Commonwealth and Foreign
IMMIGRATION TO LATIN AMERICA
By WILBUR BURTON DEMOGRAPHIC statistics would seem to indicate that the vast areas of Latin America—that is to say, South America, Central America and Mexico—should offer an appreciable outlet for surplus population elsewhere in the world. Continental Latin America comprises about 7,783,000 square miles with a population of not more than r r2,000,000, probably less, although there are no exact census figures in respect of many countries. Thus the continental Latin-American area is considerably more than twice that of Europe with a population little, if any, larger than Germany and Italy combined. Or, in terms of density, the Latin-American population averages not more than 14 a square mile, which is about one-third of the density prevailing in the United States as a whole and virtually infinitesimal compared with the density in most areas of Europe and Asia. The density in Italy, for example, is 344, and its topography is as unfavourable for agriculture as that of Mexico with a population density of only 22 to the square mile.
But from a practical viewpoint both now and in the predict- able future, I do not believe that Latin America is capable of accommodating more than a very insignificant number of immigrants from any part of the earth. Asiatics only could adopt themselves to conditions prevailing in most parts of the area, and if they were allowed to come in appreciable numbers it would mean such severe economic pressure (through lowering of living standards) against the present inhabitants that severe political repercussions would inevitably follow. Few Europeans could, or at least would be willing to adapt themselves to the generally existing standard of living, which is lower than in most European countries although higher than in Asia. Further, many of the tropical and sub-tropical areas of South and Central America are not inhabitable except by large and well-financed colonies equipped with modem weapons for conquest of the jungle. Finally, virtually all the Latin-American lands are today so imbued with chauvinistic nationalism that the type of immigrants who could make a place for themselves are usually discouraged ; both Brazil and Mexico, for example, could use many more skilled technicians than they now have, but the attitude of " Brazil for Brazilians " and "Mexico for Mexicans " generally prevents their entry in order that frequently incompetent natives may not be displaced. At the same time, however, there has often been justifiable resentment (especially in Mexico) of southern European immigrants who have entered the country ostensibly as farmers, but have quickly moved to the cities and engaged in sharp Levantine commercial competition with the kindly and easy-going native shop- keepers.
In times past, of course, Latin America has been settled extensively by European immigrants although never to the extent the United States was. In only three of all the Latin- American countries—Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil—does white blood predominate, and in Brazil its predominancy is by a narrow margin. In Uruguay and Argentina, however, the native Indians are of as little consequence as in the United States. While white settlement everywhere in Latin America excepting Brazil has been sufficiently Spanish to make that language and culture the ruling one, Italian immigration has been almost equally large. In Argentina 35 per cent.
of the population is of Italian origin, and in Uruguay 3o per cent. And in Brazil, which is primarily Portuguese, the population is 35 per cent. of Italian origin, and Italian immi-
gration since 182o has been greater than Portuguese immi- gration. The bulk of all these immigrants has been from the most poverty-stricken rural areas of their respective lands.
Only in Uruguay, Argentina and a small part of southern Brazil have conditions for settlement approached those which prevailed in the United States ; an equable climate, land that could be tilled by a minimum of individual effort, and a maximum of freedom for individual initiative. The rest of
Latin America, except for some isolated areas, ranges from forbidding tropical and sub-tropical jungle to extremely mountainous terrain that frequently in both Mexico and the Andean region is so lacking in rainfall as to require a vast amount of irrigation for cultivation ; also in Mexico and the Andean region were well established native civilisa- tions that could be conquered but not displaced like the Indians in the United States, and this tended to limit settle- ment to a few exploiting overseers. In consequence of the conditions outlined, Uruguay, Argentina and southern Brazil have been the sole areas which have tempted any appreciable number of northern European immigrants ; there have been a large number of British colonisers in Uruguay and Argentina and an even larger number of Germans in these two countries and in Brazil as well. Indeed, a part of southern Brazil today is overwhelmingly German. Three colonies of United States citizens—who could not stomach the Northern victory in the Civil War—were also established in Brazil, but only one survived ; it is called Villa Americana and now numbers 12,000 persons who speak English with that southern accent that has probably sometimes amazed English cinema-goers.
Today it may be said that Uruguay, which is a very small country, no longer offers any further room of consequence for immigrants from Europe, and the Government policy is to exclude Asiatics. Argentina is also following a policy of excluding Asiatics, but still welcomes European agri- cultural settlers—especially Nordics—for the extremely limited Government domain. For the bulk of the good land in Argentina is now in large-scale holdings and tilled by very poorly-paid agricultural labourers. Since 1914 immi- gration into Argentina has generally declined, the total number in the past 23 years being less than a million. And this, undoubtedly, has been all the country could absorb.
Brazil, which once encouraged immigration to a greater extent than any other Latin-American country, has recently started limiting it on a quota basis of 2 per cent. of the nationals of any land settled in the Republic during the previous so years. But in the last year for which figures are available, 1935, there were only 29,583 immigrants for a total of quotas amounting to 86,899. Only the Japanese sought to exceed their quota of 2,847, and 9,611 were actually admitted—which was the largest number of immigrants from any country during the year. There are now about 500,000 Japanese in Brazil, which is more than in any other country of the world outside Japan except in Tokyo-dominated Manchukuo, and there is much opposition to any further increase in Japanese immigration although certain groups are agitating to encourage it for cheap agricultural labour. Peru is the only other Latin-American country that has ever encouraged Japanese immigrants, but the total number there is only 5o,000. Under present economic conditions however, neither country can absorb even many Japanese for there is no prospect of any extensive agricultural or industrial expansion while capital is lacking for colonies that seek autarky.
Paraguay alone still offers some possibility for refugee colonies. In other countries the nationalistic political trend is against this type of settlement. Paraguay now has more than 6o foreign agricultural colonies, some of the earliest being established by emptying gaols in Germany and Italy. There are other more recent colonies of White Russians and the Mennonites who could not conform to either Soviet Russian or Canadian regulations. The latest colony, estab- lished by the. Nansen Commission of the League of Nations, is for refugees from the Saar. These colonies, however, must be largely self-sufficing and consequently require much capital ; further, the small size of Paraguay limits their possible number to such an extent that not much hope is offered a world where refugees are becoming an even more pressing problem than overpopulation.