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Adventurers, Emissaries and Settlers: Ireland and Latin America
27-30 June 2007, National University of Ireland, Galway

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La Vitícola, the Irish colony of Napostá 1889-1891, the largest foreign colony in the history of Bahía Blanca

Juan Pablo Alvarez Pearce (Buenos Aires) & Santiago Delfín Boland (Bahía Blanca)


The presence of Irish in Argentina is recorded since the foundation of Buenos Aires, 1535. Nevertheless the origin of the community was a group of Irish warriors who remained in Buenos Aires after the defeat of the British Task Force which attempted twice to conquer the city. On demand of this group the Archbishop of Dublin provided an Irish chaplain. During the Famine, Fr. Fahy OP, one of them, encouraged the immigration to Argentina. The immigration current had a peak in the period since 1845 till 1860 and then declined. The Argentine Government, in the 1886, offered a lot of benefits to would be emigrants. In February 1889 arrived to Buenos Aires the 'City of Dresden', a steamer with 1.772 Irish people on board. Seven hundred and nineteen of those Irish immigrants departed to a Colony near Napostá, a rural spot not far from Bahía Blanca, 700 Km south from Buenos Aires. For serving the Colony, a railway station was built. Its name was La Vitícola.

The Irish Colony lasted only two years and ended in a tragedy. More than one hundred people, mostly children, died during the first two months because of the brackish water that caused diarrhea, and the lack of medicines. Not a single promise was respected. Neither tools nor animals, neither the seeds nor houses for living, were provided. They lived in tens, under trees or in ditches even advanced the wintertime. The bad weather did the rest to the failure of the colony. In March 1891, 520 colonists returned to Buenos Aires.


The beginning of the XXI Century found no traces of the Irish Colony in Bahía Blanca. Not a single proof of it could be found, as it had been a dream, a nonsense project and not a real nightmare. Only the railway station La Vitícola, a milestone for the tragedy, in the timeline and in the geography. Not far from it, nobody knows where, the remains of a hundred and more Irish children lay as testimony of what the largest Foreign Colony in the history of Bahía Blanca has given to the city. They, The Martyr Children of La Viticola, are claiming the recognition of their martyrdom by the inhabitants of the city, by the Argentine people, by the Irish people …even a stone Celtic Cross to shade theirs graves…

The starting point of the research was an article written by Michael J. Geraghty: "Argentina: Land of Broken Promises", published in the Buenos Aires Herald, on 17th March 1999. The first step was the heuristic one. We collected all documents we could, and recorded the locations where to find them. We have even to prove the existence of the Irish Colony. The second step was the hermeneutic one: we had to make the data speak. We rebuilt the history of the Irish Colony from the beginning to the end. Now we have to face the third step, the archaeological one, to find out the evidence of the colony in the spot, to point out exactly the spot of the cemetery.

Online published: 24 April 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

The Society for Irish Latin American Studies

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