Inmigracion Peligrosa

Date: 1909
Owner: Unknown Owner
Source Type: Images


In this 1909 Argentine cartoon, two immigration officers discuss how immigrants should be selected carefully, "like in North America" (see the source on El Paso's Sanitary Building for more on U.S eugenic immigration policies). They thus "check if he is insane and if he knows how to read and write." In the earliest decades of the twentieth century, Argentina made a concerted effort to attract immigrants from northern Europe because Nordic races were considered to be the most "fit" and civilized on earth. Progress-minded Argentines hoped such eugenic policies would increase the amount of "whiteness" in the national germ plasm in order to make the nation homogenously white, a step considered necessary to modernity. Efforts were thus made to keep out immigrants who would degenerate further the already unfavorably mixed population, such as south European laborers. Although the new science of eugenics legitimized such practices, immigration policies reflected (and reinforced) old fears about miscegenation and racial purity.

As with many elements of Latin American eugenics, immigration policies took the form of hygiene projects. "Moral hygiene" was considered necessary to protect Argentina from pernicious external influences like anarchists, socialists, alcoholics, criminals, prostitutes, and other sexual, moral, or physical "degenerates." Not only would such people disrupt the nation's path to modernity, but they would also spread their unwanted genetic traits throughout the country. By the late 1920s, however, it was apparent that undesirable immigrants were far more common than north European ones, thus Argentina began to take more direct steps towards ensuring national whiteness. "Hard" eugenic policies, especially prenuptial certificates and anti-abortion campaigns, were meant to make sure the "right" type of Argentines reproduced themselves.

CITATION: "Inmigracion peligrosa," In Rodriguez, Julia. Civilizing Argentina: Science, Medicine, and the Modern State. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. From Caras y caretas, 12 June 1909.