While Lithuanians started to imigrate to Argentine before WW1 (~5000 entered) the main influx (~30 000) took place in the interbellum after USA limited imigration. At the time most of the industrialized world has been ravaged by war while the neutral Argentina was rich like never before or after. 20% of all Lithuanian interwar emigrants left for Argentina.
Main cities of Argentina - Lithuanian heritage
In Buenos Aires (one of world's top 20 largest cities) one can still breath the grandeur of the era while watching its art nouveau architecture and wide streets. This megalopolis still has the largest Lithuanian community. Since 1929 the Lithuanian-Argentine center operates in Villa Lugano neighborhood (Tabaré 6950 1439). Open in Suaturdays it has a bar and ethnic dance troupe.
The main Lithuanian district in Buenos Aires is however Avellaneda (pop. 25 000). It has a Lithuanian church with the image of the famous Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius above its door (Mendoza 2280, est. 1942). Lithuanian mass is celebrated once a month now and most masses are in Spanish, although various Lithuanian details remain.
Official institutions in Avellaneda include Lithuanian-Argentine Community, Union of Lithuanian Argentines (Av. San Martin 3175 in Lanus Oeste near Avellaneda) and Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce.
There is a 4 km long Lithuania (Lituania) Street and a much shorter Lithuania alley (Pje Lituania). By the way Lituania street also exists in the city of Cordoba. The practice of naming streets after foreign sources of immigrants has been common in Argentina. But a massive Lituania street (formerly Chicago street) has been named so in a well-publicized event and was believed to mean Argentine support for Lithuanian freedom cause.
In 2002 the Lithuania's only embassy in South America has been relocated from Caracas (Venezuela) to Argentine due to a larger Lithuanian community there. It used to host cultural events which had rejuvenated Lituanity (according to the local Lithuanian community). However the embassy has been closed in 2013 as a cost-saving measure and replaced by a consulate-general in Sao Paulo (Brazil).
Over the time some Lithuanians moved from Buenos Aires to other main cities (while others used Argentina as a stop before emigrating to the USA). Lithuanian parish of St. Casimir also exists in Rosario. The white building (address: Av. Ntra Sre del Rosario 1552) is adorned by a bas-relief of Vytis as well as a copy of famous Lithuanian Divine Mercy painting on the outside.
Patagonia Lithuanian heritage
The extreme south of Argentina is known as Patagonia. This windy terrain is unique as in 1820s when the Liberation of Latin America came to a full swing these territories were not colonized by Europeans. Therefore they were initially annexed (or from the Native American standpoint taken away) by independent South American states: Chile and Argentina (these two fought the final war for the area as late as in 1977).
At the time first Lithuanians entered Argentina the Patagonian lands were still devoid of cities and Lithuanians participated in their establishment. Their participation was especially important in development of Sarmiento city (1902). However without new Lithuanian migrants local Lithuanians abandoned their language over several generations; unlike in the USA there are no memorial plaques to show that the city library (formerly St. Casimir library) and church (St. Joseph) were established mainly by Lithuanian families.
However Sarmiento has a massive bust for Kazimieras Šlapelis (Estrada st., near intersection with San Martin). He was an aviator at the era when flying was still a risky affair (1935) as the doomed flight of Darius and Girėnas had shown recently. The local airport used to be named after him (closed down due to road improval) and his initiative led to naming one street of Sarmiento after Lithuania.
In Esquel town (northwestern Patagonia) Lithuanian Argentines Olga and Bruno Lukoševičius had established a Lithuanian Museum (Los Nires Street). In 2007 a Lithuanian Square was also opened in the city.
Lithuanian Argentines operate clubs and other organizations but these are dominated by second to fouth generation immigrants. Dances and other cultural traditions survived longer than did the language. Today Argentina is poorer than Lithuania and no longer attracts immigrants. Its vice-versa: Argentines are seeking appourtunities abroad. Finding Lithuanian roots may now help in gaining access to European labour markets.