 1 (whereas neutral Argentina thrived). One in five of the emigrants from interwar Lithuania ended up in Argentinian cities, creating significant Lithuanian heritage there.

The main "Lithuanian" cities were Buenos Aires, Beriso, Rosario, and Cordoba, more or less in this order. Unique Lithuanian heritage also exists in Patagonia, the southernmost inhabited region of the earth that had its first towns and cities built in the 19th century and Lithuanians were among their founders.

Esquel Lithuanain museum building in Patagonia

Esquel Lithuanain museum building in Patagonia

Buenos Aires Lithuanian heritage sites

Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and one of the top 20 cities of the world in terms of population. Its wide avenues and grand architecture still breathe in the grandeur of the age gone by, when it was also one of the richest cities in the world and attracted many immigrants, among them Lithuanians.

Lithuanian-Argentinian Center with the patriotic symbol of Columns of Gediminas on its facade

Lithuanian-Argentinian Center with the patriotic symbol of Columns of Gediminas on its facade

Buenos Aires and its suburbs has the most massive Lithuanian heritage in Argentina and probably entire South America (except for Sao Paulo, perhaps). Three major Lithuanian heritage sites and hearts of the Lithuanian community are the Lithuanian Center, the Alliance of Lithuanians in Argentina and the Our Lady of Vilnius Lithuanian church. Each of the three is not merely a building but an entire complex of various premises, institutions, and activities. All three operate for more than 70 years and thus are full of Lithuanian symbolism and history.

Main stairway of the Alliance of Lithuanians in Argentina

Main stairway of the Alliance of Lithuanians in Argentina

"Secular" Lithuanian clubs operate on Saturdays. They include bars, libraries, Lithuanian item exhibitions, event halls for dancing and choir singing. Their activities are almost exclusively Lithuanian (save for the times the premises are rented out). On the other hand, the church (the complex of which also includes a Lithuanian museum, school, and monastery) has slowly drifted away towards a more general membership. Still, many of the parishioners have Lithuanian roots and the complex is arguably the richest in Lithuanian artworks.

Buenos Aires Lithuanian church

Buenos Aires Lithuanian church

Furthermore, the greater Buenos Aires has 5 streets named after Lithuania, the longest of which is 4 km long. That's the biggest number of Lithuania-named street among the conurbations worldwide. The mains streets have been renamed under the initiative of the Lithuanian community of Buenos Aires.

Beriso Lithuanian heirtage sites

A small (pop. 100 000) city of Beriso is unique in Argentina as most of its inhabitants are descendants of the ~1900-1940 immigrants and they care about their roots more than in nearly all other cities of the world. In Beriso it is very important to belong to an ethnic club (to the youth and kids as well), to participate in the annual Immigrant festivals. Lithuanians, ~3000 of whom once migrated here, are no exception.

Beriso Lithuanian club Nemunas

Beriso Lithuanian club Nemunas

There are not one but two Lithuanian clubs - "Mindaugas" and "Nemunas" - each with their small-but-nicely-built club HQ buildings, adorned with Lithuanian bas-reliefs. These clubs not only perform Lithuanian activities but also create new objects of Lithuanian heritage in Beriso, e.g. a Lithuanian traditional cross memorial in 2009.

Bas-relief of club Mindaugas depicts the first Lithuanian Christian king Mindaugas with a cross and a sword

Bas-relief of club Mindaugas depicts the first Lithuanian Christian king Mindaugas with a cross and a sword

Rosario Lithuanian heritage sites

Rosario has a Lithuanian club and a complex of Lithuanian church (that includes a school and a kindergarten). The community used to be smaller than in Buenos Aires and so the buildings are humbler. Still, the Roasrio Lithuanians were influential enough to ensure one of the streets in the city was renamed after Lithuania and another one after a famous local Lithuanian priest Margis.

Rosario Lithuanian street commemorative plaque

Rosario Lithuanian street commemorative plaque

Lithuanian community also exists in Cordoba but the Lithuanian club there has been closed. The building survives at S. Loza 1070.

Patagonia Lithuanian heritage sites

Patagonia's Lithuanian history is very different from that of Argentina's main cities. Lithuanians migrated to Patagonia before World War 1 when the regions still had no cities. They were led or invited by Šlapelis family, more than a single member of which left a deep enough trace in Patagonian history to have numerous places named after Šlapelis surname. Most of them are in or around the city of Sarmiento, where the local museum has significant Šlapelis-related exhibits as well.

Šlapelis family images in Sarmiento museum

Šlapelis family images in Sarmiento museum

The second Lithuanian heart of Patagonia is Esquel and the local Lithuanian farmstead-museum where one can spend some nights in Lithuanian-inspired bungalows near the Andes and visit an impressive museum that is interesting both to Argentinian and to Lithuanian alike. All that was created by a private initiative of a single Lithuanian-Argentinian family.

Lithuanian-Argentinian newspaper printing exhibits in the Esquel Lithuanian museum

Lithuanian-Argentinian newspaper printing exhibits in the Esquel Lithuanian museum

Other cities of Argentina Lithuanian heritage

Although Lithuanian club organizations operate in a few more Lithuanian cities, they lack their own premises and these cities have no Lithuanian heritage sites. Cordoba Lithuanians once owned their own club building - however, that organization folded and while it was re-created, it now lacks premises. Tandil Lithuanian club, on the other hand, was established by descendants of Lithuanians researching their roots and they never had any premises nor Lithuanian heritage sites in the city.

Lithuanian folk dancers rehearsing in the Lithuanian Center of Argentina

Lithuanian folk dancers rehearsing in the Lithuanian Center of Argentina

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  1. Falta nombrar a
    sociedad de S. M. Lituanos Unidos en la Argentina “Zinios”

    Susivienijimas Lietuviu Argentinoje

    SEDE SOCIAL: AV. SAN MARTIN 3175-LANUS OESTE (1824) e-mail: slalua@fullzero.com.ar

  2. Hello,

    I was wondering if you could help me or point me in the right direction.

    My Grandfather left Lithuania to look for work in Argentina during the 1920’s or 1930’s. He left his family behind and was only heard from once. We do not know what happened to him or what part of Argentina he went to. He also had a brother with him that had the same last name.

    Are there any type of records in Argentina that could lead us to what may have happened to him? (Like: Immigration Records – Death Records – Cemetery Records – Church Records – Etc.)

    Records for: Jonas Antanaitis & Vincas Antanaitis – Born in Lithuania – Catholic

    Thanks for any help!

    Algirdas

    • Sveiki, perskaiciau Jusu komentara, noriu paklaust ar pavyko ka nors rast? As pats ieskau prosenelio kuris is yko i Argentina Apie 1925 ir daugiau jokios info… ieskojau kontaktu argentinoj kas galetu padet, et niekas neatsisauke.

  3. Hey,
    My name is Zilvinas Jakstas. Currently my family and I live in Vancouver, Washington, US. I’m looking for my grandfather. His Name was Vladas Jakstas, left Lithuania, Svencionys, Jukiske around 1926 to Buenos Aires. Last street he lived was San Martinos. Last letter he sent to us was in 1956. If you have any records about him including death records or any living family info would be very appreciated. You can contact me at zilvinasjlt@gmail.com or call me at 1-360-810-7979.

    • Hi,

      I’d also suggest also contacting the Lithuanian-Argentine community directly – that is, the organizations mentioned in this article. It is likely the older members would remember him if he participated in any of them.

  4. Labas! Šiek tiek gyvenau Argentinoje ir padėjau lietuvių bendruomei mokytis kalbos, galiu papildyti informaciją 🙂

    • Labas. Papildykite 🙂 . Mus domina lietuviškos vietos – tai yra, lietuvių bažnyčios, klubų pastatai, paminklai lietuviams, lietuviški vietovardžiai (įskaitant lietuvių ar Lietuvos garbei pavadintas gatves), žymių lietuvių kapai ir t.t.

  5. Augenijus,
    mano senelis Povilas 58 m., emigravo iš Šilalės krašto iš Lietuvos į Argentiną 1927 m ir dirbo prie laivybos kanalo kasimo. Tai buvo sunkus katorgiškas darbas, visi atvykėliai byvo uždaryti, dokumentai paimti. Keletui darbininkų iš ten pavyko pabėgti.
    Einu giminės ir kraštiečių emigracijos istorijos pėdsakais ir Norėčiau sužinoti:
    1. kokioje vietoje Argentinoje galėjo būti kasamas tas laivų kanalas,
    2. gal kas girdėjo panašią istoriją atsitikusių Lietuvių emigrantams Argentinoje??
    Parašykite

  6. looking for information on kazis lindau migrated to Argentina from Kaunas Lithuania
    about 1910–1920. he played the violin in the Buenos Aires symphony.his brother
    lived in Mexico,Maine, USA his name was Adolf Lindau (lindautis)


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