The School Promoters: Hybridity, Citizenship, and Children at the German Schools of Buenos Aires, 1880–1930

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:00 AM
Madison Room (Marriott Wardman Park)
Benjamin Bryce, University of Toronto
At the turn of the twentieth century, politicians in Buenos Aires proudly discussed the power of a growing network of public schools to confront the cultural pluralism that decades of mass migration had created. Schooling would apparently promote a united, loyal, and ethnically homogeneous nation. Yet alongside these schools, a network of private schools run by the Catholic Church and ethnic associations existed. The state regulated these schools, but the specific requirements of education authorities allowed these schools a great deal of space to promote ethnic heterogeneity.

This paper focuses on the goals, discussions, and tangible activities of German-speaking school promoters – a diverse group of immigrants involved in the creation, promotion, and support of German-Spanish bilingual schools in Buenos Aires. This group took advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Argentine state, benefited from the steadily increasing number of German immigrants to the Argentine capital, and set out to construct a permanently bilingual community within the Argentine national body. This paper explores the ways first generation immigrants reconciled their cultural needs with the linguistic practices, civic identity, and citizenship of their children.

This paper argues that the school promoters viewed bilingual schools as sites that would both help them reproduce their own ethnicity and enable them to participate in larger, Argentine projects of citizenship and education. Drawing from Argentine governmental and German-language sources, this study adds new perspectives to the study of immigration and education in Argentina. Scholars have typically examined the imposition of nationalist education policy on immigrant groups or focused on how Argentine cultural and government elites reacted to immigrants’ efforts to create schools. This paper highlights how immigrant educators and parents contested state authority by engaging in a dialogue with public education bureaucrats.

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