Argentina and the Inmigration

For those of us who do embrace cultural diversity as the mesh of society, the history of Argentina, as it relates to immigration, is hard to understand. It is signed by the inspiration of patriots struggling against a policy of intolerance, led and driven by the Catholic Church.

In 1501, nine years after Christophoros Columbus arrived in America, Queen Isabella the Catholic issued and edict ordering all royal appointees to the new world to preserve religious purity in the new world: " You should neither consent nor allow neither moors nor jews, neither heretic nor reconciled, neither newly converted persons to go there...".

Argentina was born through a graduation of independence acts. In 6/1808 King Ferdinand VII of Spain was deposed by Napoleon and exiled in France. Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte, took over the throne. On 5/25/1810 a Provisional Governing Junta instituted itself in Buenos Aires, as a caretaker in the name of Fernando VII. The Provisional Junta was ambivalent. On the one hand it declared its willingness to accept "...Englishmen, Portuguese and other foreigners..." i.e., non- Catholics. On the other hand it stated its intent to " provide by all means the conservation of our holy religion" and respected the authority of the Inquisition. Even Mariano Moreno, who translated Jean Jacques Rousseau' s "The Social Contract" and was regarded as liberal per excellence, prefaced his translation indicating his reservations to Rousseau's ideas on religion.

Constitution and Religion

In 1813 a Constitutional Assembly adopted an anthem and escudo for the " United Provinces of the de la Plata River", beginning a transition towards independence from the Spanish kingdom. On 3/24/1813 it abolished the Inquisition, therefore eliminating the contradiction between allowing non-Catholics and sponsoring the organism of religious prosecution. At the time, the Ministry of the Treasury was focused on developing mining as a way to grow the economy of the United Provinces. It proposed to the Constitutional Assembly a law to explicitly welcome foreigners and their right to " adore God privately, within their homes, according to their uses".

In 7/9/1816, with Ferdinand VII back in power, the " United Provinces of the South", convened in a Congress in Tucuman, explicitly declared their independence from the Spanish monarchy.

The spearhead for acceptance of non-Catholics was the small but increasing presence of English interests. In 1825, the Constitutional Assembly of the United Provinces of the de la Plata River signed a treaty with the UK which authorized British subjects to practice their religion at home or in their own churches. The Buenos Aires Province extended this right to all Protestants. In 1829 the dictator Juan Manuel Ortiz de Rosas took over. One of his slogans, adopted from an associate, Facundo Quiroga, was "Religion or Death". While there was some tolerance towards Protestants, to be appointed to any public office (including teaching positions) a person needed to prove affiliation to the catholic religion.

Rosas' government covered 23 years. Two of his opponents left Argentina to live in exile: Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Juan Bautista Alberdi. They were instrumental in creating a theory of plurality and immigration for the post-dictatorship era.

Sarmiento dwelled, through his book " Facundo", on what he described as the antinomy between Civilization and Barbary. Civilization meant an affiliation with the liberal development of Occidental Europe and the U.S. Barbary, the history of Argentina so far.

Alberdi wrote " Las Bases" (" Basis and Stepping Stones for the Political Organization of the Republic"). His preface is a cultural diversity statement. Nevertheless, Alberdi's idea of religious freedom was stated as a need to protect the catholic religion as the State religion and a tolerance to all other Christian religions.

At the end of the Rosas dictatorship, in 1853, a Constitutional Assembly established a new constitution. It established that " The Argentinean government supports the Roman Catholic apostolic religion". This proposal won over a minority one that declared the catholic religion to be the true one and established it as mandatory for all Argentineans. A strong debate on who could be elected for Government positions was settled by establishing only for President and Vice President the requirement to be Catholics. The Buenos Aires Province was not a party to this Assembly but, in 1860, it joined the other provinces and accepted the new Constitution. In fact, it took until 1,994 for Argentina to have a Constitution that made it legally possible for non-Catholics to be candidates to the offices of President or Vice President of the Republic.


In 1875, under President Avellaneda, the Law of Immigration and Colonization was passed. It included no religious restrictions. In 1978-79, the " Desert Conquest" effectively removed Indian ownership and gave the State an additional 245,000 square miles, mostly unpopulated and unexploited. President Julio A. Roca took office on 1,880 and found himself with this reality and the immigration law as a tool to address it. On mid April 1881, a pogrom took place in Elizabethgrad, in the Kherson region of the Ukraine. This triggered a wave of similar incidents in the South of Russia. In 8/6/81, President Roca issued a decree appointing an honorary agent in Europe " with the special charge of directing towards the Argentine Republic the Israelite emigration currently initiated in the Russian Empire".

The main thrust for Jewish immigration was sponsored by the Jewish Colonization Association, founded on 8/14/1891 and funded by Baron Maurice de Hirsch and his wife, the Baroness Clara de Bischoffshein. They had lost their only son, Lucien, and decided to honor his memory by helping to improve the well being of the Russian Jews. At first, they tried to negotiate with the Russian government, to create a fund to further the education of their Jewish subjects. It was soon clear that sponsoring emigration was more consistent with their objective. Through 1,889- 1,991, the Jewish communities in England and the U.S. were concerned with the possibility that a large influx of Russian Jews would create a backlash and imperil the progress they had made in their countries. This influenced baron Hirsch's decision to sponsor the Argentinean destination.

The focus of the immigration effort was colonization and agriculture, which responded to the Argentinean needs as perceived by both the Government and the ruling elite.

The thrust to leave Russia

The years 1,881 and 1,882 saw an explosion of violence and pogroms against Jews in the South of Russia. They further intensified as the XIX Century was ending and through the beginning of the XX Century. In 4/1,881 there was a pogrom in Elizabetgrad, located in the Kherson region of Southern Russia. One incident in 4/ 1,903, which took place in Kishinev, capital of the Besarabia Province, was particularly significant not only for the extent (40 dead, 600 hurt) but also because there was very little effort to disguise the involvement of the Ministry of the Interior. Prosecution took also legal shapes: forceful expulsion of those established outside the "Residence Zones", quotas for the number of Jewish youths with access to higher education. Violence was a daily event and it included all ages and social status.

On 2/8/1904 the 1904-05 Russo- Japanese war started ( Ukraine was incorporated to Russia at the time). Many jews perceived this as the ultimate menace: the certain danger of being enlisted and sent to the front, to fight side by side with those who, even in civil life, were persecuting them.

This created an emigration mentality different from that of other people. It was not to build a fortune and eventually come back. It was to leave for good, to save lives not to build fortunes. The Rotsteins and Dubroffs were some of those who emigrated running away from war. In an Internet site ( there is a listing of about 3,000 jews who died in that war. There is a large number original from Kherson. There is one Rotshtejn from Lomzha, a polish city about 500 miles away from Kherson ( Polan was also part of Russia at the time).

In 4/ 1904 there were 53 families from Besarabia and 83 from Kherson getting ready to emigrate. In mid 1,904 representatives from 48 well-off farmer families from the Novi Bug Jewish colony in the Kherson region requested land and a loan for home building from the JCA.

From 1,880 and in the early 1,900s, immigration to England became difficult. Both, trade unions and members of the Conservative Party formed an unlikely alliance to resist it. Most Jewish immigrants were poor and as such particularly resisted. A similar phenomenon occurred in the U.S., starting in 1,882. There was an outright prohibition to admit Chinese people. The resistance increased through the 1,890s. Again, the beginning trade union movement and xenophobic conservatives were instrumental. The resistance was not race-driven; it was focused on "new" immigrants and Catholics in particular.

Argentina ended the 19th Century with a booming economy, based mainly on agriculture. By 1,899 there was public pressure to foster immigration. The only concern that dampened this interest was the perceived danger of importing an unwanted number of anarchists. This resulted in the Law of residence of 1,902, which empowered the executive to expel new or established immigrants based on their crimes or ideology. Otherwise, immigrants to Argentina on 1,896- 1,914 were not taxed to enter (as they were in the US) and were offered free stay in the Immigrants Hotel, occupational orientation and free transportation to their final destination. The decision to emigrate to Argentina, U.S. or the U.K. and its colonies was very much a matter of personal information and ties with friends or relatives.

Argentina immigration areas

Baron Hirsch died leaving the JCA with 8,830,116 pounds sterling and near 500,000 acres of land in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Entre Rios. The focus of JCA sponsored immigration was to colonize the land, establishing families that would dedicate themselves to farm work. The paradigm was immigrants with some means and farming experience, able to cost their moving and part of their installation expenses.

Entre Rios: San Antonio, Lucienville, Moisesville

Buenos Aires: JCA bought in 1,904 247,000 acres in the Southwest of the Buenos Aires province. The area was designated " Baron Hirsch" and it was assigned to well-to-do settlers that needed to buy the land. Those with no means were taken as laborers at first and were eventually given land.

La Pampa: Colonia Mauricio, Narcisse Levin

The JCA colonies lost people. Some of them left the country but some were knowledgeable farmers who were offered land in private transactions, in the South of Buenos Aires Province and in La Pampa. This is how the Jewish settlements of Villa Alba, Medanos and others materialized.

Fanny and David

Fanny Dubroff was born 8/22/ 1907, in Argentina. David Rotstein 10/17/1903, in Ukraine. Fanny es the daugther of Leon (Leibe) Dubroff y Ana (Nejame) Cherepoff. David is the son of Benjamin Rotstein y Teodora (Tevie) Karachu. Teodora died around 1916 and Benjamin in 1938. Leon passed away in 1959 and Ana in ¿?.

Arriving in Argentina

Leon and Benjamin arrived first. Leon in 1904, with a stop in London. Benjamín in the same year, probably via London as well. Leon and family came from Lithuania . Benjamin and family from Dobiaravelik, a village in the Kherson province, Ukraine. The men in both families emigrated first and wives and children eventually followed them.

Teodora Rotstein arrived at the end of 1905, with David and Naon.Ana Dubroff traveled vía Genoa, with Leon (junior) and Berta. A lady traveling on the same boat got very sick. Ana either was or made friends with her during the trip. She was so desperately sick that the captain decided she would have to disbark in Genoa. Ana decided she would also get off, with her family, to take care of her friend. The boat continued its trip and sank on the way to Buenos Aires. Everybody on board got killed. This explains why the Dubroff family was one of the few who did not have a samovar: they lost all their belongings when the boat sank.

The early years

The Dubroffs had a farm near Villa Alba, in the now La Pampa Province. In 1929 they moved to the town. The Rotsteins live in town from the onset, because benjamin was a blacksmith.

The Dubroffs had six more children in Argentina: Fanny, Raquel, Paulina, Salomon, Catalina ( Cata) and Elias. The Rotsteins had Luisa, Ana, Federica ( Fede) and Martin.

It seems the Rotsteins were very poor. David used to talk about " splurges" where they would all share on a garlick- rubbed loaf of bread or sharing the wedges of an orange. The Dubroffs were better off and another family who would play an influential role in David's history, the Novicks, were better off yet.

In 1913 the roof of the local elementary school was destroyed by a storm and the school closed. The Novicks were able to send their kids to school in another town but David was forced to quit. To help his family, he got a job taking care of sheeps in a nearby farm. One story of his first day in the job: The farm owner took him to where the sheeps were and left him for the day, with a loaf of bread and a bottle of water. He told David he would come to pick him up at the end of the day. David waited until he decided nobody was coming. He then decided to walk back to Villa Alba. In those times there were no roads, at the most, trails. Pretty soon it was night, but the sense of orientation he always had allowed him to make it back to Villa Alba in the dark. This took a long time. Meanwhile, the farmer arrived to where he left him, presumably on a buggy or some other kind of horse-drawn carriage. He did not find David, so he went to town, but the boy was not there either ( He was in transit, walking back in the dark). By the time David made it home, everybody was up in arms searching for him.

David was very worried about his lack of schoolin, a feeling that would stay with him until his old age. Pedro Novick, who was able to continue studying, tried to teach him further evert time he could. Their close firendship would last for the rest of ther lives. David grew up and left, in search of fortune. He moved to Jacinto Arauz between the ages of 15 and 17. He then lived in Darregueira, between the ages of 17 and 19 and in Coronel Suarez until he was 20. In Jacinto Arauz he played in the local soccer team, as a left wing frowqard. It was at that time tha he started writing poetry, that he would sign with a pseudonym: Divad Nietstor. It was when he was 20 years old, 1923, that the general store Novik Insausti was founded in Guatrache. Samuel Novick and Luis Insausti were working in Guatraché for a similar store that went banckrupt. They were owed a substantial number of wages and were payed with goods. They used this as their basis for their new venture. Samuel had toled David many times: " if we ever make it, I'll call you".


The call materialized in 1923 and David moved to Guatrache. Previously, whe he was living in Coronel Suarez, he met and made friends with Nadan Cosogliad. He also told Nadan " I'll call you if I make it".

The business activity was typical of a general store ( not unlike the american far west), whe they would sell from candles to farm equipment. Significant parts of the business were private colonization and bank agents. We have to rescue stories of David riding a Whippet through the land, carrying a Winchester for personal protection.

The 1929 economic crisis was compunded in the Guatrache area by a draught, mede it worst by a tremendous eolaia erosion. Facing this situation, Novick Insausti decided to expand in a different area of the country. To this effect it opened a branch in Villalonga, Buenos Aires province, and Francisco Insausti, Luis' brother, went to live there. This gave David the chance to call Nadan, who accepted his call with pleasure.

Novick Insausti bought land around Guatraché, to the of General Paunero, who had received them as a reward for his efforts in the " Desert Conquest". The area was mostly forest, mainly a local tree called calden, with the exception of the salty lands near the Guatrache lagoon, which was mostly desert- like shrubs called chanar and piquillin . Novick Insausti partitioned the land for sale, keeping Las Tunas for Samuel Novick and El Descanso, which would be bought by David and Pedro. When David proposed Pedro to partner in this purchase, in 1937, Pedor told him he had no money. David explained he did not have any money either, but he had a plan. His project was to cut the trees, sell the wood and use the land for farming.

Fanny moved to Bahía Blanca to start High School, which she ended in 1929. Her idea was to the study Pharmacy ( Her fellow student, Fanny Merovich would follow the plan, eventually marrying Jose Glasman ans starting a Pharmacy in Bahia Blanca). Fanny instead, on July 6 1930, married David. For a while they lived in guatrache sharing in the home of benjamin and his family, in a "chalet" across the street from the local power plant. This home would eventually be the place of residence for Lidia Garrido, the piano teacher.

The relationship between Fanny and David's sisters were stormy, to the point there was a time Fanny would cook for David and her with a Primus kerosene cooker, in the bathroom.

Teodoro Julio (Teddy) was born in Buenos Aires el 5 de junio de 1931. After a while David bought a home near Pancho Lopez' tire store where, on 8/14/34, was born Enrique (Quique). On 1937 David built a home across the street from the main square, where Fabio ( Coco) was born, on 2/20/ 1937.

Quique recalls a story, which probably happened when he was 5 years old (1939). He went into David and Fanny's bedroom and found his father crying in his bed. David explained to him about his father's death and the most recent one of his Coronel Suarez uncle, which had left him with no ancestors alive.