Hotel de Inmigrantes
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Hotel de Inmigrantes (Immigrants’ Hotel) is a complex of buildings constructed between 1906 and 1911, in the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to receive and assist the many thousands of immigrants who were arriving in Argentina from many parts of the world. The hotel ceased to function in 1953, was declared a National Monument in 1995 and today houses the National Museum of Immigration and the Tres de Febrero National University Museum (MUNTREF) a.k.a. Contemporary Art Centre.
The buildings are next to Darsena Norte (Northern Dock) in Puerto Madero. They provided disembarkation services, medical attention, accommodation and help with finding employment for newly arrived immigrants. Accommodation was provided free of charge until an immigrant had found employment. In the meantime, help and advice were provided to assist the immigrant in finding employment and with onward travel to the place of work.
Construction began in 1906 by the Udina and Mosca Company under the control of the Ministry of Public Works. Work proceeded according to the order in which the facilities were needed with the disembarkation hall first, followed by the employment office, the administration, the hospital and finally the accommodation facilities. While the work was in progress the immigrants continued to use the old facilities nearby known as La Rotonda de Retiro on a site currently occupied by Retiro railway station.
The process of disembarkation began with a team of immigration officials boarding the newly arrived ship to check the documents of the immigrants before they were allowed to disembark. Medical checks were also carried out on board by a doctor. Immigrants with contagious diseases or mental health problems or who were invalids or were over 60 years of age were not allowed to enter the country. The inspection of luggage took place in one of the disembarkation sheds set aside for this purpose.
The task of this office was to find work for the immigrants and to arrange transport to their new place of work.
The office gradually extended its functions and from 1913 organised the exhibition of farm machinery and the instruction of male immigrants in its use. Interpreters were provided, talks were laid on to explain aspects of life in Argentina and identity cards were prepared. This building proved the entrance to the complex and it was from here that both the administration of the complex and the planning and management of immigration in the entire country were carried out. There was a branch of the National Bank of Argentina on the ground floor to assist immigrants in the changing of money.
Equipped with the most advanced medical equipment of the day, the hospital attended to the thousands who arrived with diseases connected with the effects of the long sea voyage, the poor food on board and poverty.
Situated parallel to the river, the accommodation building has a length of 100 m and a width of 26 m, and was built using reinforced concrete, one of the earliest examples of this type of construction in Argentina. The building has four floors and there were four dormitories per floor, each with a capacity of 250 people, giving the hotel a total capacity of 4000 people.
The immigrants were woken very early by wardens. Breakfast consisted of coffee, yerba mate and bread baked in the hotel's ovens. During the morning, the women occupied themselves with domestic tasks such as the washing of cloths in the laundry or the care of children, while the men were in the employment office trying to find jobs.
There were sittings for lunch with up to 1000 people per sitting. At the sound of a bell, the immigrants gathered at the entrance to the ground floor dining room, where they collected their food from the cook and seated themselves at tables. Lunch generally consisted of a large plate of soup followed by a meat stew, pasta or rice. At 3pm the children were given afternoon tea; from 6pm sittings for supper began and from 7pm the dormitories were opened.
When they first arrived, the immigrants were given a number with which they could enter and leave freely giving them the opportunity to get to know the city a little. Lodging was provided free for five days but could be extended in case of illness or where employment had not been found.
The Hotel ceased to function in 1953 but was then still used for visa application processes. It was declared a National Historic Monument in 1995. Today it houses the Museo Nacional de la Inmigración (in English: National Museum of Immigration), which offers the general public a permanent exhibition of photographs and exhibits relating to daily life in the hotel. Access is provided to information held in a database for those wishing to trace the arrival of immigrants in Argentina.
There is a complex of buildings with the same name in the port of Bahía Blanca, which performed a similar function for immigrants arriving by ship to that city.
- Monumentos Históricos Nacionales y Bienes Declarados de la República Argentina, Comisión Nacional de Museos y de Monumentos y Lugares Históricos de la República Argentina, Edición 2008.
- Hoteles de Inmigrantes en Bueons Aires - Government Historical Pamphlet