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How the Irish Became Gauchos Ingleses

Diasporic models in Irish-Argentine Literature

Edmundo Murray
University of Geneva

Table of Contents


Declan Kiberd argues that "postcolonial writing does not begin only when the occupier withdraws: rather it is initiated at that very moment when a native writer formulates a text committed to cultural resistance." Paradoxically, the Irish who emigrated to Argentina, a former Spanish colony, may be regarded (as they regarded themselves) as colonised in the country they left, and as colonisers of their new home. Their case is one of the better counterexamples to the typical pattern of identities in most of the English-speaking destinations of the Irish Diaspora. Using fictional works as primary documents, in this dissertation I search the identities represented in John Brabazon's Memoirs, Kathleen Nevin's You'll Never Go Back, and William Bulfin's Tales of the Pampas. Brabazon memoirs were translated into Spanish, annotated and published in 1981 by Irish-Argentine genealogist Eduardo Coghlan. Kathleen Nevin's novel include the fictionalised biography of her mother, who emigrated to Buenos Aires in the 1870s. In Tales of the Pampas, William Bulfin amalgamates the ambiguous acculturation of the Irish settlers with that of the "gaucho" (those cowboys of the South American pampas who almost literally lived in the saddle), as well as with the symbols of Gauchesca narrative. Evolving from colonised to colonisers during their initial settlement, the Irish in Argentina swiftly became ingleses. In the following decades, in order to join the local bourgeoisie they were required to be gauchos, and to show signs of their effective integration to the native culture, as seen by the Argentine elites. This explains why most of the successful Irish settlers gradually separated from the Anglo-Argentine mainstream culture and shaped their own community. A negotiation of identities among Irishness, Britishness, and Argentineness was always in place. I argue that these identities are not only unmoored in the emigrants' minds but also manoeuvred by community leaders, politicians and priests. After reviewing the major milestones of the nineteenth-century Irish emigration to Argentina, the dissertation analyses selected passages from the three texts, offers a version of how the settlers became Irish-Argentines, and elucidates the processes which created the new Irish-Argentine hybrid. 



Nineteenth-Century Irish Emigration to Argentina: The Origin of the Irish Emigration to the River Plate The Formation of the Irish Community in Argentina Sending Areas; Emigrant Profiles and Migration Periods The Irish Argentines Conclusions to this Chapter

Irish-Argentine Literature: The Immigrant Experience; Irish-Argentine Fiction Community Historians Journalism Conclusions to this Chapter

Analysis of Texts: The Early Emigrant Experience A Feminine Perspective Short Stories in the Irish Pampas Conclusions to this Chapter

Becoming Irish-Argentine

Annex I: Irish-Argentine Chronology
Annex II: Irish toponymy of the river plate
Annex III: Glossary

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