Dictionary of Irish Latin American Biography

Cunningham, John (b. 1824), landowner and founder of Azcuénaga town, was born in Ballymore, Co. Westmeath, the son of Thomas Cunningham (1786-1862) and his wife Rebecca. On 20 June 1848 John Cunningham arrived in Argentina from Liverpool with his parents and his seven brothers and sisters. The family "belonged to that valuable class the emigration of which must ere long prove the ruin of Ireland & a blessing to the country of their adoption. They were highly respectable; they and all their friends & connections are intelligent, trustworthy & religious" (Coghlan 1987: 207). John Cunningham married Mary Anne, the daughter of Hugh MacKay and Anne Mooney, and sister of Margaret Cunningham [née MacKay] (c.1840-1905), married to John's elder brother, Thomas Cunningham jun. (1825-1916).

John Cunningham settled in San Andrés de Giles, a district in the province of Buenos Aires. According to the local historian Héctor R. Terrén, Cunningham purchased land in 1865 from Alvaro de la Riestra, and thus established estancia La Paloma. The holding included more than two thousand hectares between Giles and Sauce streams. 

Cunningham was a prominent supporter of Roman Catholic organisations. On 5 June 1883, together with Guillermo Casey (married to John's niece Margarita Cunningham) and with the leadership of Fr. Patrick J. Dillon, John Cunningham established a committee to continue the works once initiated by Fr. Anthony Fahy. This group would become later the Irish Catholic Association. 

On 1 April 1880, when the railway arrived to San Andrés de Giles from the city of Buenos Aires, Azcuénaga station was opened. John Cunningham donated sixteen hectares of his land in front of the station to build a new town, which is present-day Azcuénaga. In 1886, Cunningham put part of La Paloma to sale. The Sillón family acquired the house, and other sections were purchased by Florentino Barca and Julio Lacroze (who later established La Favorita). With the proceedings of this sale, John Cunningham purchased another estancia, five kilometres from La Paloma, which he named San Juan. In this new place, he built a stately house. Later Cunningham and moved with his family to the city of Buenos Aires, but continued using the estancia to receive important visits. Mary Anne died in 1921, and the family sold the estancia to Fortunato Cufré.

Gonzalo Cané


- John Cantwell to Anthony D. Fahy, 26 November 1848 in: Coghlan, Eduardo A., Los Irlandeses en la Argentina: Su Actuación y Descendencia (Buenos Aires, 1987), p. 207.

- Coghlan, Eduardo A., El Aporte de los Irlandeses a la Formación de la Nación Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1982), p. 41.

- Cané, Gonzalo, Descendencia de Tomás Cunningham en la Argentina, manuscript unpublished.

Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2005

Online published: 1 November 2005
Edited: 07 May 2009

Cané, Gonzalo, '
Cunningham, John (b. 1824)' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" November-December 2005 (


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2005

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