How Denmark forever has a place in Argentina’s heart

The histories of the two countries have been intertwined for nearly two centuries

Denmark has been of great significance to the development of Argentina, where Danish immigrants and their descendants have contributed with their entrepreneurial spirit, cultural, social and economic values throughout the last two centuries. The 40th anniversary of the coronation of HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark is a good occasion to tell Danes unfamiliar with this part of our common history how important the Danish people have been and always will be to Argentina.

The Danes have an admirable ability to keep an open mind towards the world around them while conserving the identity that unites them as a people. They are deeply attached to their common social and cultural values, which are also represented and promoted by the queen of Denmark through her personal commitment to democracy and social justice, as well as her vivid interest in cultural variety. Because of these qualities, her majesty has not only ensured the good reputation of Denmark all over the world, but also the support and high esteem of the Danish people towards her as their head of state.

The diplomatic relations between Denmark and Argentina emerged at a time when Argentina was still in the process of defining itself as a nation state, institutionally as well as politically. Argentina is a country of immigration, and it was especially European settlers, who played a fundamental role in the building up of the Argentine community. The first Danish settlers arrived in Argentina in around 1840, and they distinguished themselves by initiating the massive change of agricultural practice in certain regions of Argentina that had only been used for keeping cattle.

Clear evidence of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Danes can be found in the town of Tandil, where the remains of the very first wheat mill in Argentina still exists. It was built by the Danish pioneer Hans Christensen Fugl (1811-1900), who became known by the Argentine people as Juan Fugl and was one of the first to settle and become a farmer southeast of the capital Buenos Aires.

Fugl also contributed as a founder of the Danish community that emerged around the local, protestant church. In the absence of an ordained, protestant clergyman, Fugl acted as such and took on the organising of the local community.

From that point on, numerous Danish settlers joined the community. It is estimated that about 13,000 Danes crossed the Atlantic to start a new life in Argentina during the period from 1848 to 1930, while others migrated to North America. Many of the Danes who went to Argentina were relatives or friends of Danes already settled there. About 60 percent of these newcomers ended up settling in Argentina and became part of ‘The Danish Triangle’ composed of the towns of Tandil, Tres Arroyos and Necochea, 400-500 kilometres southeast of Buenos Aires. The production of wheat, which was mainly run by the Danish farmers, prospered and became an economic factor of great importance to the country.  

Today the descendants keep cooking Danish dishes, conserving Danish traditions and speaking the Danish language. They are fully integrated, yet they still keep their ancestors’ culture alive, for instance by participating in association activities and social events. The celebration of the Danish højskole (a liberal folk high school) with festive days once a year is a very popular event. The old-fashioned Danish desserts such as lemon mousse and Danish Christmas pudding are also enjoyed around Christmas, during the peak of the Argentine summer.  

The three towns in the Danish Triangle soon became characterised by a high level of education and a prosperous agricultural industry. The three towns underwent a dynamic organisational and economic development in a country that was encountering great social and economic expansion.  

The Danes are brave and adventurous people and throughout history they have explored even the most remote parts of the world. This open-mindedness also characterised their way of offering us their friendship, and we highly appreciate the productiveness and social conscience with which the Danish immigrants participated in the construction of the local communities that each of them became a part of.

With time, a most fruitful co-operation has emerged between Argentina and Denmark, including areas such as trade and cultural exchange. In Argentina, we have a great interest in nourishing this positive attitude of co-operation and a bonding of the two peoples, as well as strengthening political, economic and cultural links. In this sense, we must take full advantage of the possibilities offered today by the process of globalisation – particularly in the fields of science, technology, transportation, and communication.

At the same time we Argentinians would encourage to keep up the good work on the international scene promoting the values and priorities that the Argentinians and Danes share, such as our respect for human rights, freedom, equality for all, and international peace and justice.

Argentina takes this opportunity to associate itself with the joy and goodwill expressed by the Danish people during the jubilee of the queen.

On behalf of the Argentinian people, we would like to welcome her majesty to Argentina and encourage her to revisit the Danish Triangle that continues to have a very special place in the heart of the Argentinian people.