Alberto B Martínez.

The Argentine in the twentieth century [microform] online

. (page 7 of 33)
Online LibraryAlberto B MartínezThe Argentine in the twentieth century [microform] → online text (page 7 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


grooming, no complicated training ; and sometimes a single
hand is able to manage two teams and ploughs.

Thanks to the frequentation of these lands for centuries
by horses and cattle, these alluvial deposits, rich in natural
manures, have an apparently inexhaustible fertility,'
Awakened by labour from its eternal sleep, the soil is so
vigorous that one finds numerous instances where the same
grain, sown for twenty successive years in the same place,
yields always the same abundant harvest.

The only serious scourge which can menace the
creative power of the earth, independently of the always i
to be dreaded drought, is the invasion of locusts.



THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE ARGENTINE 77

These invasions take the form of flying armies of locusts
passing between earth and sky, and revealing their passage
by the serai-darkness they produce in the regions over
which they travel. Leaving the hot deserts of the tropical
regions, the locusts advance in their phalanxes, sometimes
50 or 60 miles across ; swarm succeeds swarm uninter-
ruptedly for several days, leaving behind them no trace of
vegetation. They fill the wells, stop the trains, by opposing
veritable barriers of their bodies, obstruct the rivers in which
they drown, and sometimes even, by the accumulation
of their bodies, form a bridge over which the rear-guard can
pass.

Serious though this danger may be, especially in the
more exposed provinces, such as Santa Fe, we must say, in
honour to,the Argentine Republic, that it has never paralysed
initiative ; as is proved by the continuous increase in the
area of sown soil. Very fortunately, too, this plague, like
that of Egypt's in Pharaoh's dream, is intermittent, and an
interval of seven years often passes before its return. More-
over, various means are being put into practice for defence
against this formidable evil ; means for preventing the re-
production of the insect, or of checking its development
before the period of flight.

A special organisation has been formed under the name
of the " Commission of Agricultural Defence," in order to co-
ordinate and direct the work of protection from the devas-
tations of the locust, and considerable sums are devoted
to this object every year. Regiments, mobilised along the
line of passage, sweep the agglomerated masses of insects, in
dense ridges, towards the ditches full of quicklime in which
they are buried. Hundreds of tons of locusts perish thus,
but unhappily the plague seems neither cured nor diminished.*



RiVEns

The economic progress of the Argentine Republic is
intimately connected with the development of its means of
communication, its trafiic-ways. The railways and the ports

* See Le Correspondent of the 10th of February, 1905, containing an article
by M. Emile Daireaux.
F



78 THE ARGENTINE IN THE 20th CENTURY

have been the chief factors of the country's prosperity, as by
facilitating the outlet of agricultural products, they have
allowed the soil to attain its whole value.* It is therefore
pertinent to state, in some detail, how the Argentine is
equipped from this point of view, and the part played by
such equipment in the commercial development of the
country.

By the truly providential nature of its soil, the Argentine ^
is not only marvellously fertile, but is also a country largely /
opened up by waterways, and offering exceptional facilities \
from the point of view of international exchange.

One of the most notable peculiarities of this country is
that its rivers, which are, as it were, inland seas, accessible to
vessels of the highest tonnage, and, penetrating the very
heart of the most fertile regions, place it directly in com-
munication with the exterior. What is still more notable is
that these rivers flow with an almost constant current over
level beds, between perpendicular banks, so that the river-
banks form a series of natural ports, with wharves of in-
definite length. Nature has well prepared the way for the
handiwork of man.

The hydrographic system of the Argentine Republic falls
into three main groups : (1) the rivers tributary to the basin
of the Rio de la Plata ; (2) the rivers which terminate their
course in lakes or pools, or lose themselves in forming
marshes or salt swamps, and are finally absorbed by the
porous soil of the Pampa ; (3) the rivers which empty them-
selves into the ocean.

To the first group belong all the rivers which water the
Provinces of Corrientes, Entre Rios, Chaco, Jujuy, and Salta,
a portion of those of Santa Fe, Cdrdoba, and Buenos Ayres,
and the Territories of Chaco and Misiones. To the second jj
group belong all the water-courses of the Provinces of
Tucuman, Catamarca, Santiago de I'Estero, La Rioja, San
Juan, Mendoza, San Luis, the greater part of those of
C6rdoba, and part of those of Buenos Ayres. To the third

* Perhaps it need hardly be explained that the meaning of this statement is
that the rent of agricultural land reaches its par value when it is absolutely
accessible — say, beside a port. With high ocean freights and low railway
freights any land upon a railroad would be almost equally accessible economic-
ally — that is, it would reach almost its whole value. — [Teans.J



THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE ARGENTINE 79

group belong also a portion of the rivers of Buenos Ayres,
and all the rivei'S of Patagonia. As we have seen, the water-
ways of the Province of Buenos Ayres come under all three
headings.

The best-known river of the Republic, and that which .^
gives the Argentine its name, is the Rio de la Plata, formed
by the junction of two rivers no less important, the Parana
and the Uruguay. It forms an immense estuary, which pours
into the ocean the waters of a whole hydrographic system, a
vast basin occupying nearly 1,540,000 square miles, or a fourth
part of South America. This estuary is 25 miles wide at its
head, and where its waters reach the ocean attains a width
of no less than 217 miles, its average width being 111 miles;
and its superficial area covers 13,475 square miles.

Apart from certain hindrances of the nature of islands or \
sandbanks, the Rio de la Plata offers relatively easy access to
vessels of the highest tonnage making for Buenos Ayres or
towards the interior. Its level is influenced by the tides of
the ocean, and also suffers very violent changes when the
easterly or south-easterly winds pile up the waters ot the sea
in the estuary. ^

The river which is the continuation of the Rio de la Plata
towards the north, and with it forms the vital artery of the
Argentine, is the Parana ; its length is 2980 miles, of which
about one - half flows through Argentine territory. Its
width varies from 22 to 31 miles, and its average annual flow
is estimated at nearly 39,000 cubic yards per second, which
represents one and a half times that of the Mississippi, twice
that of the Ganges, four times that of the Danube, five times
that of the Nile, and nearly a hundred times that of the
Seine. It receives, in its turn, as an affluent, the Paraguay,
a river which traverses the country of the same name, and
thus places it in communication with the sea, by way of the
Parana and the Rio de la Plata,

This network of rivers forms a magnificent series of water-
ways. Rising from the central provinces of Brazil, the
Parana passes through the rich afforested regions of Chaco,
communicates by means of its affluent with Paraguay and
South Brazil, and then flows through the Provinces of
Corrientes, Entre Rios, and Santa Fe ; that is, through the



80 THE ARGENTINE IN THE 20th CENTURY

regions of great forests and wide holdings, and then empties
itself into the inland sea of the Rio de la Plata, where it
mingles with the Uruguay, another means of communication
between the Provinces of the East and the Atlantic Ocean. '

Concerning its navigability, here are some data taken
from an interesting little book by M. Georges Hersent on the
port of Rosario : —

" During nine months of the year the navigation from the
sea to the port of Rosario presents no difficulties to the great
transatlantic steamers; indeed, it may be said that their
maximum draught is limited only by the depth of the
' Canal Nuevo,' the new channel of Martin Garcia. Ships
drawing 22 to 23 feet can load at Rosario and leave directly
for the open sea, or come to discharge their cargo at the port.

" During the period of low water, which lasts for barely
three months in the year — from September to the end of
December — there are only two channels with a less depth
than 21 feet, that of Las Hermanas and that of Paraguayo.
In the former, the island of Las Hermanas separates the bed
of the river into two channels, of which the one most in
general use hitherto has a depth of only 20 feet ; but vessels
may avoid it to-day, as the western channel has been dredged
and deepened, and is of more than sufficient depth.

" The second channel, which used to present some difficulty,
is that of the Paraguayo, where there was only 17 feet of
water. This state of things was happily not permanent, as
the National Government has undertaken, at this spot, the
work of deepening and levelling the Parana, which was
completed in the course of the year 1904.

" We may add that the State is engaged in maintaining,
over a minimum width of 108 yards, a depth of 19 feet below
the level of low water in the channel of Martin Garcia, and
of 21 feet 1| inches over the whole course of the Parana, as
far as Rosario. This maintenance will be necessary only at
certain points in the river, as the depth of the latter is in
general considerably above those figures."

As we have already said, the real commercial value of

the Parana lies in the peculiarity of its banks, which make

it along its whole course a series of natural quays. These

{ banks form in many places almost vertical walls, and as the



THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE ARGENTINE 81

bed of the river is almost everj'^where 25 feet below the
surface, it follows that ships of large tonnage can not only
ascend the river as far as the city of Rosario, or even to
Colastine, but can moor themselves alongside the banks as to
a quay, without any labour or preparation being necessary.

At some places — as at Rosario for example — the bank
properly so-called is overhung by low cliffs, forming a kind
of promontory raised many feet above the water-level, so
that it is possible to utilise this difference of level in loading
cargoes. By means of inclined planes or gangways, called
canaletas, the goods collected in warehouses built upon the
banks are quickly, thanks to the slope of the gangways, run
into the holds of the vessels moored to the banks. It will
be admitted that these conditions are unusually favourable
to navigation, and explain the extraordinary development of
a country in which nature has thus surpassed herself.

Regarded as traffic-ways, these rivers play a part of the \^
highest importance, by giving easy access to the sea, \^
without re-shipment, to provinces more than 600 miles inland, y.
such as those, for instance, of Chaco and Corrientes,

The Rio de la Plata affords a natural traffic- way, accessible
to all vessels, between Buenos Ayres and Montevideo, which
are more than 120 miles apart. All the large transatlantic
steamers which used some time ago to put in at La Plata
now come up to Buenos Ayres, which has thus become the
headquarters of a dozen wealthy steamer-lines engaged in
the European service.

Thanks to the works established for the deepening of the
Parana and the regularising of its course through the sandy
districts, great steamers of 10,000 tons can to-day go up to
Rosario : steamers of 6000 tons can easily reach Parana or
Colastine ; and special boats built for the river service can
ascend a.3 far as Corrientes, and from there towards Brazil,
Paraguay, or Uruguay : a distance of more than 1200 miles.

Besides these "flowing roads," we must mention others,
which, although of less importance, are none the less destined
to exercise a beneficent influence over the economic life of
the premier province, and the development of its agriculture,
thanks to the cheap transit which they will offer in time
to come. We refer to the network of canals which the



82 THE ARGENTINE IN THE 20th CENTURY

Government of the Province of Buenos Ayres has projected or
put in hand.

In the first edition of this book we announced the con-
struction of a canal 155 miles in length, which would unite
the Mar Chiquita, its point of origin, and Baradero, its
terminus ; embracing in its course the following centres of
rural produce ; Laf orcade, Junin, O'Higgins, Chacabuco, Salto,
Arrecifes, and Baradero. This enterprise, which was put in
hand at the expense of the Province of Buenos Ayres, failed
with a crash. After the work had been enthusiastically
commenced, after several millions of dollars had already been
spent, it was discovered that the work could never be
completed in a successful manner, nor could it ever yield a
return for the sums raised, which were thus swallowed up in
this disastrous enterprise.

Men whose technical competence allowed them to speak
with authority — for instance, the engineer, Luis A. Huergo —
basing their statements on scientific principles, had estimated
that the undertaking could never be practically realised ;
and, as we have seen, the result justified their predictions.

Ports and Harbours

The nature of the river-banks being such as we have
described, the ports utilised by trade along the course of the
great Argentine rivers are very numerous.

After La Plata and Buenos Ayres, which share the traffic
of the northern part of the Province of Buenos Ayres, we
must mention Campana and Zarate, for at these two ports
also the exports of frozen meat are very considerable ; San
Nicolas, a great centre for cereals, whose harbour is to be
transformed and equipped by the new concessionnaire, the
" Soci^te Anonyme du Port et Entrepot de San Nicolas " ; and
Villa Constitucidn, whence the produce of the south of Santa
Fe and C6rdoba is exported, and whose capacity is 7000 to
8000 sacks a day.

After Rosario, which is the second centre of the Republic,
the chief ports ascending the Parana are as follows : San
Lorenzo, Diamante, Santa Fe, Colastin^ Parana, Esquina,
Goya, Bella Vista, and Empedrado, Corrient^s is the last
important commercial centre on the banks of the Parana.



THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE ARGENTINE



88



All these ports had an annual tonnage amountinor to
2,188,000 tons in 1906, 2,366,000 in 1907, and 5,396,000 in
1908, so that the statistics for these three years of the traffic
for the Parana, including Rosario, amounts in round figures
to 9,891,000 tons, for the distance of 80-i miles.

At Santa Fe work has been commenced on the installa-
tion of a more modern harbour ; the Province, by consent
of the State, has devoted a sum of £6,000,000 to this under-
taking. There has also at times been a question of equipping
the port of Colastine, which is one of the principal centres
of export for cereals and the timber brought by the French
railway system of Santa F^. The average trade passing
through this port amounts to more than 500,000 tons, and,
so far, there has been no need to add any improvements to
the natural advantages of the river-banks. We see by this
that there is no need to create ports on the Parana, only to
utilise or develop existing conditions.

"We give below a table of the trade statistics of the
principal ports of the Argentine Republic, remembering that
with the exception of Buenos Ay res their trade consists
largely of the exports of produce : —

Traffic in Registered Tons at the following ports in the
years 1907 an(?1908.

Rio Gallegos*

Madryn*

Commodore RivadaA'ia*

Ushuaia*

Diamante

Santa Fe

Parana

Esquina

Goya

Bella Vista

Empedrado

Corrient^s

Rosario
Buenos Ayres ...

The premier port of the Argentine, and we might add
of South America, is Buenos Ayres, which in extent and
connections rivals the finest ports of Europe.

*The tonnage of these ports is for the years 1904 and 190G, no correspond-
ing figures being obtainable for 1907 and 1908.



1907


1908


63,500


41.000


118,000


19,900


59,000


1,990


25,000


11,800


131,000


375,000


127,000


440,000


253,000


636,000


117,000


374,000


163,000


404,000


136,000


399,000


116,000


.306,136


230,000


504,433


1,089,000


1,924,000


6,471,000


7,555,000



84 THE ARGENTINE IN THE 20th CENTURY

It consists of two harbours, of which one, situated at
the mouth of a little river called Riachelo, is frequented
principally by steamers of light draught and sailing-ships ;
the other is known as the Port of the Capital, or more
commonly Port Madero, from the name of the contractor
responsible for the harbour works. The port contains, alto-
gether, four basins and 6^ miles of quays, four of which are
situated on the flank of the city. Along these quays
are disposed immense warehouses, able to contain 29
millions of tons of merchandise, as well as great flour-
mills and grain-elevators, with a capacity of more
than 200,000 tons, which cost more than £1,000,000
sterling.*

This harbour has cost in all some £7,000,000, and every
year a sum of nearly 3 millions of paper piastres, or
£200,000, is spent upon the work of maintaining the channel
of approach at a proper depth. At the season when the
traffic is densest, the port holds as many as 1400 steamers
and sailing-vessels, loading and unloading. It is evident
that, with the constant increase of commercial activity,
further enlargements will soon be necessary. The Govern-
ment is at the present moment considering a gigantic
scheme of improvement, with a view to which several
groups of European contractors have already submitted
estimates.

In order to give some idea of the importance of the plant
at the disposal of exporters at Buenos Ayres, we need only
speak of the great market or embarcardero for live-stock.
It covers an area of 350,000 square yards, of which 117,000
are occupied by buildings ; its capacity is 40,000 sheep and
more than 1500 cattle.

There is also another notable establishment, reputed to
be the largest in the world: the Central- Produce Market.
The building is of four stories, covers an area of 180,000
square yards, and cost £830,000.

The following table shows the quantities, in metric tons,

♦ The net capacity of the customs warehouBes is over 400,000 tons ; as
products remain there on an average for two months, we have an annual figure
of 6x400,000 = 2,400,000 tons. This is the maximum of goods per annum
which the customs depots can at present receive.



THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE ARGENTINE 85



of products entering the market between February and
September in 1905, 190G, 1907 and 1908.







Tons of


2205 lbs.






190S


1906


1907


.908


Maize


721


fi,882


9,600


10,742


Wheat


34,24«


50,379


73,LM5


47,a(;G


Flax


1,115


3,G36


5,584


10,757


Barley


83


368


1,361


1,695


Oats


LG88


3,624


6,685


15,737


Hides and skins


17,713


18,541


17,115


22,371


Other products


1,786


1,838


1,804


2,165



Besides these products, in 1906 there were 87,400 tons of
wool entered at the market; in 1907, 84,600 tons ; and during
the first nine months of 1908, nearly 43,000 tons. If the
year 1908 seems to show a great decrease in the entry of
wools, the fact is really due to the larger amounts entered
in October, November, and December, which are not included
in the figures for 1908.

These figures show the importance of this establishment
to Argentine trade. It is not a mere dep6t, as one might
suppose, but a veritable Exchange, where important trans-
actions take place in all the chief products of the country.

The port of Buenos Ayres owes its rapid development to
this excellent equipment. In 1880, before the scheme of
works was commenced, its trade amounted scarcely to
660,000 tons ; since then it has maintained a constant
increase, and now reaches the figure of more than 13,000,000
tons.

Below is the inward and outward trade of the port of
Buenos Ayres : —

Tonnage.
... 7,365,000

8,115,000
... 8,742,000
... 8,047,000
... 8,(361,000
... 8,903.000
... 10,269,000



Years.
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
1906
1907
1908



10,400,000
11,589,000
12,582,000
13,295,000
15,111,000



To appreciate the value of these figures, we must compare



86 THE ARGENTINE IN THE 20th CENTURY

them with those relating to the principal ports of the world,
where we shall see that Buenos Ayres occupies, in matters
of tonnage, the twelfth place among the ports of the world.
The tonnage of Hamburg and Liverpool, which occupy the
first two places, is only about 40 per cent, greater than that
of Buenos Ayres.

The importance of the port of Buenos Ayres is chiefly
due to the fact that it handles nearly all the imports of the
Republic — 84 per cent, in 1908 — while of exports it handles
51 per cent. This confirms what we have already said of
the absorption, by Buenos Ayres, of a great portion of the
vital forces of the country, which develops it disproportion-
ately to the rest of the country. The equipment of the new
ports of Rosario, San Nicolas, and Santa Fe, and the enlarge-
ment of the port of Bahia Blanca, will constitute a useful
task of decentralisation, favourable to the economic future
of the country.

La Plata has the advantage over Buenos Ayres of a
deeper basin, which renders its harbour accessible at all
times to ships of the highest tonnage. Until 1903 it was
the point of call for the large transatlantic liners outward
or inward bound, which observed fixed hours of arrival and
departure.

The harbour of La Plata, 3 miles from the town, contains
about 2700 yards of quays and immense warehouses, capable
of storing 600,000 sacks of grain. It is the terminus of the
lines of railway serving the richest districts of the Province
of Buenos Ayres, and is destined to undergo further develop-
ments, as the provincial Government intends to connect it
with the agricultural centres by a network of light railways.
This is the principal port to-day for the exportation of the
agricultural products of the central Pampa.

On account of the economic importance of this port, the
State has taken it over from the provincial Government,
in consideration of a price of £2,360,000, with a view to
nationalising it and exploiting it for the benefit of the
Argentine State. This measure will allow of the organisa-
tion and the improvements which may be necessitated by
the increase of its trafl^ic. On the other hand, there is
constant talk of connecting the port with that of Buenos



THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE ARGENTINE 87

Ayres by a canal some 29 miles long, which would form an
artificial extension of both liarbours.

Rosario holds second place in the Argentine, both in the
matter of population and in the extent of its trade. It is
the true agricultural capital of the Republic, and the principal
outlet of eight Provinces, which use the Parana as their
waterway. In his little book on the port of Rosario, M. G.
Hersent speaks of the advantages of its situation in the
following terms : —

" Situated in the very centre of an immense tract of
country which is extremely rich and fertile, which to-day
furnishes more than half the cereals exported by the whole
Republic, Rosario is the necessary outlet of the harvests of
nearly the whole Province of Santa F^, of the whole of
Cordoba, and of a portion of Entre Rios ; three provinces,
whose area is almost equal to that of France. It is the
market for the sugars and alcohols of Tucuman, the timber
of Catamarca, and the minerals of Rioja and Chaco, which are
80 far exploited only in a rudimentary fashion.

" In order to fulfil this economic need of vital importance
to the country, Rosario enjoys the most complete and
eflBcacious means of access and penetration. Five great
railroads converge upon it, bringing to it all the products
of the interior, especially grain and cattle. This network of
lines, whose rapid creation has been one of the most power-
ful factors of the development of Rosario, already contains
more than 2700 miles of permanent way ; in 1899 the traffic
in the Rosario district already amounted to 3,400,000 tons
of merchandise, consisting chiefly of the produce of the soil.
The extension of this railway system is proceeded with in a
more or less continuous manner, so as to increase the value
and the opening up of new countries. Very shortly the line



Online LibraryAlberto B MartínezThe Argentine in the twentieth century [microform] → online text (page 7 of 33)