French Argentines

French Argentines (French: Franco-Argentins; Spanish: franco-argentinos) refers to Argentine citizens of full or partial French ancestry or persons born in France who reside in Argentina. French Argentines form one of the largest ancestry groups after Italian Argentines and Spanish Argentines. Between 1857 and 1946; 261,020 French people immigrated to Argentina.[2] Besides immigration from continental France, Argentina also received, as early as in the 1840s, immigrants with French background from neighboring countries, notably Uruguay,[3] thus expanding the French Argentine community. In 2006, it was estimated that around 6 million Argentines had some degree of French ancestry (up to 17% of the total population back then).[4]

French Argentines
Total population
17% of Argentina's population[1][better source needed]
Regions with significant populations
Throughout Argentina
Rioplatense Spanish.
Minorities speak French, Occitan and Basque.
Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Argentines of European descent · French people · French Americans · French Uruguayans

While Argentines of French descent make up a substantial percent of the Argentine population, they are less visible than other similarly-sized ethnic groups. This is due to the high degree of assimilation and the lack of substantial French colonies throughout the country.

French immigration to ArgentinaEdit

During the first half of the 19th century, most of French immigrants to the New World settled in the United States and in Uruguay. While the United States received 195,971 French immigrants between 1820 and 1855, only 13,922 Frenchmen, most of them from the Basque Country and Béarn, left for Uruguay between 1833 and 1842. During this period of time, Uruguay received most of French immigrants to South America as the conflictual relationship between Rosas and the French government had created a xenophobic climate against French immigrants in the Buenos Aires province. After the fall of Rosas in 1852, Argentina overtook Uruguay and became the main pole of attraction for French immigrants in Latin America.

Percentage of French immigrants within Argentina's subdivisions, according to the 1914 Argentine census

From the second half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, Argentina received the second largest group of French immigrants worldwide, second only to the United States. Between 1857 and 1946 Argentina received 239,503 French immigrants - out of which 105,537 permanently settled in the country. By 1976, 116,032 had settled in Argentina. French immigration to Argentina can be divided in three main periods, as follows: France was the third source of immigration to Argentina before 1890, constituting over 10% of immigrants, only surpassed by Italians and Spaniards; from 1890 to 1914, immigration from France, although reduced, was still significant; lastly, after WWI, the flow of French immigrants was minimal and only grew again after WWII to finally stop in the 1950s.

In 1810, Buenos Aires had a population of 28,528 inhabitants, including 13 French citizens.[5] At the beginning of the 19th century, French immigration to Argentina was not substantial. Mainly constituted of political exiles and former officers from the imperial army, it became more considerable from the year 1825, reaching up to 1,500-2,000 French immigrants some years.[6] In 1839, it was estimated that 4,000 Frenchmen were living in the province of Buenos Aires, this figure increased to 12,000 in 1842.[7] From the next decade, French people started to migrate to Argentina in large numbers.

During the first period (1852–1890), French immigration was similar, in numbers and in features, to that of Italians and Spaniards. It belonged to a larger movement of emigration of Basque people, from both sides of the Pyrenees. French formed the largest group of immigrants to Argentina until 1854.[8] The country received 1,484 French immigrants in 1856,[9] Frenchmen still were the second most important immigrant group after Italians. The number of French immigrants present in the Buenos Aires Province reached 25,000 in 1859.[10] In 1861, 29,196 Frenchmen were registered in Argentina, including 14,180 living in the city of Buenos Aires where they represented the third largest foreign community and made up 7.5% of the population.[11] In 1869, at the time of the first national census, 32,383 Frenchmen lived in the country, or about 1.7% of the total population. Immigration from France increased dramatically in the first half of the 1870s (with a peak in 1873) and in the second half of the 1890s (61,382 immigrants in a three-year period). The last rise in figures is due to a policy conducted by the Argentine government in order to reduce the increasing importance of Italian immigration, for that purpose 132,000 free travel tickets were distributed in Europe between 1888 and 1890, 45,000 out of them were given in France. In 1887, there were 20,031 Frenchmen living in Buenos Aires, 4.6% of the 433,421 inhabitants.[12]

During the second stage (from 1890 to 1914), French immigration was more similar to those of Germans and Britons, and was characterized by a reduced net migration rate, with the exception of the year 1912 when immigration raised as a result of propaganda led by the Argentine government in Southern France to fill in the gap caused by the prohibition of emigration from Italy to Argentina in 1911. In 1895, after the largest wave of French immigrants had settled in Argentina, they were 94,098, i.e. 2.3% of the total population (33,185 of them were living in the city of Buenos Aires where they represented the third largest foreign community and made up 4.9% of the population). Only the United States had a higher number of French expatriates, with over 100,000 Frenchmen having immigrated there. At the turn of the 20th century figures started to decrease as immigration from France declined and previously established immigrants merged within the population. It was estimated that 100,000 Frenchmen were living in Argentina in 1912, 67% of the 149,400 Frenchmen living in Latin America and the second largest community worldwide after the United States (125,000).[13] In 1914, 79,491 Frenchmen were registered, accounting for 1% of the Argentine population. Between 1895 and 1914, French immigrants are the only foreign group in Argentina whose numbers (both absolute and relative) shrank in the total population.

The flow decreased dramatically during WWI. After 1918, French immigrants to Argentina numbered 1,500 per year and had a slightly positive net migration rate. The flow of French immigrants then gradually dried up. In the 1960s, around 4,000 Pieds-Noirs immigrated to Argentina from the newly independent Algeria, they constituted the last large migration from France to Argentina.

French immigration represented 5% of the flow of immigrants to Argentina until the 1870s, reached its maximum (around 12% of immigrants) in the 1870s-1880s, decreased to 4% at the end of the 20th century, and only represented 1% of immigrants in the 1920s. The year 1890, when it culminated (22% of immigrants), shows the decline of French immigration to Argentina, at the moment when the phenomenon of mass immigration to Argentina started. This is probably due to the financial crisis in 1890 and to an early demographic shift in France: population growth was slow between 1890 and 1913, limiting the need for emigration, contrary to neighboring European countries. Immigration to Argentina also showed a shift in the 1890s: while from 1860 to 1890, most of immigrants from the European countryside settled in the countryside, from 1890 to 1930 they started to settle in the cities.[14] This could explain why French immigrants, most of them from a rural background, were more drawn to settle in North America from 1890 onwards, where access to land property was easier.

Half of French immigrants until the second half of the 20th century came from Southwestern France, especially from the Basque Country, Béarn (Basses-Pyrénées accounted for more than 20% of immigrants), Bigorre and Rouergue. Other important groups came from Savoy and the Paris region. It was estimated that at least 70% of French immigrants in Tandil were coming from the Southwestern part of the country and that half of them were of Basque stock. Until the 1880s, the great majority of French immigrants to Argentina were from the Pyrenees. Basques started settling in Argentina in the 1830s, then they began heading towards Chile and the United States in the 1870s.

Today it is estimated that up to 17% of Argentines have partial French ancestry. French Argentines formed a large portion of the elite of the country. In 1959 it was estimated that 7% of the upper-class of Buenos Aires was of French background, their ancestors having settled in the country between 1840 and 1880.[15]

While found throughout the country, they are most numerous in Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Córdoba, Mendoza and Tucumán provinces. According to the national census of 1895, 37.3% of Frenchmen settled in Argentina lived in the province of Buenos Aires, 35.2% in the city of Buenos Aires, 10.9% in Santa Fe and 5.1% in Entre Ríos. In the Buenos Aires province, they mostly settled south of a line uniting the partidos of Tandil and Azul, their presence being particularly noticeable in the town of Pigüé.

As of 2010, almost 15,000 French citizens[16] are living in Argentina, the community may be higher though.

French colonies in ArgentinaEdit

A chapel in Villa Nogués.

In 1857, an immigrant from Béarn, Alejo Peyret, founded the first farming colony in Entre Ríos, San José. In 1864, out of 380 families living in San José, 125 were from Savoy.[17]

The town of Pigüé, founded by 165 Occitan-speaking French immigrants from Rouergue in 1884, is considered a focal center of French culture in Argentina.[18] It is estimated that 30% to 40% of Pigüé's modern inhabitants can trace their roots to Aveyron and they still speak Occitan.

According to the 1869 census, a quarter of immigrants to the province of Mendoza were from France. In 1895, they made up 15% of immigrants of the province, right after Italians and Spaniards (26.1% and 17.3% respectively). Frenchmen were particularly numerous in the wine-producing departments of Maipú, Luján and in the French colony of San Rafael, founded by engineer Julio Gerónimo Balloffet.[19]

In 1904, the governor of Tucumán founded a town carrying his name, Villa Nougués, as a replica of Boutx in Haute-Garonne, a French village where his family traced their roots back to.

In most cases, however, the French immigrants were not numerous enough to remain distinct from other Argentines. There was no religious barrier for the most part, with the vast majority being Catholics. The language barrier to learning Castilian was also low, especially for the native French and Occitan speakers, and they picked up Castilian quickly.


French immigration has left a significant mark on Argentina, with a notable influence on the arts, culture, science and society of the country. In particular, many emblematic buildings in cities like Buenos Aires, Rosario, and Córdoba were built following French Beaux-Arts and neoclassical styles, such as the Argentine National Congress, the Metropolitan Cathedral, or the Central Bank building. In particular, landscape architect Carlos Thays, in his position as 1891 Director of Parks and Walkways, is largely responsible for planting thousands of trees, creating the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden and giving the city much of its parks and plazas that are sometimes compared to similar designs in Paris.

The National Bank building in Buenos Aires.

Important contributions to the arts include the works of Eugène Py, considered the founding pioneer of Argentine cinema, as well as the development of new literary genres by writers like Paul Groussac or Julio Cortázar. In the field of science, two Argentine Nobel Prize laurates were of French descent, Bernardo Houssay, 1947 laurate in Medicine, and Luis Federico Leloir, 1970 laurate in Chemistry.

Four former heads of state were born to French fathers: Supreme Directors Juan Martín de Pueyrredón[20] and José Rondeau[21], as well as Presidents Carlos Pellegrini[22] and Hipólito Yrigoyen[23], while several others had French ancestry, including Juan Perón[24], and de facto military Presidents Alejandro Lanusse[25], Carlos Lacoste, and Alfredo Saint-Jean. Former First Lady Eva Perón also had French background.[26]

In 1851, Captain Louis Tardy de Montravel wrote that the city of Buenos Aires was stamped by French influence, French literature and language being there more widespread than anywhere else. According to him, this preference for France was not due to a capricious and brief craze, rather the result of a natural liking and a perfect similarity between French and Argentine characters, underlining the same lightness of being, the same quick-wittedness and liveliness, as well as the same kindness to foreigners and the similar ability for international influence.[27]


Lunfardo is an argot of the Castilian language as spoken in Argentina which appeared in Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century. It encompasses a lot of words and expressions from languages spoken by immigrants, notably Italians, Spaniards and French. Lunfardo is heavily used in tango lyrics. After 1912, as tango became popular in Paris, French expressions were incorporated into tango lyrics and made their way into Lunfardo. It has now become an integral part of the Castilian spoken in Argentina and some of these words are still used on a daily basis.


  • Beguén - Crush (from the French béguin -crush-)
  • Bulín - Digs (from the French boulin -hole in the wall of a dolecote where the pigeons nest-)
  • Buyón - Food (from the French bouillon -broth-)
  • Calotear - To steal (from the French calotter -to steal-)
  • Dragonear - To flirt (from the French draguer -to flirt-)
  • Fané - Worn out (from the French fané -withered-)
  • Franelear - To caress, to heavy pet (from the French faire flanelle -to go to a whorehouse without making use of any woman-)
  • Macro - Pimp (from the French maquereau -pimp-)
  • Marote - Head (from the French marotte -hatstand-)
  • Ragú - Hunger (from the French ragoût -stew-)
  • Toilette - Bathroom (from the French toilettes -bathroom-)

Argentine localities with names originating from FranceEdit

Buenos Aires ProvinceEdit

Córdoba ProvinceEdit

Corrientes ProvinceEdit

Entre Ríos ProvinceEdit

La Pampa ProvinceEdit

Misiones ProvinceEdit

Santa Cruz ProvinceEdit

Santa Fe ProvinceEdit

Tucumán ProvinceEdit


Yearly French immigration to Argentina from 1857 to 1897
Year French immigrants Total immigrants % French immigrants
1857 276 4,951 5.6%
1858 193 4,658 4.1%
1859 251 4,735 5.3%
1860 385 5,656 6.8%
1861 148 6,301 2.3%
1862 203 6,716 3%
1863 397 10,408 3.8%
1864 426 11,682 3.6%
1865 513 11,797 4.3%
1866 609 13,696 4.4%
1867 991 13,225 7.5%
1868 1,223 25,919 4.7%
1869 1,465 28,958 5%
1870 2,396 30,898 7.7%
1871 1,988 14,621 13.6%
1872 4,602 26,208 17.6%
1873 7,431 48,382 15.4%
1874 5,654 40,674 13.9%
1875 2,633 18,532 14.2%
1876 2,064 14,532 14.2%
1877 1,996 14,675 13.6%
1878 2,025 23,624 8.6%
1879 2,149 32,717 6.6%
1880 2,175 26,643 8.2%
1881 3,612 31,431 11.5%
1882 3,382 41,041 8.3%
1883 4,286 52,472 8.2%
1884 4,731 49,623 9.5%
1885 4,752 80,618 5.9%
1886 4,662 65,655 7.1%
1887 7,036 98,898 7.1%
1888 17,105 130,271 13.1%
1889 27,173 218,744 12.4%
1890 17,104 77,815 22%
1891 2,915 28,266 10.3%
1892 2,115 39,973 5.3%
1893 2,612 52,067 5%
1894 7,107 54,720 13%
1895 2,448 61,226 4%
1896 3,486 102,673 3.4%
1897 2,835 72,978 3.9%
Total 154,554 1,698,654 9.1%
French immigrants to Argentina from 1857 to 1909
Year period French immigrants Total immigrants % French immigrants
1857–1870 2,789 178,883 1.6%
1871–1890 126,560 1,107,201 11.4%
1891–1909 56,400 2,086,339 2.7%
Total 185,749 3,372,423 5.5%
French immigration to Argentina from 1857 to 1924
Entrances Departures Balance
226,894 120,258 106,623
French immigrants to Argentina from 1915 to 1953
Year period French immigrants
1915–1920 9,800
1921–1930 13,000
1931–1935 5,200
1936–1939 7,800
1944–1948 2,700
1949–1953 3,300
French immigration to Argentina from 1857 to 1946
Entrances Departures Balance
239,503 133,966 105,537
French net migration to Argentina from 1857 to 1976
Year period French immigrants
1857–1860 578
1861–1870 4,292
1871–1880 10,706
1881–1890 69,363
1891–1900 11,395
1901–1910 11,862
1911–1920 -1,352
1921–1930 739
1931–1940 626
1941–1950 5,538
1951–1960 934
1961–1970 1,266
1971–1976 85
Total 116,032

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Les merveilleux francophiles argentins 1
  2. ^ "Plus d'un siècle d'immigration internationale en Argentine". Entre 1857 et 1946, 261 020 Français sont entrés dans le pays, dont 37% ont décidé de s'installer définitivement (page 158).
  3. ^ "Inmigración francesa al Río de la Plata". En Argentina, muchos de los descendientes de franceses que viven en el país, tienen evidencia de que sus antepasados vivieron en un primer momento en el Uruguay. La guerra civil uruguaya acontecida entre 1843 y 1844 originó el éxodo de muchos inmigrantes hacia la Argentina.
  4. ^ "Canal Académie: Les merveilleux francophiles argentins–1". Il faut savoir qu’en 2006, 17% d’Argentins ont un ancêtre venu de France. Près de 6 millions d’Argentins ont donc des origines françaises.
  5. ^ "Les débuts de l'immigration allemande en Argentine". Au recensement municipal de 1810, comptait-on (...) 13 Français sur une population urbaine totale de 28.528 habitants.
  6. ^ Gilles Mathieu, in Une ambition sud-américaine. Politique culturelle de la France (1914-1940). L'Harmattan. 1991., Peu importante au tout début du XIXe siècle l’émigration française vers l’Argentine, constituée principalement d’exilés politiques et d’anciens officiers de l’armée impériale, prend, à partir de 1825, de l’ampleur et ce sont environ 1500 à 2000 Français, dans les meilleures années, qui se dirigent vers ce pays
  7. ^ Possible paradises: Basque emigration to Latin America. In 1839, four thousand Frenchmen (mostly Basques) lived in the province of Buenos Aires. By 1842, the number had increased to twelve thousand. (page 273).
  8. ^ "Franceses e ingleses: una inmigración influyente". Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2010. Los franceses representaban en 1854 el grupo mayoritario antes de la gran ola inmigratoria que tuvo lugar en 1857.
  9. ^ Dictionnaire universel théorique et pratique du commerce et de la navigation. (p. 434) Comme immigrants proprement dits, on a compté dans ce nombre 1,484 Français.
  10. ^ Histoire de l'émigration européenne, asiatique et africaine au XIXe siècle. Dans la province de Buénos-Ayres (...) la population était arrivée, en 1859, au chiffre de 320,000 habitants. (...) Sur ce nombre les étrangers comptaient au moins pour un quart (80,000 environ) dont 25,000 Français. (page 247).
  11. ^ Les exclus de la terre en France et au Québec, XVIIe-XXe siècles. La Statistique générale de la France fait état de 29 196 de nos ressortissants installés en Argentine en 1861 et de 94 098 Français en 1901. En 1869 et en 1895, les Français constituaient le troisième groupe national dans la capitale avec 7.5% de la population (14 180 personnes) et 4.9% (33 185 personnes) (page 273).
  12. ^ Historia social argentina en documentos. (p. 48) Origen de los habitantes de Buenos Aires (1887) - Franceses: 20.031 (4.6%).
  13. ^ L'Amérique latine et l'Europe à l'heure de la mondialisation. p. 194. Argentine : 100 000 (67%).
  14. ^ Las inversiones francesas en la Argentina, 1880-1920. p. 43. Se distinguen dos fases dentro del movimiento migratorio: de 1860 a 1890 predomina el pasaje del campo europeo al argentino; de 1890 a 1930, se impone el éxodo del campo europeo hacia las ciudades argentinas y sobre todo hacia la Capital.
  15. ^ Fazer a América. A análise das famílias da elite portenha de origem francesa (7% da classe alta da cidade em 1959) confirma esta hipótese, ao provar que os imigrantes que deram lugar a essas famílias chegaram ao país entre 1840 e 1880 (page 144).
  16. ^ "Maisons des Français de l'étranger". Au 31 décembre 2009, le nombre d'inscrits au registre des Français résidant hors de France était de 14 854.
  17. ^ La République Argentine by Charles Beck-Bernard, page 205. "Au 31 décembre 1863, la colonie de San-José comptait 2211 habitants, formant 380 familles, dont 190 sont suisses, 125 savoisiennes, 54 piémontaises et 11 allemandes."
  18. ^ "El mes de Francia en la ciudad de Pigüé". Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  19. ^ "L'émigration française viticole à Mendoza, en Argentine à la fin du XIXème siècle". Archived from the original on October 24, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2009. Des foyers de peuplement français se dessinent correspondant à des départements viticoles, comme Maipú, Luján (la majorité de la présence française se trouve dans le sud de la province, à San Rafael, une colonie française de peuplement).
  20. ^ "Juan Martín Mariano Pueyrredón O'Doggan". Son of Juan Martín Pedro Pueyrredón Labroucherie, born in France in 1738.
  21. ^ "José Casimiro Rondeau Pereyra". Son of Juan Bautista Rondeau Bourgeois, born in France in 1735.
  22. ^ "Carlos "Gringo" Pellegrini Bevans, Presidente de Argentina". Son of Carlos Enrique Pellegrini Berthet, born in France in 1800.
  23. ^ "Hipólito Yrigoyen Alem, Presidente de Argentina". Son of Martín Yrigoyen Dolhagaray, born in France in 1821.
  24. ^ "Gral. Juan Domingo Perón Sosa, Presidente de Argentina". Grandson of Dominga Dutey Bergougnan, born in Uruguay in 1844 to French parents
  25. ^ "General Alejandro Agustín Lanusse". Great-grandson of Jean Philippe Lanusse Mouras, born in France in 1811.
  26. ^ "María Eva Duarte Ibarguren". Granddaughter of Francisco Duarte (Huart) and María Etchegoyen, born in France in 1817 and 1823.
  27. ^ Le Correspondant, volume 48. La ville de Buenos-Ayres, écrivait en 1851 M. Tardy de Montravel, est marquée au cachet de la France. Notre littérature et notre langue elle-même y sont plus répandues que nulle part ailleurs. (...) Et cette préférence ne vient pas d'un engouement capricieux et passager, il est le résultat d'une sympathie naturelle que rien n'a pu détruire chez l'Argentin, et d'une similitude parfaite entre son caractère et le nôtre. Même légèreté de caractère, même vivacité dans l'esprit et les mouvements, même bienveillance envers les étrangers, égale facilité à ce rayonnement d'expansion internationale. (p. 703)