17 March 1918, St. Patrick's Day in Venado Tuerto
(José Brendan Wallace collection)

In the Name
of Power

Culture and Place Names
in Venado Tuerto

Alejandra García
and Gladis J. Mignacco [1]

First published in Spanish by Revista Lote, Vol. VII, Nº 72 (Venado Tuerto, July 2003)
Translated by Lilian González Moore

The negotiation of identities through the generation of connoted place names seems to be a recurrent strategy of the South American governing elites to align geographic spaces with social and economic policies. Venado Tuerto, a city in the Argentine province of Santa Fe founded by Eduardo Casey in 1884, became an important settlement of Irish and other immigrants. In order to provide an understanding of the toponymic process, street names and their changes from the last decades of the nineteenth century to the 1930s are identified and studied in this article within the context of local and national social changes. Venado Tuerto (the name) is associated with the frontier land in the pampas, a place where the concept of Nation was to be developed, and where the sense of community was conceived step by step. Toponymy, a necessary complement for the logoization of cartography (cf. Benedict Anderson 1991), establishes the relationship between societies, time, and place names. The link between the geographic space and the perceived idea of frontier came from the fact that urban people integrated themselves better to the environment than the rural population. In a foundational stage, toponymy represented the values of the immigrants. The identification with an European ethos was key to represent their opposition between civilisation and barbarism. As a consequence, there was a cultural supremacy of the Irish settlers. At a later phase, the project of creating an Argentine identity gave preference to the sense of ownership over other values. This included the European immigration typical of the twentieth century. The toponymy of Venado Tuerto streets is a sample representation of these identification processes.

During the settlement of the area around Venado Tuerto, toponymy changed according to different historical, political, social and cultural forces of the country and the city. When we analyse those changes taking into account the contributions of cultural geography, an unexpected local history is revealed. Cultural geography help to research the city streets’ toponymy through time, and provides an understanding of continuities, changes and anomalies. This research shows the place naming modalities from the foundation of Venado Tuerto until the present time.

Streets Names in Old and New Venado Tuerto

Does the foundation of Venado Tuerto, its name, urban planning, and street naming reveal the history and the geography of the place? Were history and geography taken into account during those fundamental processes?

The name Venado Tuerto was used from the beginning of the nineteenth century to refer to that specific geographic area. It is originated in a Mapuche toponym that means ‘one-eyed deer.' [2] In fact, the name was applied to a lagoon near the future city, which was the point of reference and orientation, and provided water to Indians and Europeans as well. As it was customary, the name was associated with the memories and events of the place, which later became real legends. Venado Tuerto’s founder Eduardo Casey identified the place with the name of the lagoon instead of using his own name. In this way, he preserved the memory of the space with its geographical characteristics. He used the name Curumalán (also with Mapuche roots) in another foundation. [3]   Venado Tuerto
City in the south of
Santa Fe province, Argentina, department of General López, population 60,201 (172,359 in the department) according to 1991 census, 366 kilometres from Buenos Aires, lat. 33° 46' S and long. 61° 48' W. Venado Tuerto means 'one-eyed deer.' Some Irish-related place names in the region include the following towns and railway stations: Armstrong, Murphy, Duffy, Hughes, Ham, and Cavanagh.


[1] Alejandra García (cavanaghgarciaa@enredes.com.ar), Gladis J. Mignacco (ezquerro@powervt.com.ar), Instituto Superior del Profesorado N° 7, Departamento de Geografía.

[2] Landaburu, Roberto, Irlandeses: Eduardo Casey, Vida y Obra (Venado Tuerto, Santa Fe: Fondo Editorial Mutual Venado Tuerto, 1995).




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© Alejandra García and Gladis J. Mignacco, Irish Argentine Historical Society

Last Update: July 2004


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