Plaza de Mayo
The first stop for visitors to the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires is
the beautiful Plaza de Mayo square. It was here hundreds of thousands
of women came to listen to Evita Peron, and this is where the crazy
mothers of Plaza de Mayo still hold their silent Thursday vigil
for missing sons and relatives. You will see busy bureaucrats and plenty
of romantic couples on the bougainvillaea-flanked benches at one of the
most beautiful squares in the world.
For a visiting Swede it is interesting to note that the imposing pink
Casa Rosada presidential palace was designed by the Swedish architects
Henrik berg and Carl August Kihlberg. Appointed Argentinas
first (and only) national architect in 1875, berg also
drew the blueprints for various hospitals, the Museum of National History
in La Plata, and national hero Jos de San Martins mausoleum
inside the Cathedral on Plaza de Mayo.
Many other Swedes helped build Argentina. Carl Malmn was responsible
for the construction of over 3 000 kilometers of railway and he received
an award for building the Bahia Blanca-Nuequn line in record time.
Thanks to the engineer Carl Nystrmer, the provincial capitals of
Mendoza, Santa Fe, Crdoba and Salta got running water and sewage
systems. Also a qualified architect, Nystrmer designed the impressive
Palacio de Aguas Corrientes.
King Carl XVI Gustaf
has made several private visits to Argentina in recent years. The King
and Queen make visits to neighbouring Brazil, it being Queen Silvias
mothers homeland, but the visits to Argentina are to check up on large
tracts of undervalued land that the King has acquired during the last
Interestingly his ancestor Jean Baptiste Bernadotte who became Karl XIV
Johan also had an interest in Argentina. It is believed that he sent the
soldier Johan Adam Graaner to Argentina in 1816 to find out what his chances
were of claiming the throne of a potential Argentinian monarchy. Graaner
was the only foreigner present at the declaration of independence from
Spain, and his questions raised a lot of suspicion.
In 1845 Sweden formally recognized Argentinian sovereignty and shortly
afterwards the warships Lagerbjelke and Eugenie paid a visit to the new
country while also checking out trade routes on the South American continent.
They happened to arrive in Buenos Aires just in time for the rebellion
against President Rosas. But the travel accounts written by two naval
officers aboard were as much, if not more, about the beautiful portenas
(women) of Buenos Aires, as they were about the dramatic political events
Famous Swedes in Argentina in recent decades include rally drivers Ewy
Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth, the unforgettable blonde winners of the 1962
Gran Premio Internacional Championship (beating more than 200 male competitors);
the beat group Cons Combo who played a part in making
long hair fashionable in South America in the late 1960s; and the renowned
ballet dancer, sculptress and party hostess Carina Ari, an eccentric and
popular millionairess who was essentially the Swedish communitys
prima donna in the 1950s and 1960s. It is thanks to Carina ari that there
is a ballet museum and library in Stockholm and that budding Swedish ballet
dancers can stay in the stars old apartmets in Paris and london.
is something as exotic as a Swedish konditori (Santa Fe 2333 in the Martinez
suburb, open everyday except Monday) in Buenos Aires that has some of
the best cafes in the world. Here you can feast on tosca- and princesstrta,
as well as mazarins and Napoleon pastries but semlor have sadly disappeared
from the menu. The bakery was started in 1959 by Walter Berg under the
name Confiteria Berg and is now owned by Lars Flinga who has lived in
Argentina since 1948. Sylvia Moyano from Chile has been with the Confiteria
right from the start and she also creates such international delicacies
as tiramisu, apfel strudel and petit fours.
Among the first Swedes to step ashore in Argentina were Daniel Sollander
and Anders Sparrman. They were disciples of botanist Carl von Linn
and accompanied Captain Cook on his world expeditions to pick exotic flowers
and record anomalies.
Several other Nordic scientists were drawn to this area at the beginning
of the century. Most remembered among them all is the geologist and polar
explorer Otto Nordenskjild who, along with his crew, survived two
winters in Antarctica after a shipwreck. The Argentine government pulled
off a successful rescue expedition in 1903. Thousands of people in Buenos
Aires celebrated the return of the marine officials and the Swedish scientists.
Today the vessel used in the rescue, the corvette Uruguay, is a floating
museum in Dock 1 of the the Puerto Madeor.
Gustaf de Laval
patented the milk separator that separated cream from milk in 1878. When
former sea captain Erik Adde started marketing the Separadora in Argentina,
less than one percent of the cows were being milked. Cattle was synonymous
with meat and hides and Argentina imported dairy products like butter
and cheese from Denmark and France. The Swedish inventor spurred the birth
of an Argentinia'n dairy industry and the first salted butter to be exported
to Eng-land was called La Escandinava and was produced by
three Swedes. Addes Pavilion at the Rural Fairgrounds Exhibition in
1886 also showcased Sandvik steel, paper samples and Eskilstuna knives,
and marked the kick-off for Swedish exports to Argentina. Swedens
industrial giants - Asea (ABB), Ericsson, AGA etc - were in many cases
initially represented by individuals, young entrepreneurs who settled
down and set up companies in Buenos Aires, Rosario, Santa Fe and Crdoba.
In 1900 10% of Argentinas engineers were from Sweden!
Azal y Oro
or blue and yellow have always been Swedens colours. In
Argentina how-ever, they are forever associated with the soccer club Boca
Junior where such national heroes as Maradona have worn the yellow and
blue jerseys. The choice was made in 1907 and the inspiration came from
the Swedish colours on a Johnson Line ship that happened to be in port
at the time.
The Swedish Club
is a must when you are in Buenos Aires. It is centrally located in the
seven-story Sweden House (Tacuari 147, phone 5411 4334-7813) that also
houses the Swedish Embassy and Swedish Argentinian Chamber of Commerce.
In the Asociacion Sueca restaurant and bar you can have a good Swedish
lunch (smrgsbord on Wednesdays). Svenska Freningen was
founded in 1898 by a group of Swedish professionals. The Society had several
different homes until the Swedish shipping magnate Axel Axelsson Johnson
made a substantial donation for a building in 1920. He also donated funds
for a Swedish Church (Azopardo 1428, phone 4361-7304) where you can today
rent inexpensive rooms (at $15 per night single, $20 double).
For many people in Sweden, Argentina is both a familiar and a mythological
place brought to life by the lyrics of the popular singer-songwriter Evert
Taube who lived in the South American country for five years between 1910-1915.
Contrary to widespread perceptions, Taube did not work as a gaucho (cowboy)
on the Pampas but as a foreman supervising workers who were digging canals
designed to prevent flooding on the vast plains.
The first Swedes to arrive in Argentina were registered as new converts
by Jesuits in Crdoba in 1763. Many of the Swedes who showed up
during the first half of the 19th century were adventurers who fought
in the civil war between the Unitarians and Federalists (on both sides).
A good number of them were sons of prominent families who were fleeing
a debt or had some other reason to make themselves scarce.
They became the black sheep of the Pampas.
The womanizing aristocrat Nils Fleming, for example, spread a rumour that
he had had an affair with Governor Rosas daughter to give more
publicity to the brothel he was opening in Buenos Aires. His business
venture did not succeed, however, because he often got jealous of his
customers and threw them out.
Back home in northern Sweden, they had hunted moose. In Misiones
subtropical rain forest, they hunted tapir.
The prospect of growing yerba mate, used to make the herbal tea that is
Argentinas national addiction, drew Swedes to Misiones at the beginning
of the 20th century, not all the way from Sweden but from Brazil, where
they had been lured by German-based recruitment offices.
In Brazil, the new arrivals soon discovered that the recruitment officers
propaganda was nothing more than empty promises. Around 1913 word started
going around that across the border, in the Argentinian territory of Misiones,
the land was more fertile and the government was providing incentives
for farmers to grow a profitable cash crop known as the green gold
- yerba mate.
Two contingents of emigrants made the voyage south. In 1890-91, most of
the 2 000 were workers and families from the crisis-ridden industries
in Stockholm and Sundsvall. In 1909-11, most of the 700 were miners from
the far north who left after the failure of a nation-wide strike. The
first Swedes to cross the border to Argentina found not only Brazilian,
Paraguayan and German colonists, but also a group of Finnish intellectuals
who had fled their country in 1906 for political reasons. After the town
of Ober was officially founded in 1928, the Swedes soon became
a minority, but as they had come first there are today neighbourhoods
that carry the names of those pioneering farmers - Villa Kindgren, Villa
Fredriksson, Villa Erasmie.
In 1914 ten men cleared a 20-km path (picada) through the jungle between
the first Swedish settlement, Villa Svea and a German colony. The road
is still known as the Picada Sueca. Around 500 Swedes were estimated
to have settled in the area by the 1920s and they organized a school,
an ethnic-based association and a congregation.
In September many Swedish descendants still participate in the Ober
Blgult i Argentina
is a richly illustrated book published to celebrate the centennial of
the Swedish Club. Written by Anna Dahlstein, the 270-page book is the
fascinating history of the Swedes in Argentina (and can be ordered from
the Asociacin Sueca/Svenska Freningen Tacuari 147, 1071 Buenos
Aires, Argentina, fax +54-11-43348859, firstname.lastname@example.org for USD
40 + shipping). Anna is a chronic utlands-svensk with a B.A.
from Harvard who grew up in Rome, Moscow, Nairobi, Quito and Buenos Aires
and now purses a Masters at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.