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The price of land varies in the different Provinces, and even in the same Province, according to location. Thus, in the department of Patagones, in the extreme southwest of the Province of Buenos Aires, the average price of an acre of land was, in 1888, $1.62, while in the department of Barracas al Sud, separated from the city of Buenos Aires by the Riachuelo, the average price was $1.84 per acre. In many departments, land can be acquired at the rate of 40 cents per acre, and even less.
In the Province of Santa Fé, land is cheaper than in the Province of Buenos Aires. Near the city of Santa Fé, good land can be acquired at the rate of 81 cents per acre, while in the department of Rosario, the price rises to $600 per acre.
In the Province of Entre Rios, blessed with the most fertile soil of the Republic and a perfect river system, land is cheap, scarcely exceeding the price of $20 per acre.
In the Province of Corrientes, land is also cheap, and the soil of this Province is also good. The average price is $8.10 per acre.
In the Provinces of Córdova and Tucuman, land is dearer than in Corrientes, while it is much cheaper in Santiago, San Luis, and the Andine Provinces of Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja, Catamarca, and the territorial governments.
The present state of agricultural prosperity has not been reached without encountering many obstacles, which it has taken time and energy to overcome. In this respect, it will be of interest to quote again from Monsieur Daireaux's book:
In 1854, the young Republic took from the United States its fundamental charter, already tried by half a century of constant prosperity. Gen. Urquiza was at the head of the Government, and was the first to conceive the plan of contracting in Europe for agricultural colonists to cultivate his extensive personal possessions. In the beginning, he helped them with his own private means and established them in fertile lands, which he sold them at very low prices.
These first colonists, who came from Switzerland, Savoy, and Berne, established themselves on the banks of the Uruguay River, where they founded the first agricultural colonies. The name of “colony" is justified by its organization. These colonies have been established little by little, their population being composed of a decided majority of foreigners, which makes them in truth foreign colonies within Argentine territory. In the beginning, these colonies were founded by the provincial governments, following the example of Gen. Urquiza. To-day, they are founded also by owners of great areas of land, who divide it into equal portions and offer it for sale. This system, however, did not meet with success for many years, and remained in its experimental stage from 1854 to 1870.
The difficulties to be overcome were numerous. At first sight, it would seem an easy matter to find in Europe men not satisfied with their condition, and willing to go to a healthy country and to establish themselves in the midst of fertile lands which do not require any preparatory work to be put under cultivation and offer no resistance to the passage of the plow, enriched, too, by three centuries of usage as grazing land for cattle and sheep.. Yet it was difficult to carry out the plan proposed. It was found almost impossible to divert the current of European immigration toward the Argentine Republic, whose name was then entirely unknown in Europe, while the name of Buenos Aires only served to remind Europeans of the recent outrages committed by Rosas.
At that time, no steamers were running between European and Argentine ports nor were even the great rivers of Argentine navigated with regularity, and not a mile of railroad had been built. In the United States, on the other hand, the were already in operation 10,800 miles of railroad lines.
And lastly, from the beginning it was shown that the creation of agricultural colonies demanded considerable outlay of money, and that was scarce, and might be lost by the failure of the crop. Only land abounded, but not the class of land that had attracted the first settlers of California and had yielded the capital required for the establishment of the first agricultural centers in that State. In Argentine, in order to raise any capital, it would have been necessary to sell many sheep at 60 cents a head (the price they brought in 1869) and great numbers of steers at from $3 to $4 each. It was, then, necessary for the colonies to be created by themselves, to extract from the earth, by the help of the plow, the capital required for their establishment and maintenance, which no one could give. It is greatly to their credit that they have been able to get out of so vicious a circle after so many years of struggle.
Within a few miles of the city of Santa Fe, and near the place where Sebastian Cabot, a European navigator, landed for the first time in 1525, the first colony was established by Swiss and French immigrants in the year 1854. True to its name, “Esperanza” (hope), it has realized every expectation, and the name is now an object of veneration throughout the country. After thirty years, the
colony has seen grow up in its neighborhood as many other colonies as the number of its primitive inhabitants.
The newer colonies have been the natural outgrowth of the first ones. The first immigrants that settled, after achieving the success they deserved, advised their countrymen beyond the sea to join them; and, thanks to this natural propaganda, numerous immigrants have swelled the number each year, the new arrivals finding everything prepared for them, and having no more to do than accept
the help offered them and begin work under the most favorable circumstances.
On his arrival in this vast region, which was almost deserted twenty years ago, but which since that time has been laid out every day with new agricultural farms, the immigrant always finds awaiting him a good opportunity of carrying into effect his good intentions. The population is too small in proportion to the new undertakings that spring up every day, and the newcomer, brought over by the desire of founding a home of his own, sees the possibility of making a fortune. Indeed, the only thing dear in this promising land is labor. By an anomaly which is explained by the facility of producing, the necessaries of life, which can already be had at cheaper rates than elsewhere, reduce their prices with the increase of population, as the increase in population means always an increase in the production. Thus, the price of meat, after fluctuating a little, has returned to what it was a century ago, which does not exceed 4 cents per pound when it is dear. High wages and cheap necessaries of life are the two elements which help to bring the immigrant nearer to the realization of his dreams. Association with other colonists is another means of helping him to acquire the land he requires.
The system of association has, from time immemorial, been practiced in all rural undertakings in the Argentine Republic. The cattle-owner has always applied it in his relations with his coöperators, and it is rare to find men employed at any given monthly sum; everywhere, the simple method of association prevails. The proprietor offers his land, the means to till it, the seeds, a house for the workman and his family, the members of which offer in return their labor and receive one-third, one-fourth, or one-half of the products, according to the contract made.
All owners of colonies follow this plan, as they usually possess more land than they can cultivate; and instead of having recourse to daily paid labor, prefer to associate with themselves the poor man, who has just landed, and who is taken under their care and given all the advantages possible to become, in his turn, after a few years of earnest work, an owner of land.
Th extent of cultivated territory increases so rapidly that everywhere laborer are needed. As far back as 1883, there were employed over 160,000 men to secure the harvest in a region of a normal population of 60,000 inhabitants, while the population of the rest of the Province of Santa Fé amounted to only 200,000.
The want of farm hands increases every year. Although the rural population is three times greater now than four years ago, it is necessary, in order to reap every new harvest, to import a great quantity of modern reaping machines. Eight thousand and eighty-nine of these machines have been imported during a single year, making, with the number imported before, a total value of $1,400,000.
Ten per cent of these machines come from the United States, while the remaining 90 per cent are obtained from England, although there is not one American or English farm hand. In 1881, a French Vierzon machine was exhibited at the Continental Exposition of Buenos Aires, and obtained the first prize; but the proverbial commercial audacity of the French remained satisfied with this demonstration; the English have continued to supply all the necessary machines, almost without competition, although the French machines have already beaten the English in all rural fairs.
Perhaps some doubt is entertained regarding the ability of the colonists to satisfy their obligations. But, do not these farmers deserve to be trusted after having cultivated, in 1887, 174,000 acres of land, producing 9,188,000 bushels of wheat and 21,000 tons of linseed, and obtaining more than $6,000,000 of net profits, which, after paying all expenses, gives a yearly increase of $60 in the fortune of each inhabitant, to which must also be added the increase in the value of the cultivated and surrounding land?
It is curious to show the increase in the cultivated territory of the Province of Santa Fé during the last thirty years, since the new colony was founded.
It is important to add here that in 1891, there were 260 colonies, covering an area of 1,400,000 acres, of which 470,000 acres were cultivated, a number of colonies and quantity of cultivated land
double those of 1887. It is also interesting to note the increase in the number of agricultural implements used from 1887 to 1891:
In proportion to their relative population, there were used in Santa Fé, in 1891, a number of steam thrashing machines eleven times greater than those used in France, and a number of reaping machines eight times greater than in that country. In 1887, the value of the crop was only $10,000,000, while in 1891, it was $30,000,000, an amount which, if divided among all the inhabitants of the Province, would make each one of them $100 better off. A wonderful result indeed.
Remembering, then, that for 1891, all of Monsieur Daireaux's figures must be multiplied by two, and that the increase in the production since 1891 has continued in the same proportion as before, let us now quote again from Monsieur Daireaux's book :
The production has increased in a greater proportion than the cultivated territory, and is calculated to be worth $16,000,000 in 1887. Nearly all of it is exported to Europe and to the other Provinces of the Republic. In 1870, while the agricultural exports of Santa Fé were worth only $300,000, in 1887, they had increased in value to $10,000,000. This sum, quite insignificant when compared with the production of other countries, is very important if considered in its true light; that is, as a point of departure, and attention is paid to the yearly increase in the cultivated area, as well as to the increase in the capital employed annually to develop this industry.
In this respect it is well to state that the actual cultivated area of the important Province of Buenos Aires is even greater than that of Santa Fé; and the combined cultivated area of the Provinces of Entre Rios and Córdoba, without mentioning other Provinces and territories, is also equal to that of Santa Fé.