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Timeline of the Irish in Latin America

By Edmundo Murray
I - II



ca. AD 550

●  St. Brendan of Ardfert and Clonfert (484-580) stops at Mexico during his American journey. Although not included in the ninth-century legends that originated the story of Brendan the Voyager (Navigatio Brendani), some Mexican historians see in Quetzalcoatl's representations by the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures a trace of St. Brendan's call on Mexico.

1400s - 1600s

●  Some of Christopher Columbus crew members in the 1492 expedition may be from Galway. Columbus visited Galway in 1477 and was in the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas of Myra.

●  Three other Galway sailors follow Ferdinand Magellan in his circumnavigation of the world (1519-1522).

●  Juan and Tomás Farel (Farrell) are among the first settlers of Buenos Aires city led by Pedro de Mendoza (1536).

●  Thomas Field, S.J. (1547-1626) of Limerick arrives in Brazil (1577).

●  The Real Colegio de Nobles Irlandeses opens in Salamanca. Many of the students in this and other Irish Colleges in Spain and Portugal will play religious, military and administrative roles in the Spanish and Portuguese colonial administrations in Latin America (1593).

●  Brothers Philip and James Purcell establish a colony in Tauregue, on the mouth of the Amazon river. A second group arrives later led by Bernardo O'Brien of Co. Clare (1612).


●  An official census in the Caribbean island of Montserrat shows that many of the 5,855 black slaves are owned by families with Irish surnames, such as Daly, Farrill, Hussey, Lynch, and Roach (1729).

●  The Spanish establishes an Irish Regiment in Mexico. All companies are commanded by officers with Irish names, O'Hare, Barry, Fitzpatrick, Quinn, O'Brien, Healy, O'Leary, and Treby (Tracy) (1768-1771).

●  First recorded St. Patrick's Day celebration in Latin America in a church built by Lancelot Belfort (1708-1775) at Kilrue by the Itapecurú River, Maranhão State, in northern Brazil (17 March 1770).

●  Ambrose O'Higgins (1721-1801) of Co. Sligo is made governor of Chile. Later he will be appointed viceroy of Peru (1787).

●  Irish-born John McNamara and his British 45th regiment attack without success Colonia del Sacramento in the northern bank of the River Plate (present-day Uruguay). McNamara and most of the crew are killed (November 1762).

●  William Farmer (b. 1732) of Youghal, Co. Cork, commands the sloop Swift in West Falkland (Gran Malvina) waters, but is obliged to evacuate Port Egmont by a much larger Spanish force (1770).

●  Michael O'Gorman (1749-1819) arrives in the River Plate as the official surgeon in the expedition of the Spanish viceroy Pedro de Ceballos. He will be the founder of the first medical school in Buenos Aires (1776).

1800s - 1810s

●  Many in the 25,000-strong British forces storming the Spanish viceroyalty of the River Plate are born in Ireland. Some of them will remain in Argentina and Uruguay and start private migration networks from the Irish Midlands (1806 and 1807).

●  William Brown (1777-1857) of Co. Mayo is appointed commander of the Argentine navy. He breaks the Spanish blockade in Buenos Aires and ends the Spanish threat to the newly independent provinces of the River Plate (1814).

●  Peter Campbell (b. 1780), a veteran of the British campaigns in the River Plate, commands the first Uruguayan navy (1814).

●  John MacKenna (1771-1814) dies in a duel in Buenos Aires. Born in Co. Tyrone, MacKenna was educated in Spain and in 1796 joined the Spanish colonial administration in Peru and Chile. He fought in the Chilean war of independence with Ambrose O'Higgins's son Bernardo (1814).

●  Thomas Armstrong (1797-1895) of Co. Offaly arrives in Buenos Aires. He will become an important businessman, landowner and benefactor of the Irish-Argentine community (1817).

●  John Devereux (d. 1854) of Co. Wexford and others recruit soldiers in Ireland to join Simón Bolivar's independence army in South America. Daniel O'Connell strongly supports Bolivar and sends his son Morgan. Most of the 2,000 soldiers will return home, or die in battle and from sickness. Among those who settled in South America are Daniel F. O'Leary (1801-1854) in Colombia, Francis B. O'Connor (1791-1871) in Bolivia, and Arthur Sandes (d. 1832) in Ecuador (1818-1822).


●  Juan Dumphi O'Donojú (d. 1821), son of Kerry and Tipperary immigrants in Spain, arrives in Mexico as the last Spanish Viceroy. He signed the Treaty of Córdoba, recognising Mexico's autonomy, and died shortly after (1821).

●  Stephen Hallet, an Irish-born printer living in Buenos Aires launches La Gaceta Mercantil (1823).

●  The Anglo-Argentine Treaty of Friendship, Navigation and Commerce further perpetuates British and Irish presence in the River Plate. Merchants continue settling and actively trade in Montevideo and Buenos Aires (1824).

●  Peter Sheridan (1792-1844) of Co. Cavan starts a sheep-farm near Buenos Aires (1824).

●  Bernard Kiernan (1780-1863), a surveyor and astronomer of Co. Derry arrives in Buenos Aires from the US. He settled first in St. John, New Brunswick, and then went to the River Plate with other "Irish Yankees" (1824).

●  Francis Burdett O'Connor (1791-1871) is appointed chief of staff of the United Army of Liberation in Peru (1824).

●  Thomas Wright (1799-1868) Queensborough, Drogheda founds the nautical school at Guayaquil, Ecuador (1826).

●  John King (1800-1857) of Newport, Co. Mayo joins the Argentine forces as second lieutenant during the war against Brazil (1826).

●  More than 2,500 Irish men with their families arrive in Rio de Janeiro from Cork. They were recruited by Col. William Cotter of the imperial army to fight in the war against Argentina. After mutinies and sickness most return to Ireland or go to Argentina and Canada (1827).

●  John Thomond O'Brien (1786-1861), an officer in the independence wars in Argentina, Chile and Peru, is commissioned by the government of Buenos Aires to promote the immigration of 200 Irish labourers (1828).


●  Successful colonies are established in Mexican Texas by Irish empresarios John McMullen, James McGloin, James Power, and James Hewetson. Many of the colonists are from Co. Wexford (1829-1836).

●  St. Patrick's Day (17 March) is celebrated with dinner and dancing in Welsh's quinta in Buenos Aires. The previous year St. Patrick was honoured at Willy's Naval Hotel (Irish Jemmy's) in a private party (1830).

●  John Dillon opens the first brewery in Argentina (1830).

●  Father Patrick J. O'Gorman arrives at Buenos Aires to succeed Fr. Burke, first Irish Catholic chaplain in Buenos Aires (1831). 

●  William Dickson of Dublin, storekeeper for Louis Vernet’s colonists in the Falkland Islands, is entrusted with the care of the British flag by Captain Onslow. Dickson is among those murdered by the gauchos led by Antonio Rivera (1833).

●  Patrick Fleming, a merchant in Buenos Aires, is kidnapped by Ranqueles Indians and later rescued by Governor Rosas' expedition (1833).

●  Several Irish farmers settle in Uruguay (1836).

●  Sheep-farming increases in Argentina, southern Brazil and Uruguay. Irish artisans and small businessmen are attracted to the countryside (1839).


●  Total Irish population in Buenos Aires is 3,500. At least three-fourths are from Westmeath (1841).

●  Father Anthony Fahy, the leader of the Irish Argentines for forty years, arrives in Buenos Aires (1843).

●  Irish immigrants begin arriving in Argentina in larger numbers. The barque William Peile arrives with 114 emigrants from Co. Wexford (1844).

●  Robert Gore (1810-1854) of Wexford is appointed as British chargé d'affaires in Montevideo, and later in Buenos Aires (1846).

●  Camila O'Gorman and Father Uladislao Gutierrez elope from Buenos Aires and are executed the following year (1847).

●  A generous Famine Relief Fund is sent by Fr Fahy to the Archbishop of Dublin, collected both from those living far away in the "camp" and the rich city dwellers of Buenos Aires (1847).

●  More than fifty survivors of the San Patricios Battalion are flogged, branded and some executed in Mexico by the US military forces. Led by sergeant John Riley, the Irish and others defected from the US forces and crossed the lines in the US-Mexican War of 1846-1848 (10-13 September 1847).

●  The Irish Hospital is founded in Buenos Aires (1848).


●  A census in the Falkland Islands counts 74 Irish-born persons (1851).

●  William MacCann's Two Thousand Miles' Ride through the Argentine Provinces is published in London (1853).

●  Fr. T. Donovan, an Irish Catholic priest, leads up to 400 Wexford emigrants to Monte Bonito, near Pelotas in the then province of Rio Grande do Sul. The Irish colony rapidly collapses, with most of the survivors making their way to Argentina or Uruguay (1854).

●  Three hundred and sixty Irish labourers arrive from the US at the construction site of the Panama Railroad. They will die in great numbers owing to malaria, cholera and accidents (1854).

●  William Russell Grace (1832-1904) of Queenstown, Co. Laois, and his brother Michael establish a merchant house in Callao, Peru. Their business will grow and diversify in mining and shipping in Chile, Argentina, and other South American countries (1854).

●  Eliza Lynch (1835-1886), the lover of dictator Francisco Solano López, arrives in Paraguay. She will become the first lady and remain together with López during the Triple Alliance war against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay (1855).

●  The Sisters of Mercy arrive in Buenos Aires (1856).

●  During a yellow fever outbreak in Uruguay, Dr. Constantine Conyngham (1807-1868) renders important services to the community (1856).

●  Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna launches La Asamblea Constitucional paper in Santiago, Chile (1858).

●  The Sisters of Mercy open a new school in Buenos Aires (1858).

●  Wool merchant and landowner Thomas Duggan (1827-1913) of Ballymahon, Co. Longford, arrives in Buenos Aires. He will be reputed as one of the wealthiest Irish-born persons ever (1859).


●  Dublin-born brothers Michael G. and Edward T. Mulhall launch the daily The Standard, printed in English and in French. It is the first newspaper in South America to install Linotype machines (1861).

●  Patrick J. Dillon is ordained in Dublin (25 October). Some weeks later, he arrives in Argentina and is appointed as Chaplain in Merlo and Cañuelas (1863).

●  A subscription is started to support the building of Daniel O'Connell's monument in Dublin (1863).

●  Fr O'Gorman and Fr Fahy are named honorary Canons of the Cathedral Church of Buenos Aires (1864).

●  M. O'Brien, consul of Buenos Aires in Dublin, returns to Argentina (1864).

●  Thomas J. Hutchinson's Buenos Aires and Argentine Gleanings; with Extracts from a Diary of the Salado Exploration in 1862 and 1863 is published in London. Hutchinson, physician and British consul in Rosario, is a distinguished explorer and scientific writer appointed first to Fernando Po in West Africa, then to Montevideo, Rosario and finally Lima (1865).

●  William Scully (d. 1885) launches the Anglo-Brazilian Times of Rio de Janeiro (1865).

●  Michael Duffy is appointed Major of Carmen de Areco, and John Dowling, Military Commander of the same department in Buenos Aires (1866).

●  In England and the US, agents of the Brazilian government actively promote Irish emigration to Colônia Príncipe Dom Pedro (Santa Catarina). The Jesuit Joseph Lazenby of Rio de Janeiro, and Fr. George Montgomery of Wednesbury contribute with some Irish from England. The scheme ends in complete failure (1867-1868).

●  Race-meetings gather thousands of irlandeses in Luján, Navarro, and Capilla del Señor distritcs of Buenos Aires (1867).

●  Patrick Fitzsimons (1802-1872), a teacher of Ennis, Co. Clare, is commissioned by the Argentine President Domingo F. Sarmiento to open the new Colegio Nacional in Corrientes (1869).

●  The 1869 National Census returns include 10,709 British subjects residents in Argentina, 8,623 of them bearing Irish surnames, and 5,246 Irish-born.


●  Killallen (Allen's Chapel) opens in Michael Allen's estancia, Castilla (1870).

●  St. Patrick's Society is founded as the first political undertaking of the Irish in Argentina. It will also be a funding institution to promote further immigration from Ireland, and will be succeeded by the Admiral Brown club (1873).

●  Stella Maris Chapel opens in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands (1873).

●  Dr. John (Juan) Creaghe (1841-1920) of Limerick arrives in Buenos Aires from Sheffield (1874). A well-known physician and anarchist, Creaghe published El Oprimido (1893-97), which became La Protesta Humana (1897-1903), and the hugely influential La Protesta (1903 to present day).

●  Nicholas Lowe (1827-1902) launches the Daily News, addressed to Protestant readers, and the Buenos Ayres News and River Plate Advertiser (1874).

●  First issue of The Southern Cross, founded by Fr Patrick J. Dillon (1875).

●  The Ladies Irish Beneficent Society founded by Mary Brennan (née Colclough) (1875).

●  Second edition of M.G. and E.T. Mulhall's Handbook of the River Plate Republics published in Buenos Aires (1875).

●  Fr. James Foran is the first resident Catholic priest in Falkland Islands. He will be in this position for eleven years (1875).

●  Santa Lucía chapel opens on Juan Harrington's estancia in San Pedro (1876).

●  St. George's College is founded by Fr Patrick J. Dillon, aiming at Irish and other English-speaking boys (1876).

●  Michael Mahon (1815-1881) is elected Vice-President of the Home Rule League in Capilla del Señor (1876).

●  Lowther Brandon, a Church of Ireland clergyman from Co. Carlow, becomes Colonial Chaplain of the Falkland Islands. He will found the first savings bank, establish abstinence societies to combat drunkenness, and launch the Falklands Islands Magazine (1877).

●  The College of Luján, for the sons of Irish Catholic sheep-farmers, is opened by Fr George (1877).

●  Businessman Eduardo Casey (1847-1906) purchases 1,700 square miles of land from the Government of Santa Fe together with William R. Gilmour, and begin reselling to English, Irish and other farmers (1879).


●  In the middle of bitter anti-religious thrust and lack of support from the Irish community, the Sisters of Mercy leave Argentina. They sail to Liverpool and most of them go to the Order's mission in Mount Gambier, Australia (1880).

●  A great Land League meeting is held in Salto, and a branch of the home organisation established there (1881).

●  The Irish Relief Fund is launched by Fr Martin Byrne, of the Passionist Order (1881).

●  Michael Dinneen is appointed editor of The Southern Cross, succeeding Fr Dillon (1882).

●  Holy Cross Church of the Passionist Fathers opens in Buenos Aires (1883).

●  Edmundo and Guillermo Dennehy found Dennehy town in 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires (1883).

●  The Irish Catholic Association is founded in Buenos Aires (1883).

●  William Bulfin (1862-1910), journalist and writer, arrives in Buenos Aires. He will contribute to, and later direct and own, the Southern Cross newspaper. Bulfin will also launch the first GAA in Latin America (1884).

●  Azcuénaga, a village in San Andrés de Giles, is founded in 16 squares of land donated by Juan Cunningham (1885).

●  The Pallotines establish in Argentina (1886).

●  Francis Joseph Foley, teacher and future editor of the Southern Cross, arrives in Buenos Aires (1886).

●  Buckley O'Meara and John Stephen Dillon (brother of Fr Patrick Dillon) are hired by the Government to promote emigration from Ireland to Argentina (1887).

●  The Venado Tuerto Polo and Athletic Club is founded (1888).

●  The Irish Argentine newspaper is founded by Fr. Bernard Feeney (1844-1919) in Azcuénaga, Buenos Aires (1888).

●  In Uruguay, Eduardo Casey purchases The River Plate Times paper (1889).

●  The Argentine branch of the Gaelic League is founded in the Passionist monastery of Capitán Sarmiento, being J.E. O'Curry its first president (1889).

●  The "Dresden Affair": 1,774 Irish emigrants deceived by agents O'Meara and Dillon are embarked in the steamer City of Dresden to Buenos Aires. Peter Gartland starts an Irish Colony in Napostá, with some of the Dresden emigrants. Fr. Matthew Gaughren, O.M.I. (1843-1914) and others try to help the colonists. Several children die of sickness (1889).


●  The Sisters of Mercy are back in Argentina (1890).

●  The Fahy Institute is founded with thirty-three boys of the returned colonists of Napostá (1891).

●  Thomas Mason founds Santa Rosa, in La Pampa (1892).

●  The Lobos Athletic Club is founded in the province of Buenos Aires. Tomás P. Moore is the first captain of the foot-ball team (1892).

●  Dublin-born teacher Kathleen Boyle (née Jones) (1869-1941) founds the English School of San Martín, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. It will be later renamed to San Patricio (1894).

●  The Parnell Fund is remitted to Justin MacCarthy for the benefit of the Irish Evicted Tenants (1894).

●  In the Argentine census 18,617 individuals bear Irish surnames and 5,407 are born in Ireland. Fr Patrick O'Grady opens a chapel in Rivas railway station, Suipacha department (1895).

●  Porteño Athletic Club is founded in Buenos Aires as the first Irish-Argentine foot-ball institution, with Santiago G. O'Farrell as president (1895).

●  Duggan railway station and town are founded in San Antonio de Areco (1896).

●  During the Spanish-American War, the head of the Milligan Guards of Arizona William "Buckey" O'Neill is killed at San Juan Hill, Cuba (1898).

●  Gahan railway station and town are founded in Salto (1898).

●  St. Brigid's school opens in Buenos Aires, initially managed by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and two years later by the Sisters of Mercy (1899).

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1900s - 2000s

Copyright © Edmundo Murray, 2005


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2005

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