Colonization Commission 


The Colonization Commission was an Argentine body created by the governor of Santa Fe José María Cullen (1823-1876), through Decree No. 3333 of August 28, 1855, in order to prepare the future colony of Esperanza and comply with the colonization contract signed on June 15, 1853 between Aarón Castellanos (1799-1880) and Governor Domingo Crespo (1791-1871).

The commission was chaired by Ricardo Foster (1808-1865), as president, who later founded the second agricultural colony of Santa Fe, José María Echagüe (1799-1867), Francisco Caracciolo Larrechea (1815-c. 1890), Tiburcio Aldao (1816-1871), Demetrio Iturraspe and Aarón Castellanos (1799-1880), founder of the first stable agricultural colony in Argentina. The objective of this commission was to introduce into the territory a thousand families of European farmers, chosen by Mr. Castellanos, all honest and hard-working and once established, they had to supply the inhabitants of land, ranch, flour, seeds, horses, cows and oxen.

Portrait of Aarón Castellanos (1799-1880), founder of Esperanza. 1856. Gabriel Oggier/Emilio Jullier. Historia de San Jerónimo Norte. Tomo I. 1984.

Photograph of Ricardo Foster (1808-1865), founder of San Jerónimo Norte. c. 1856. Gallery of Presidents of the Club del Orden, Province of Santa Fe, Argentine Republic.

Photograph of Francisco Caracciolo Larrechea Vera (1815-c.1890). Alexander Witcomb. Until 1848 he lived in Santa Fe and took care of his father Pedro Tomás de Larrechea (1776-1848) in the last years of his life. Then he joined the Unitarians.

Once the Colonization Commission was constituted, destined to comply with the colonization contract, it had to interact with the Society of Settlers and the most urgent measure required by the next arrival of European immigrants was the establishment of the place for the installation of the projected agricultural colony.

Castellanos in 1855 was in Europe. He notified the Government of Santa Fe, that in August he would embark from Dunkerque with 200 families; but because the reception was not ready, it was delayed.

On June 7 from Paris he warned that from September 20 to October 5 he would embark with 1000 settlers, 200 under the age of ten and some children under one year of age. Then the government rushed to form the Colonization Commission to prepare the colony, build the ranches, and fulfill the contracts. According to article 6 of said contract, the five colonies agreed with Aarón Castellanos (1799-1880) had to be founded in a vast region, a great distance from Santa Fe, that is, from the height of the old town of San Javier towards the North. This meant that the colony would be found "in the desert, inland from Santa Fe and in the middle of which there was not a single population, that is, in the vicinity of the Indians; mediating between this city and that land, the mighty river Salty, and between this river and the chosen place, great humid lands".

The speed with which the Government decided on such a location suggests that the economic damage that the isolation of the colony on the other side of the Salado could mean for the province was not taken into account. However, the commission, estimating with good judgment that this area, mostly jungle and in the vicinity of the Serrano Indians, was not the most suitable for the location of the colony, proposed to replace it with the fertile plain that extended only seven leagues northwest of Santa Fe, beyond the Salado River, and which also had the protection of the military canton called Reyes or Iriondo located in that place.

Once the proposal was approved by Governor José María Cullen (1823-1876), these lands were measured, delimited and divided into 200 concessions by the surveyor Augusto Reant, whose work was completed on November 26, 1855. These concessions were 5 by 4 blocks, that is, an area of ​​20 blocks, and there were 15 from East to West and 15 from North to South. From north to south, the concessions were to be separated by a neutral or fiscal strip two blocks wide.

For the rest, the Colonization Commission must have encountered difficulties in its task of giving religious fulfillment to the stipulations signed between the Government of the Province and Aarón Castellanos (1799-1880), since when the ship Asunción anchored at the end of January 1856 in the port From Santa Fe with the first immigrants on board, there was still much to be done in the green plain behind the Salado River, where the colony would settle.

One of the passengers who arrived in Santa Fe reported the following: "The families that came to populate the colony on the Raglant sailing ship arrived in the country, making a journey so happy that the captain said it was the best trip of all he had made to Buenos Aires."

Colony Esperanza, then, began to rise in September 1855, and its lands delineated and its concessions divided in November of the same year.

The founding date of the Esperanza colony can be definitively set in the second half of 1855 because it was then that the land was chosen, divided and delimited, the first houses were built and, in a word, the colony was founded in the last days January 1856 and the first days of the following February.

Once established in the region, the settlers had to defend themselves from the continuous attacks of the indigenous people and at night they formed patrols to watch, avoiding an indigenous surprise, who in their outposts herded with the haciendas they could, killed and took captives.

When the governor of Santa Fe José María Cullen (1823-1876) created a new special commission on June 23, 1856 to verify the sale of a strip of fiscal land that extended from north to south, dividing the Esperanza colony into two sections, Ricardo Foster (1808-1865) was again required to exercise the presidency, undoubtedly due to his responsible and competent performance in the fulfillment of his previous mission.

From what has been said, it can be deduced that the Portuguese landowner has been one of the men most closely linked to the settlement of immigrants in the agricultural colony Esperanza; which, as has been said, is due to the commission that presided over the use of its definitive location in a place closer to the capital, in a land of optimum quality, suitable for sowing and grazing.

The expressive testimony of the Justice of the Peace of Esperanza, Adolfo Gabarret, issued in December 1858 at the time of some of Foster's efforts, is probably the interpretation of generalized feelings among the inhabitants of Esperanza:

"He is aware that the petitioner, being president of the Colonization Commission, has rendered in the formation of this colony and even afterwards, notable services that highly recommend him; in addition, the settlers have received and continue to receive valuable aid of different kinds, finding mainly in the field establishment that has great facilities in the vicinity to provide themselves with tame animals."

Fortunately, not everything was limited to the level of law, the expression of wishes and the structuring of theoretical plans, but there were also dynamic men willing to put them into practice, such as Aaron Castellanos (1799-1880), Ricardo Foster (1808-1865) and Francisco Caracciolo Larrechea Vera (1815-c.1890). Above all, they stood out for being the first who, inspired by the liberal spirit of the new National Constitution, decidedly consecrated themselves to the task of populating the virgin fields of Argentina with European immigrants.

Of great importance was the work carried out by Castellanos, founder of the first stable agricultural colony in the country, who remained in Europe for two years, after which, as required, he returned with the 200 families, who were of Swiss nationality French and German, which gave rise to the colony of Esperanza in the province of Santa Fe.

Who could have foreseen then that these very modest people, by the simple fact of settling in that plain, extended beyond the Salado River, six leagues from Santa Fe and in the vicinity of the Iriondo fort, were starting a process without precedents in the country, of enormous importance for the future destiny of the Republic?

Here the first stage specified in the colonization contract was fulfilled, since within the agreed period Aarón Castellanos (1799-1880) had returned from Europe accompanied by 200 families through which the first of the five agreed colonies was founded.

"See there the village already formed where the settlers will have everything they need for body and soul." Aarón Castellanos from Paris, France. June 7, 1855.

Final Report

Aarón Castellanos Di Rosa (1799-1880) was an Argentine colonizer and military man who promoted the settlement of the province of Santa Fe, culminating in the founding of the Esperanza agricultural colony in 1852.

He fought for the independence of his country in Los Infernales, under the orders of Martín Miguel de Güemes and began exploring the Bermejo River in 1824.

At a very young age, he enrolled in Los Infernales, where he reached the rank of lieutenant, under the orders of General Martín Miguel de Güemes, participating in the wars of independence against the royalists in Upper Peru. Then he participated in the mining trade with Peru, where he made his fortune by working in the Pasco gold mine, the most important in the region.

After returning to Argentina, Castellanos proposed the construction of a railway linking the cities of Rosario and Córdoba. 

Around 1852 he devised and presented to the government a project whose objective was to populate part of Patagonia, the territory between the Negro and Chubut rivers; however, this proposal was rejected.

On June 15, 1853, Aarón Castellanos and the government of Santa Fe signed the first Colonization Contract, in which the colonizer promised to populate the area with European families and farmers, in exchange for the government granting them, under the system of the subdivision of the property, a portion of land to each of them.

Thanks to his initiative and the work of the Colonization Commission, the agricultural colony Esperanza was formed, which encouraged the settlement of the province of Santa Fe by getting two hundred European families to settle there, to which the government gave 33 hectares of land, seeds and tools for their work.

He died on April 1, 1880 in Rosario, Santa Fe province, Argentina.

Esperanza is a city in the east center of the province of Santa Fe in the Argentine Republic and is located 38 km from the city of Santa Fe by road and 30 km in a straight line. It was founded in 1856 by Aarón Castellanos (1799-1880) and the work of Ricardo Foster (1808-1865) stands out.

Castellanos in 1854 prepared a settlement company in agreement with the government of Santa Fe and went to Europe to contract in Switzerland with the families who wanted to go to populate the banks of the Paraná. It did not manage to carry out its entire program, but it did bring in about 200 families that made up about 1,000 settlers. Meanwhile, the Colonization Commission, chaired by Foster, would be in charge of preparing the colony and supplying the inhabitants of land, ranch, flour, seeds, horses, cows and oxen. With all its vicissitudes, Esperanza has developed to this day in progressive proportion. Since 1886 it has been a city and today its population is estimated at 43,000 inhabitants attracted from the north of the province, the area of Greater Rosario, Santiago del Estero and the rest of America and tends to expand towards the area where the city is located of Santa Fe, thus anticipating the conurbation with the metropolitan area of ​​the latter. It's the first organized agricultural colony in Argentina; he has raised cattle and their products. The arts, crafts and machinery, due to the industriousness of her Swiss, German and Italian settlers, have always honored Esperanza and much more has been ennobled by the intellectual and educational culture of her good Christian ideology, the basis of her racial value and esteem for his 165 years of life.

Ricardo Foster (1808-1865) was a Portuguese colonizer, landowner, and politician. Founder of San Jerónimo Norte and meritorious in the founding of the city of Esperanza in the Province of Santa Fe, Argentina.

He was born on October 5, 1808 on the Portuguese island of Madera, in Funchal, the center of its capital city, and obtained British citizenship by being his father consul of the United Kingdom.

He was president of the Immigration Commission, Colonization Commission, member of the Consulate Court and president of the Club of the Order of the Province of Santa Fe, Argentina.

He was tasked with pinpointing the lands where colonization would take place; prepare and have the houses built in which the settlers would stay, receive them with their families upon arrival in the respective province, transfer them to the colony after crossing the fords of the Salado River, defending them from possible attacks by the natives, and then monitor during the first years the fulfillment of the conditions and obligations of the colonization contracts.

In 1852, in partnership with Ángel de Arrarte, it acquired a vast area of ​​land and over time it acquired more land with livestock as its main activity. Some time later he was Justice of the Peace and Deputy in the Province of Santa Fe, although the date is unknown. He then acquired the Las Tunas field, which stretched from the north of his fields in Paso Santo Tomé, to El Sauce. Las Tunas and San Jerónimo Norte are there today.

In 1859 he had these lands delineated and there it was the first colony in Argentina to settle on privately owned lands, since the previous ones had been on ceded public lands. In fact, the San Jerónimo Norte land was founded on land donated to the inhabitants, without pursuing any lucrative purpose, as had happened in the previous ones mentioned. He died of severe dropsy on December 5, 1865, after having been ill during his last months.

The Colonization Commission had the essential task of religiously complying with the colonization contract signed between the government of the Province of Santa Fe and Aarón Castellanos (1799-1880) in 1853, and also agree with the Board of Directors of the Colonos Association for the best performance of their mission. This commission designated a zone more to the northwest of the established one so that the Esperanza colony would be more protected from the Indians with the forts.

On the one hand, the great merit of Castellanos was, without a doubt, to make Argentina known in the countries of central Europe as a place of massive emigration, who did not doubt his conviction that it was necessary to populate the country and that it was necessary expand and develop agriculture. On the other side of the world, the merit of his great collaborator Ricardo Foster (1808-1865) was to prepare the colony and take care of providing valuable aid to the colonists.

With the arrival of the 200 families between the end of January and the middle of June 1856 from Switzerland, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Belgium, the Esperanza colony was finally established. In 1870, President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811-1888) visited the colony and nine years later, President Nicolás Avellaneda (1837-1885) followed.

The momentum and ideas sown by Aaron Castellanos (1799-1880) previously in Europe had already started and would not stop. Then the first harvests would come, the colonies of San Jerónimo Norte, San Carlos and hundreds more of colonies throughout Argentina, and with them, the blacksmiths, the flour mills, the first small industries, the implicit dream that the Esperanza shield carries, subdivision of the property, came true.

It has been calculated that between 1856 and 1914 more than a million immigrants entered the agrarian regions of Argentina and from 1870 to 1890 one and a half million people entered the country, reaching three million immigrants in 1913.

Currently the remains of Aaron Castellanos (1799-1880) rest in the center of the main square of Esperanza, at the foot of the National Monument of Agriculture.

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