Italian Argentines

Italian Argentines
  • Ítalo-argentinos
  • Italo-argentini
Italy Argentina
Total population
25 million or 62.5% of Argentina’s population have at least one Italian immigrant ancestor[1]
Regions with significant populations
Throughout Argentina
(Plurality in the Pampas)
Rioplatense Spanish, Italian and Italian dialects.
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Italians, Italian Brazilians, Italian South African, Italian Chileans, Italian Mexican, Italian Americans, Italian Uruguayans, Italo-Venezuelans, Italian-Peruvian

Italian Argentines (Italian: italo-argentini, Spanish: ítalo-argentinos) are Argentine-born citizens of Italian descent or Italian-born people who reside in Argentina. After Spain, Italy is the second largest ethnic origin of modern Argentines. It is estimated up to 25 million Argentines have some degree of Italian descent (up to 62.5% of the total population),[1][2] Italians began arriving in Argentina in great numbers from 1857 to 1940, totaling 44.9% of the entire post-colonial immigrant population; more than from any other country (including Spain at 31.5%), and this migratory flow continued to the early 1950s, with Italy also having the most emigrants to Argentina for the decades 1980–2000.

In 1996, the population of Italian Argentines numbered 15.8 million[3] when Argentina’s population was approximately 34.5 million, meaning they consisted of 45.5% of the population.

Italian settlement in Argentina, along with Spanish settlement, formed the backbone of today's Argentine society. Argentine culture has significant connections to Italian culture in terms of language, and customs.[4]


Main article: Italian diaspora
Percentage of Italian-born immigrants in the 1914 Argentine census by provinces and territories

Small groups of Italians started to immigrate to Argentina as early as the second half of the 18th century.[5] However, the stream of Italian immigration to Argentina became a mass phenomenon only in the years 1880–1920 during the Great European immigration wave to Argentina, peaking between 1900–1914; about 2 million settled between 1880–1920, and just 1 million between 1900–1914.[6] In 1914, the city of Buenos Aires alone had more than 300,000 Italian-born inhabitants, representing 25% of the total population.[6] The Italian immigrants were primarily male, aged between 14 and 50 and more than 50% literate; in terms of occupations, 78.7% in the active population were agricultural workers or unskilled laborers, 10.7% artisans, while only 3.7% worked in commerce or as professionals.[6] The outbreak of World War I and the rise of Fascism in Italy caused a rapid fall in immigration to Argentina, with a slight revival in 1923–1927, but eventually stopped during the Great Depression and the Second World War.[7] After the end of World War II, Italy was reduced to rubble and occupied by foreign armies. The period 1946–1957 brought another massive wave of 380,000 Italians to Argentina.[8] The substantial recovery allowed by the Italian economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s eventually caused the era of Italian diaspora abroad to finish, and in the following decades Italy became a migration receiving country. Today, there are still 527,570 Italian citizens living in the Argentine Republic.[9]

Characteristics of Italian immigration in Argentina

Italian immigrants to Argentina, 1861–1920 (by decade)[6]
Period Total Italian Proportion
1861–1870 159,570 113,554 71%
1871–1880 260,885 152,061 58%
1881–1890 841,122 493,885 59%
1891–1900 648,326 425,693 57%
1901–1910 1,764,103 796,190 45%
1911–1920 1,204,919 347,388 29%
1861–1920 3,798,925 2,270,525 59%

Areas of origin

In the decades before 1900, Italian immigrants initially arrived mainly from the northern regions of Piedmont, Veneto and Lombardy; after the turn of the century and the unification of Italy and the establishment of the North as the dominant region of the Unified Italy, immigration patterns shifted to rural and former independent Southern Italy, especially Campania, Calabria and Sicily.[10] In Argentine slang, tano (from Napulitano, "Neapolitan") is still used for all people of Italian descent where it originally means inhabitant of the former independent state the Kingdom of Naples. In comparison to Brazil and Uruguay, Argentina received more people from the South of Italy. The assumption that emigration from cities was negligible has an important exception, and that is the city of Naples. The city went from being the capital of its own kingdom in 1860 to being just another large city in Italy. The loss of bureaucratic jobs and the subsequently declining financial situation led to high unemployment. In the early 1880s epidemics of cholera also struck the city, causing many people to leave.

According to a study in 1990, considering the high proportion of returnees, a positive or negative correlation between region of origin and of destination can be proposed. Southern Italians indicate a more permanent settlement. The authors conclude that the Argentinean society in its Italian component is the result of Southern rather than Northern influences.[11]

Italian immigrants arriving in Argentina and regional distribution[12]
and central Italy
and insular Italy
1880–1884 59.8% 16.8% 23.4% 106,953
1885–1889 45.3% 24.4% 30.3% 259,858
1890–1894 44.2% 20.7% 35.1% 151,249
1895–1899 32.3% 23.1% 44.6% 211,878
1900–1904 29.2% 19.6% 51.2% 232,746
1905–1909 26.9% 20.1% 53.0% 437,526
1910–1914 27.4% 18.2% 54.4% 355,913
1915–1919 32.3% 23.1% 44.6% 26,880
1920–1924 19.7% 27.4% 52.9% 306,928
1925–1929 14.4% 33.1% 52.5% 235,065
Italian immigration to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay[13]
Region Percentage
North 53.7%
South 32.0%
Centre 14.5%
Regional origin of Italian immigrants to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay
Region Percentage
Veneto 26.6%
Campania 12.1%
Calabria 8.2%
Lombardy 7.7%
Tuscany 5.9%
Friuli-Venezia Giulia 5.8%
Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol 5.3%
Emilia-Romagna 4.3%
Basilicata 3.8%
Sicily 3.2%
Piedmont 2.8%
Apulia 2.5%
Marche 1.8%
Molise 1.8%
Lazio 1.1%
Umbria 0.8%
Liguria 0.7%
Sardinia 0.4%
Aosta Valley 0.2%


Italian festival in Oberá.
An Italian Argentine footballer, Javier Zanetti


According to Ethnologue, Argentina has more than 1,500,000 Italian speakers, making it the second most spoken language in the nation.[14] In spite of the great many Italian immigrants, the Italian language never truly took hold in Argentina, in part because at the time, the great majority of Italians spoke especially their regional languages and not many the national standard Italian language. This prevented any expansion of the use of the Italian language as a primary language in Argentina. The similarity of the Italian dialects with Spanish also enabled the immigrants to assimilate, by using the Spanish language, with relative ease.

Italian immigration from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century made a lasting and significant impact on the intonation of Argentina's vernacular Spanish. Preliminary research has shown that Rioplatense Spanish, particularly the speech of the city of Buenos Aires, has intonation patterns that resemble those of Italian dialects (especially Neapolitan) and differ markedly from the patterns of other forms of Spanish.[15] That correlates well with immigration patterns as Argentina, and particularly Buenos Aires, had huge numbers of Italian settlers since the 19th century. According to a study conducted by National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina, and published in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (ISSN 1366-7289)[16] The researchers note that this is a relatively recent phenomenon, starting in the beginning of the 20th century with the main wave of Southern Italian immigration. Before that, the porteño accent was more similar to that of Spain, especially Andalusia.[17]

Much of Lunfardo arrived with European immigrants, such as Italians, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, and Poles. It should be noted that most Italian and Spanish immigrants spoke their regional languages and dialects and not standard Italian or Spanish; other words arrived from the pampa by means of the gauchos; a small number originated in Argentina's native population. Most sources believe that Lunfardo originated in jails, as a prisoner-only argot. Circa 1900, the word lunfardo itself (originally a deformation of lombardo in several Italian dialects) was used to mean "outlaw". Lunfardo words are inserted in the normal flow of Rioplatense Spanish sentences. Thus, a Spanish-speaking Mexican reading tango lyrics will need, at most, the translation of a discrete set of words, and not a grammar guide. Tango lyrics use lunfardo sparsely, but some songs (such as El Ciruja, or most lyrics by Celedonio Flores) employ lunfardo heavily. "Milonga Lunfarda" by Edmundo Rivero is an instructive and entertaining primer on lunfardo usage.


Between about 1880 and 1900, Argentina received a large number of peasants from the South of Italy, who arrived with little or no schooling in the Spanish language. As those immigrants strove to communicate with the local criollos, they produced a variable mixture of Spanish with Italian languages and dialects, specially Neapolitan. This pidgin language was given the derogatory name cocoliche by the locals. Since the children of the immigrants grew up speaking Spanish at school, work, and military service, Cocoliche remained confined mostly to the first generation immigrants, and slowly fell out of use. The pidgin has been depicted humorously in literary works and in the Argentine sainete theater, such as by Dario Vittori.


Main article: Cuisine of Argentina
Pasta is a feature of the Argentine cuisine
"Milanesa a la napolitana" with French fries.
Argentine "Fainá".

Argentine cuisine has been strongly influenced by Italian cuisine; the typical Argentine diet is a variation on the Mediterranean diet. Italian staple dishes like pizza and pasta are common. Pasta is extremely common, either simple unadorned pasta with butter or oil, or accompanied by a tomato- or bechamel-based sauce.

Pizza (locally pronounced pisa or pitsa), for example, has been wholly subsumed and in its Argentine form more closely resembles Italian calzones than it does its Italian ancestor. Typical or exclusively Argentine pizzas include pizza canchera, pizza rellena (stuffed pizza), pizza por metro (pizza by the meter), and pizza a la parrilla (grilled pizza). While Argentine pizza derives from Neapolitan cuisine, the Argentine fugaza/fugazza comes from the focaccia xeneise (Genoan), but in any case its preparation is different from its Italian counterpart, and the addition of cheese to make the dish (fugaza con queso or fugazzeta) is an Argentine invention.

Fainá is a type of thin bread made with chickpea flour (adopted from northern Italy). The name comes from the Ligurian word for the Italian farinata. During the 20th century, people in pizzerias in Buenos Aires have commonly ordered a "combo" of moscato, pizza, and fainá. This is a large glass of a sweet wine called moscato (muscat), plus two triangular stacked pieces (the lower one being pizza and the upper one fainá). Pizza and faina are normally served together.

Nevertheless, the pastas (pasta, always in the plural) surpass pizzas in consumption levels. Among them are tallarines (fettuccine), ravioles (ravioli), ñoquis (gnocchi), and canelones (cannelloni). They are usually cooked, served, and consumed in Argentine fashion, called all'uso-nostro, a phrase of Italian origin.

For example, it is common for pasta to be eaten together with white bread ("French bread"), which is unusual in Italy. This can be explained by the low cost of bread and the fact that Argentine pastas tend to come together with a large amount of tuco sauce (Italian sugo), and accompanied by estofado (stew). Less commonly, pastas are eaten with a dressing of pesto, a green sauce based on basil, or salsa blanca (Béchamel sauce).

Sorrentinos are also a local dish with a misleading name (they do not come from Sorrento, but were invented in Mar del Plata). They look like big round ravioles stuffed with mozzarella, cottage cheese and basil in tomato sauce.

Polenta comes from Northern Italy and is very common throughout Argentina. And, just like polenta concia in Italy, this cornmeal is eaten as a main dish, with sauce and melted cheese.

Other dishes are milanesas (its name deriving from the original cotoletta alla milanese from Milan), or breaded meats. A common dish of this variety is the milanesa napolitana (the name comes from a restaurant that used to be in Buenos Aires, "Nápoli"). Milanesa napolitana is an Argentine innovation despite its name and it consists of a breaded meat with cheese, tomatoes and in some special cases, ham on top of the meat.

The milanesa was brought to Argentina from Central European immigrants, its name reflecting the original Milanese preparation cotoletta alla milanese, which also inspired the wiener schnitzel.[18][19]

Pasta frola is a typical Argentine recipe heavily influenced by Southern Italian cuisine, also known as Pasta Frolla in Italy. Pasta frola consists of a buttery pastry base with a filling made of quince jam, sweet-potato jam or milk caramel (dulce de leche) and topped with thin strips of the same pastry, forming a squared pattern. It is an Argentine tradition to eat pastafrola with mate in the afternoon. The dish is also very popular in Paraguay and Uruguay. The traditional Italian recipe was not prepared with latticework as it is in Argentina, but with a lid pierced with molds in forms of heart or flowers.

The Argentine variant of ice cream (Spanish: Helado, Italian: gelato) is particularly popular in Argentine desserts. Its creamy texture is due to the large proportion of cream,[20] and flavors range from classical chocolate with almonds to Argentine Dulce de Leche to kiwi, wine or tangerine. Ice cream was again a legacy of the Italian diaspora.


Italian international schools in Argentina include:[21]

Notable People








Law Enforcements figures



Painters and Sculptors






See also


  1. 1 2 Departamento de Derecho y Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad Nacional de La Matanza (14 November 2011). "Historias de inmigrantes italianos en Argentina" (in Spanish). Se estima que en la actualidad, el 90% de la población argentina tiene alguna ascendencia europea y que al menos 25 millones están relacionados con algún inmigrante de Italia.
  2. Departamento de Derecho y Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad Nacional de La Matanza (14 November 2011). "Historias de inmigrantes italianos en Argentina" (in Spanish). Se estima que en la actualidad, el 90% de la población Argentina tiene alguna ascendencia europea y que al menos 25 millones están relacionados con algún inmigrante de Italia.
  4. O.N.I. – Department of Education of Argentina
  5. Olimpiadas Nacionales de Contenidos Educativos en Internet – Instituto Nacional de Educación Tecnológica
  6. 1 2 3 4 Baily, Samuel L. (1999). Immigrants in the Lands of Promise: Italians in Buenos Aires and New York City, 1870 to 1914. United States: Cornell University Press. p. 54. ISBN 0801488826.
  7. Devoto, Fernando J. (2006). Historias de los Italianos en Argentina. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos. pp. 329–330. ISBN 978-950-786-551-0.
  8. Mignone, Mario B. (2008). Italy today: facing the challenges of the new millennium. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-4331-0187-8.
  9. Italian Ministry of the Interior
  10. "Federaciones Regionales". Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  11. "Migration from Southern Italy to Argentina: Calabrians and Sicilians (1880–1930), Cacopardo et al. (1990)".
  12. Commissariato Generale di Statistica e Istituto Centrale di Statistica, riportato da
  13. Immigrazione Italiana nell’America del Sud (Argentina, Uruguay e Brasile)
  14. "Argentina". Ethnologue. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  15. "Cambridge Journals Online – Bilingualism: Language and Cognition – Abstract – Convergence and intonation: historical evidence from Buenos Aires Spanish". Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  16. Buenos Aires residents speak with an intonation most closely resembling neapolitan language
  17. Napolitanos y porteños, unidos por el acento (in spanish)
  20. Gabriel Alfonsin. "Helado Artesanal : Asesoramiento y Cursos de fabricacion helado artesanal. Franquicias". Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  21. "SCUOLE PARITARIE ITALIANE ALL'ESTERO" (Archive). Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Italy). p. 2–3. Retrieved on November 20, 2015.
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