Newcomers face problem of unemployment in industry; what are the prospects for settling on the land?
By D. LOMONOSOV. Special Correspondent of the Jewish Daily Bulletin, Buenos Aires.
Argentina, the most industrially and commercially developed republic of South America, is now, after the restriction of immigration to the United States, the next centre of attraction for home seekers.
What are the possibilities for Jewish newcomers in Argentina? Will they, if helped to come here, have the opportunity to enlarge the Jewish community with a new, self-supporting and productive class?
Argentina is not sufficiently developed to be able to receive an immigration of several hundred thousand newcomers yearly. This must be stated emphatically in advance. Due to the increased immigration, a crisis is already beginning to be felt among the workmen. In general there is talk in Argentina of a crisis in industry and commerce, but that is an erroneous impression. Industry and commerce are quite normal; the existing factories operate regularly and with full staffs of workmen. A crisis is noticeable among the workingmen because industry and commerce can not employ the number of hands available, due to the increased immigration. Unlimited immigration into Argentina is possible only for those who wish to devote themselves to agriculture.
Argentina is an agricultural land. Her capacity is large and wide. The more populated provinces are still sparsely settled. There are sections which might be called unpopulated. Their economic and political future depends on their agricultural development. Therefore, while government circles are opposed to an urban immigration, they are sympathetically inclined toward a rural immigration.
Immigrants who intend to engage in farming have two means of reaching their goal: to settle on government property or to form a community on the land of the great land-owners. Jews have still a third way: to become colonists with the help of the “Ica”.
The provinces most frequently mentioned as centers of colonization are: Santiago del Estera, Riaco, Chaco and Missiones. All the provinces enumerated (the last two have not a sufficiently large population to be called provinces) are in the south of the Republic. Colonization on private property can take place only in the provinces of Santiago del Estera, Riaco and partly in Missiones. In Chaco one can settle only on government land.
The terms of a typical contract concluded between a landowner and a colonist in the province of Santiago del Estera, are:
The estanciera (landowner) gives the colonist the stated number of acres, work-cattle and all machinery necessary for the work. The colonist also receives seed. The kinds of seed to be sown are determined by a mutual agreement of the colonist and the administration.
The region of Santiago del Estera is arid. Therefore the estanciera undertakes to irrigate the cultivated land. However, he supplies water in
one main canal, from which each colonist must lead pipes to his own farm. The colonist is obliged to clear his ground from trees, roots and weeds.
He is obliged to sow 30 per cent of the land occupied in the first year, 80 per cent in the second year and 100 per cent in the third year. If the colonist fails to fulfill this point of the contract he must pay the landowner the average harvest yield for every unsown acre of land.
After the harvest has been gathered the colonist must return the seed to the landowner. The remainder of the produce is then divided according to the terms of the contract.
The colonist must build his house and stalls for horses and other work-cattle himself. The landowner gives him the place from which to take the needed building material.
The colonist cannot leave his ground for more than three days without the knowledge of the administration. Should he do so, the contract becomes null and void.
Among the Jewish newcomers there is a great problem of unemployment. I asked the president of the Immigration Section of the Central Committee of the People’s Relief and Immigrant Aid Society why they did not advise newcomers to settle in the province of Santiago del Estera. In reply, it was pointed out that the province is too far from a Jewish center and for newcomers this is a serious drawback. Secondly, newcomers do not see a future for themselves under the conditions of the contract, usually offered, tending to create a situation from which the colonist can only expect food and never have savings for the purchase of his own piece of ground. Particularly objectionable is the colonists enforced residence on the ground and the are which he must cultivate.
One must also mention the fact that the landowners colonize families exclusively and give the preference to large families. Unmarried men can become colonists only under exceptional circumstances and when they come in groups.