Italian Argentines

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Italian Argentines
  • Ítalo-argentinos
  • Italo-argentini
Italy Argentina
Italian Argentines.png
Percent of Italians in each Argentinian Region
Total population
25 million or 62.5% of Argentina’s population have at least one Italian ancestor[1]
Regions with significant populations
Throughout Argentina
(Plurality in the Pampas)
Rioplatense Spanish, Italian, Piedmontese, Venetian, Neapolitan, Sicilian, and other languages of ItalyCocoliche pidgin (also Lunfardo slang).
Roman Catholicism[2](with small minorities of protestantism)
Related ethnic groups
Italians, Italian Americans, Italian Brazilians, Italian Canadians, Italian Venezuelans, Italian Uruguayans

Italian Argentines (Italian: italo-argentini; Spanish: ítalo-argentinos, or tanos in Rioplatense Spanish) are Italian-born people (born in Argentina or Italy) or non-Italian citizens of Italian descent residing in Argentina. Italian is the largest ethnic origin of modern Argentines, after the Spanish immigration during the colonial population that had settled in the major migratory movements into Argentina.[3] It is estimated that at least 25 million Argentines have some degree of Italian ancestry[1] (62.5% of the total population).[citation needed]

Italians began arriving in Argentina in large numbers from 1857 to 1940, totaling 44.9% of the entire postcolonial immigrant population, more than from any other country (including Spain, at 31.5%). In 1996, the population of Argentines of partial or full Italian descent numbered 15.8 million[4] when Argentina's population was approximately 34.5 million, meaning they represented 45.5% of the population. In 2011 the country had 25 million Argentines with some degree of Italian ancestry in a total population of 40 million.[1]

Italian settlements in Argentina, along with Spanish settlements, formed the backbone of today's Argentine society. Argentine culture has significant connections with Italian culture in terms of language, customs, and traditions.[5] Argentina is also a strongly Italophilic country as cuisine, fashion, and lifestyle have been sharply influenced by Italian immigration.


Percentage of Italian-born immigrants in the 1914 Argentine census by provinces and territories

Small groups of Italians started to immigrate to Argentina as early as the second half of the 18th century.[6] However, the stream of Italian immigration to Argentina became a mass phenomenon only from 1880 to 1920, during the Great European immigration wave to Argentina, peaking between 1900 and 1914, about two million settled from 1880 to 1920, and just 1 million from 1900 to 1914.[7] In 1914, Buenos Aires alone had more than 300,000 Italian-born inhabitants, representing 25% of the total population.[7] The Italian immigrants were primarily male, aged between 14 and 50 and more than 50% literate; in terms of occupations, 78.7% in the active population were agricultural workers or unskilled laborers, 10.7% artisans, and only 3.7% worked in commerce or as professionals.[7]

The outbreak of World War I and the rise of fascism in Italy caused a rapid fall in immigration to Argentina, with a slight revival in 1923 to 1927 but eventually stopped during the Great Depression and the Second World War.[8]

After the end of World War II, Italy was reduced to rubble and occupied by foreign armies. From 1946 to 1957 was another massive wave of 380,000 Italians to Argentina.[9] The substantial recovery allowed by the Italian economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s eventually caused the era of Italian diaspora abroad to end, and in the following decades, Italy became a country with net immigration. Now, 527,570 Italian citizens still live in Argentina.[10]

Characteristics of Italian immigration to Argentina[edit]

Italian immigrants to Argentina, 1861–1920 (by decade)[7]
Period Total Italian Proportion
1861–1870 159,570 113,554 71%
1871–1880 260,885 152,061 58%
1881–1890 841,122 493,885 59%
1891–1900 648,326 425,693 57%
1901–1910 1,764,103 796,190 45%
1911–1920 1,204,919 347,388 29%
1861–1920 3,798,925 2,270,525 59%

Areas of origin[edit]

Most of the Italian immigrants to Argentina came from northern regions. After the turn of the century and the establishment of the North as the dominant region of Italy, immigration patterns shifted to rural Southern Italy, especially Campania, Calabria and Sicily.[11] In Argentine slang, tano (from Napulitano, "Neapolitan") is still used for all people of Italian descent although it originally meant inhabitants of the former independent state the Kingdom of Naples. The assumption that emigration from cities was negligible has an important exception. Naples went from being the capital of its own kingdom in 1860 to being just another large city in Italy. The loss of bureaucratic jobs and the subsequently declining financial situation led to high unemployment. In the early 1880s, epidemics of cholera also struck the city, causing many people to leave[citation needed].

According to a 1990 study, the high proportion of returnees can show a positive or negative correlation between regions of origin and of destination. Southern Italians indicate a more permanent settlement. Argentine society's Italian component is the result of Southern rather than Northern influences.[12][13]

Italian immigrants arriving in Argentina and regional distribution[14]
Period Northwest
and central Italy
and insular Italy
1880–1884 59.8% 16.8% 23.4% 106,953
1885–1889 45.3% 24.4% 30.3% 259,858
1890–1894 44.2% 20.7% 35.1% 151,249
1895–1899 32.3% 23.1% 44.6% 211,878
1900–1904 29.2% 19.6% 51.2% 232,746
1905–1909 26.9% 20.1% 53.0% 437,526
1910–1914 27.4% 18.2% 54.4% 355,913
1915–1919 32.3% 23.1% 44.6% 26,880
1920–1924 19.7% 27.4% 52.9% 306,928
1925–1929 14.4% 33.1% 52.5% 235,065


Italian festival in Oberá.
Manuel Belgrano, politician and military leader who created the Flag of Argentina. His father was Italian.


According to Ethnologue, Argentina has more than 1,500,000 Italian speakers, making it the third most spoken language in the nation (after Spanish and English).[15] In spite of the great many Italian immigrants, the Italian language never truly took hold in Argentina, partly because at the time of mass immigration, almost all Italians spoke their native regional languages rather than Italian, precluding the expansion of the use of Italian as a primary language in Argentina. The similarity between Spanish and many of those languages also enabled the immigrants to acquire communicative competence in Spanish with relative ease and thus to assimilate linguistically without difficulty.

Italian immigration from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century made a lasting and significant impact on the intonation of Argentina's vernacular Spanish. Preliminary research has shown that Rioplatense Spanish, particularly the speech of the city of Buenos Aires, has intonation patterns that resemble those of Italian dialects (especially the ones whose substratum is the Neapolitan language) and differ markedly from the patterns of other forms of Spanish.[16] That correlates well with immigration patterns as Argentina, particularly Buenos Aires, which had huge numbers of Italian settlers since the 19th century. According to a study conducted by National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina, and published in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (ISSN 1366–7289)[17] The researchers note that this is a relatively recent phenomenon, starting in the early 20th century with the main wave of Southern Italian immigration. Until then, the porteño accent was more similar to that of Spain, particularly Andalusia.[18]

Much of Lunfardo arrived with European immigrants, such as Italians, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, and Poles. Most Italian and Spanish immigrants spoke their regional languages and dialects, rather than Standard Italian or Spanish; other words arrived from the pampa by means of the gauchos; and a few came from Argentina's native population. Most sources believe that Lunfardo originated in jails, as a prisoner-only argot. Around 1900, the word lunfardo itself, originally a deformation of lombardo in several languages of Italy, was used to mean "outlaw." Lunfardo words are inserted in the normal flow of Rioplatense Spanish sentences. Thus, a Spanish-speaking Mexican reading tango lyrics needs only the translation of a discrete set of words, not a grammar guide. Most tango lyrics use lunfardo sparsely, but some songs (such as El Ciruja, or most lyrics by Celedonio Flores) employ lunfardo heavily. "Milonga Lunfarda" by Edmundo Rivero is an instructive and entertaining primer on lunfardo usage.[citation needed] Here are some examples:

Between about 1880 and 1900, Argentina received a large number of peasants from the South of Italy, who arrived with little or no schooling in Spanish. As the immigrants strove to communicate with the local criollos, they produced a variable mixture of Spanish with Italian languages and dialects, specially Neapolitan. The pidgin language was given the derogatory name cocoliche by the locals. Since the children of the immigrants grew up speaking Spanish at school, work, and military service, Cocoliche remained confined mostly to the first generation immigrants and slowly fell out of use. The pidgin has been depicted humorously in literary works and in the Argentine sainete theater, such as by Dario Vittori.


Pasta is a feature of the Argentine cuisine.
Argentine "Fainá".

Argentine cuisine has been strongly influenced by Italian cuisine; the typical Argentine diet is a variation on the Mediterranean diet.

Italian staple dishes like pizza and pasta are common. Pasta is extremely common, either simple unadorned pasta with butter or oil or accompanied by a tomato or bechamel based sauce.

Pizza (locally pronounced pisa or pitsa), for example, has been wholly subsumed and, in its Argentine form, more closely resembles Italian pizza al taglio but round instead of rectangular. Pizza is shared between two or more people, it's not the usual Italian personal pizza. Typical or exclusively Argentine pizzas include pizza canchera, pizza rellena (stuffed pizza), pizza por metro (pizza by the meter), and pizza a la parrilla (grilled pizza). While Argentine pizza derives from Neapolitan cuisine, the Argentine fugaza/fugazza comes from the focaccia xeneise (from Genoa), but in any case, its preparation is different from its Italian counterpart, and the addition of cheese to make the dish (fugaza con queso or fugazzeta) started in Argentina or Uruguay.[citation needed]

Fainá is a type of thin bread made with chickpea flour (adopted from northern Italy). The name comes from the Ligurian word for the Italian farinata. Pizzerias in Buenos Aires often offer fainá, which is eaten with pizza, a wedge of fainá on top of a wedge of pizza.

Nevertheless, the pastas (pasta, always in the plural) surpass pizzas in consumption levels. Among them are tallarines (fettuccine), ravioles (ravioli), ñoquis (gnocchi), and canelones (cannelloni).

For example, pasta is often eaten with white bread ("French bread"). That can be explained by the low cost of bread and the fact that Argentine pastas tend to come with a large amount of tuco sauce (Italian sugo) and accompanied by estofado (stew). Less commonly, pastas are eaten with a dressing of pesto, a green sauce based on basil, or salsa blanca (béchamel sauce).

Sorrentinos are also a local dish with a misleading name (they do not come from Sorrento but were invented in Mar del Plata). They look like big round ravioles stuffed with mozzarella, cottage cheese and basil in tomato sauce.

Polenta comes from Northern Italy and is very common throughout Argentina. And, just like polenta concia in Italy, it is eaten as a main dish, with sauce and melted cheese, or it may accompany a stew.

Other dishes are milanesas (the name deriving from the original cotoletta alla milanese from Milan), breaded meats similar to the Wiener schnitzel. A common dish of this variety is the milanesa napolitana, an Argentine innovation despite its name, which comes from former Buenos Aires restaurant "Nápoli." It is breaded meat baked with a topping of melted cheese, tomatoes, and sometimes ham. The milanesa was brought to Argentina by Central European immigrants.[19][20]

Pasta frola is a typical Argentine recipe heavily influenced by Southern Italian cuisine, known as Pasta Frolla in Italy. Pasta frola consists of a buttery pastry base with a filling made of quince jam, sweet-potato jam or milk caramel (dulce de leche) and topped with thin strips of the same pastry, forming a squared pattern. It is an Argentine tradition to eat pastafrola with mate in the afternoon. The dish is also very popular in Paraguay and Uruguay. The traditional Italian recipe was not prepared with latticework, unlike in Argentina, but with a lid pierced with molds in the form of hearts or flowers.

Ice cream (Spanish: Helado, Italian: gelato) is a particularly popular Argentine dessert. Its creamy texture is caused by the large proportion of cream,[21] and, as everywhere, many flavors are available. Ice cream was again a legacy of the Italian diaspora.


Italian international schools in Argentina include:[22]

Notable people[edit]

Pope Francis. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is an Argentine of Italian descent.



  • César Pelli, designed some of the world's tallest buildings and other major urban landmarks







Law enforcement figures[edit]



Painters and sculptors[edit]






See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Departamento de Derecho y Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad Nacional de La Matanza (14 November 2011). "Historias de inmigrantes italianos en Argentina" (in Spanish). Se estima que en la actualidad, el 90% de la población argentina tiene alguna ascendencia europea y que al menos 25 millones están relacionados con algún inmigrante de Italia.
  2. ^ "Argentina - Language and religion | Britannica".
  3. ^ In 2005, the Servicio de Huellas Digitales Genéticas Archived 2011-08-20 at the Wayback Machine of the Universidad de Buenos Aires concluded an investigation directed by the Argentinean geneticist Daniel Corach. The study was done over genetic markers in a sample of 320  male subjects, taken at random of a group of 12 000 individuals from 9 provinces.

    Más del cincuenta por ciento de las muestras exhiben haplogrupos mitocondriales característicos de las poblaciones originarias, 52 % en la muestra de la región centro, 56 % en la muestra del sur-suroeste y 66 % en la región nor-noreste. Por otro lado, el 20 % exhibe la variante “T” característica de las poblaciones originarias en el locus DYS199. La detección de ambos linajes originarios, tanto por vía paterna como por vía materna se restringe a un 10 %. El componente poblacional que no presenta contribución amerindia alguna en la región del centro es de 43 %, en la región Sur-SurOeste es de 37 % y en la región Nor-NorEste de 27 %. En promedio, menos del 40 % (36,4 %) de la población exhibe ambos linajes no amerindios; pudiendo ser europeo, asiático o africano.

  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 May 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ O.N.I. – Department of Education of Argentina Archived 2008-09-15 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Olimpiadas Nacionales de Contenidos Educativos en Internet – Instituto Nacional de Educación Tecnológica". Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Baily, Samuel L. (1999). Immigrants in the Lands of Promise: Italians in Buenos Aires and New York City, 1870 to 1914. United States: Cornell University Press. p. 54. ISBN 0801488826.
  8. ^ Devoto, Fernando J. (2006). Historias de los Italianos en Argentina. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos. pp. 329–330. ISBN 978-950-786-551-0.
  9. ^ Mignone, Mario B. (2008). Italy today: facing the challenges of the new millennium. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-4331-0187-8.
  10. ^ "Ministero dell'Interno". 25 November 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Federaciones Regionales". Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  12. ^ Immigrazione Italiana nell’America del Sud (Argentina, Uruguay e Brasile)
  13. ^ Cacopardo, MC; Moreno, JL (1990). "Migration from Southern Italy to Argentina: Calabrians and Sicilians (1880–1930)". Studi Emigr. 27 (98): 231–53. PMID 12342955.
  14. ^ "Emigrantes italianos hacia la Argentina por grandes regiones". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-06-13.
  15. ^ "Argentina". Ethnologue. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  16. ^ Colantoni, Laura; Gurlekian, Jorge (August 2004). "Cambridge Journals Online – Bilingualism: Language and Cognition – Abstract – Convergence and intonation: historical evidence from Buenos Aires Spanish". Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 7 (2): 107–119. doi:10.1017/S1366728904001488. S2CID 56111230. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  17. ^ Colantoni, Laura; Gurlekian, Jorge. "Convergence and intonation: historical evidence from Buenos Aires Spanish". Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.
  18. ^ Napolitanos y porteños, unidos por el acento (in spanish) Archived 2008-09-15 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "En Pampa y la vía: La verdad de la milanesa". Archived from the original on 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  20. ^ "Benetti Pecoraro :: Importadores y distribuidores de productos argentinos e italianos". Archived from the original on 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  21. ^ Gabriel Alfonsin. "Helado Artesanal : Asesoramiento y Cursos de fabricacion helado artesanal. Franquicias". Archived from the original on 27 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  22. ^ "SCUOLE PARITARIE ITALIANE ALL'ESTERO" (Archive). Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Italy). p. 2–3. Retrieved on November 20, 2015.

External links[edit]