This article was translated by John R. Bopp
Argentine daily Clarín has published an article by Eduardo Parise in its “Secret Buenos Aires” section that is about a product that has been very popular for many years in the Argentine capital: Vascolet brand chocolate milk, manufactured by La Vascongada, a company that was quite obviously founded by a Basque
The author, while reminiscing about this product, which ceased production in 1980, takes an amazing journey through the history of the Basques in Buenos Aires, and more specifically, their close relationship with the production and distribution of dairy products there.
In March of 2003, we published an article by Uruguayan daily El País which gave us a foretaste of this Basque specialization in Buenos Aires. We’ve been told that even today, the containers milk is transported in are still called esneonas, from the Basque word for milk, esnea.
But on this occasion, the article that we’re talking about gives us more thorough and complete information about the Basques in that part of the world and their relationship with the commercial world.
It fascinates us how concentrated Basques were in the partido of Merlo, which is now part of Greater Buenos Aires. It is even more so because, as the Spanish-language Wikipedia article about the history of this administrative unit states:
More than half the territory of the current Merlo partido was ceded to the Company of Jesus, which was the owner of an immense estate that extended from the source of the Río de las Conchas all the way into the indigenous territory in the Salado River. What was obtained from the exploitation of this land allowed the Jesuits to fund numerous schools that they administered starting in 1654, when the Buenos Aires Council (Cabildo) charged them with the education of the city’s children.
At the end of the 19th century, a large number of Basque immigrants reached Argentina, from both sides of the Pyrenees. Many of them settled in Merlo and, as Clarín is telling us, as well as the more extensive Wikipedia article, they dedicated themselves to producing and selling milk. Their arrival was so important that it’s even been said that a “true Vasconia” was created there.
And that’s where the company La Vascongada was created, founded by Pedro Uthurralt, and they starting selling dairy products. As you can easily tell by the surname, he was from north of the Pyrenees, i.e., the part of the Land of the Basques under French administration.
We’ve been digging a little, and we think it might even be possible that we’ve found the file of his leaving his hometown Espès-Undurein for Buenos Aires aboard the Le Niger, a trip that began on November 5, 1874.
We were able to find this thanks to the outstanding work of the EKB-IBC, which has made public information about 15,000 emigrants found in the registry of Basque emigration official Guillaume Apheça (1828-1919). This information can be easily searched thanks to a search engine they’ve put on the site. It’s a huge help that we’ve discussed before, in the very beginning of this blog back in November 2010.
We recommend you read the article. It’s full of references to Basques in that part of Argentina and interesting stories.
But before we leave you with the article, we can’t help including a TV commercial for this product.
Clarín – 26/9/2016 – Argentina
A tomar la leche, versión a la vasca
La herencia de la inmigración vasca en la Argentina tiene una amplia huella. Tanta que se estima que un diez por ciento de su población cuenta con esas raíces en su árbol genealógico. Eso también se refleja en la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, a tal punto que Juan de Garay, su segundo fundador, era nacido en la ciudad vizcaína de Orduña (actual país vasco). Y también su actual jefe de Gobierno, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta tiene antepasados vascos.