At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries there were 133 settlements, with some 120,000 Croats in Argentina, for the most part hailing from the coastal regions of Dalmatia and the Croatian Littoral, who were among the first European immigrants to settle in the Argentine pampas. The pioneers from the island of Hvar were followed by emigrants from other parts of Dalmatia and the other historic Croatian lands, mostly present-day Croatia.
The most financially successful of all the Croats in Argentina was also almost the first to arrive: Nikola Mihanović came to Montevideo, Uruguay in 1867, and, having settled in Buenos Aires, Mihanović owned 350 vessels of one kind or another by 1909, including 82 steamers. By 1918, he employed 5,000 people, mostly from his native Dalmatia. Mihanović by himself was thus a major factor in building up a Croat community which remains primarily Dalmatian to this day.
The second wave of Croat immigration was far more numerous, totalling 15,000 by 1939. Mostly peasants, these immigrants fanned out to work the land in Buenos Aires Province, Santa Fe, Chaco, and Patagonia. This wave was accompanied by a numerous clergy to attend their spiritual needs, especially Franciscans.
If the first two waves had been primarily economic, the third wave after World War II was eminently political. Some 20,000 Croatian political refugees came to Argentina, and most became construction workers on Peron's public works projects until they started to pick up some Spanish. Argentina today has the largest number of Croatian descendants in Latin America followed by Chile (120,000-140,000 Croats) and the third largest in the world after the United States.