It looks like we Europeans tempt to forget very quickly. My journey to Argentina kind of confirmed it. Walking next to a port I found former „Hotel de Imigrantes” – now a great museum and even if I knew that Argentina is a country of European immigrants, what I saw inside made me speechless.
This huge building was a place where all immigrants stayed for the first days. Since it was opened in the beginning of the 20th century it could host 4 000 immigrants and it was full practically all the time. They got so much needed medical check up, food and a place to sleep until they found a work. During 100 years more than 50 millions of European immigrants arrived here.
Argentineans say that their ancestors arrived with “right hand to the front and left hand to the back”. That means that they had to leave everything they had behind and the only thing they carried were the clothes they had on and hope that they will find better tomorrow.
Maybe you are asking why the hell Europeans were leaving their countries? The reasons weren’t very different from the reasons why people are leaving their countries now – not enough land, not enough food, not enough work, wars, persecution and a desperate situation people were living in. Families were saving money to send one of them, so he can earn more money and the rest of the family can travel too.
Now imagine those big ships that look like Titanic. All luxurious, people eating with silver dishes and having fancy parties. Well, immigrants travelled with these ships. It took 3-5 weeks, but they haven’t been allowed to go to the upper decks. They have been locked down where each of them had one square meter by law. Of course many times more tickets have been sold as it was allowed. But after they arrived to Argentina, they have been accepted as part of the society even if their numbers were so high.
In the museum I saw old passports from all over the world, black and white photos showing people getting off the ships, homeworks of kids written in broken spanish, letters written to family members telling that they are doing fine and that they are very happy to be in Argentina, small belongings that people took with them to remember their homeland where they will maybe never go back again.
After all the time I spent with people arriving on rubber boats to Europe recently, all these images look so familiar to me. It looks like in the end we all have the same wishes and dreams and we are all the same – humans.