Histories of Buenos Aires
Pablo G. Wright
This chapter focuses on the experience of Toba migrants in Buenos Aires.1 Urban migrations within the Chaco region began in the 1950s when aborigines moved near towns,2 shaping the so-called Toba barrios (Toba neighborhoods) in their peripheries.3 Later, the circuit also widened to include other major cities outside the region.
While the Chaco was traditionally a rich and somehow "closed" ethnographic area, since the late 1950s it seems to have "expanded" its confines to include distant places, such as Rosario ( Santa Fe Province) and Buenos Aires.4 Indeed, many qom (Toba) migrated from their homeland, principally because of lack of work, transforming radically the ethnographic profile of the new places.5 It was as if the Chaco established outlying spots of culture that implied a challenge for an anthropology that always conducted research in the far Chaco region. The new context raised questions about this notion. For example, could the qom remain themselves if they were away from their territory? Would they be able to maintain their identity surrounded by whites? What could be expected of this sociocultural encounter in an urban context? Would they maintain links with their homeland?
To partially answer and critique these questions,6 this chapter explores the dimensions of life in Buenos Aires experienced by Valentín Moreno, a qoml'ek (Toba male) who moved there from Las Palmas ( Chaco) in 1954. He is sixty- seven years old. His wife María died in 1993, leaving him with five children. The histories of Valentín's life in Buenos Aires (see map 10) are part of a general background he shared with me during multiple conversations undertaken since 1980. I met him during a seminar in linguistics at the University of Buenos Aires. Since then, we have developed a true friendship and mutual respect that have far exceeded the scientific project of learning Toba language and culture.