Professor of History
California State University, Fullerton
Prepared for delivery at the 1995 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, The Sheraton Washington, September 28-30, 1995.
The name for the time period of this study in Argentina is the "Alluvial Age." This is because of the massive flood of immigrants to Argentina and the major changes brought about because of immigration. It is also the period in which the Argentine popular theatre form, the short jocular musical play of the city of Buenos Aires, the sainete criollo or porteño (pertaining to the port city of Buenos Aires) flowered. Produced primarily for the porteño stage, many of these plays traveled to provincial cities in both Buenos Aires and Santa Fe provinces, as well as back and forth across the Río de la Plata estuary to Montevideo. For much of its history, the sainete was an excellent mirror of society and class values in the changing class structure of Buenos Aires between 1880 and 1930. Thus the playwrights were able to capture the spirit and essence of that moment in porteño life. This in large part was due to their own experience and observation of the changes occurring about them. The authors were from lower class origins, yet at the same time, because of their economic success they could be considered middle class. They wrote with a clear understanding of what their audiences appreciated and to meet the tastes of the paying customers. The audiences were also entering into middle class status and, like the authors of the works on the stage, were from working class (or peasant) origins. Unlike, the saineteros (sainete authors), however, the dominant ethnic origin of the audiences was progressively European immigrant, particularly Spanish and Italian, while most of the saineteros were creole in origin.
During the ascendancy of the sainete, Argentina was rapidly changing from a creole oriented culture to a more European oriented one under the aegis of ruling elites that undertook the duty of creating an "Europe in America" and making Buenos Aires into the "Paris of the New World." Therefore, the creole populations, both rural and urban, and the culture they represented, became more and more subjugated to antagonistic ruling elites. These dissociated themselves from their own creole heritage and valued the imported European culture and the persons it represented---in the form of the immigrant---over the native or base population, which the elites saw as backward and as a hindrance to progress. Thus the creole population became truly marginalized.
One Argentine author proposed that the issue of marginality created a potential for revolution in Argentina at the turn of the century, and in particular in Buenos Aires, where the native born middle and upper classes were not incorporated into the political structure, controlled by an exclusive oligarchy. This explains the rise of the middle class oriented Unión Cívica Radical [Radical Civic Union, or most commonly called The Radical Party]. This party progressively adopted a more militant stand in opposition to the controlling oligarchy. Another societal group that was politically threatening was the emerging creole and foreign-born urban working, or popular, class that was subject to anarchist influence and prone to violence. The period after 1890 was progressively one of labor agitation, strikes, and violent activity against the police, political leaders and private property. As the elites' political system became more structured, more oligarchic, it tended to freeze out of political participation more members of the upper classes who in turn felt a sense of isolation and political marginality.
While there were apparent differences with what kind of demographic-immigration policy should be followed, and much discussion regarding the proper role of the immigrant in Argentine society within the Argentine ruling elite, the issue of the inferiority of the Argentine base population appears not to have divided the ruling elite for much of the period of massive immigration. While there was no concern raised regarding the destruction of the Afro-Argentine, there were some expressions of support for the cause of the gaucho. The most notable were those of José Hernández through his epic sagas of the gaucho Martín Fierro (EL gaucho Martín Fierro, 1872 and La vuelta de Martín Fierro, 1879), yet the Argentine elite seemed little concerned with the destruction of the base population and the dramatic demographic changes that immigration brought until these changes began to have an impact on them.
The most dramatic change was in the city of Buenos Aires, which ceased being the sleepy "big town" (la gran aldea) of the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. By 1910, or the year of the Centennial, Buenos Aires was a major world metropolis with a population of well over one million. This was due to the huge immigrant population. Between 1900 and 1914, the massive influx of new comers demographically changed the city of Buenos Aires into a city of immigrants. In 1912 the city had a population of 1,222,738 and, just two years later, a population of 1,576,597. In the census of 1914, the city of Buenos Aires represented approximately twenty percent of the total national population. Consistent with the growth of the city was the high ratio of foreign born residents to native born residents: in 1895 there were 318,361 native Argentines to 345,495 foreigners and in 1914 there were 809,070 native-born to 767,527 foreigners. While it may appear that the native born Argentines were numerically larger than the foreigner, this is deceptive because of the number of first generation Argentines who would have to be factored into the ratio of foreigner to creole Argentines. The impact of the immigrant was at a point that "...hasta las flores se van agringando."
Others felt that the immigrant, who was at the same time viewed as the chief cause of urban crime, was now dictating to the Argentine native born (e.g., upper class) what Argentina should be. Another upper class author of the period stated a sense of betrayal. In his view, and this erroneous view was held by many in his class, the immigrant was offered great opportunity in Argentina and instead of taking advantage of government land, had stayed in the cities and thereby decided to "hacer á América" [to get rich] through crime. These people are now affecting the "bienestar moral y social del pueblo de Mayo;" these white slavers, these Spanish and Italian thieves, these "lunfardos porteños." The massive influx of immigrants and the rise of crime in Buenos Aires after 1880 caused some to believe that cities were now evil places where "gente de mala vida" lived. Immigration had brought an invasion of petty street vendors instead of the idealized farmers called for by the proponents of Argentine immigration policy. Luis Villamayor in his book Lenguaje del bajo fondo clearly summed up this attitude by describing with both disgust and a sense of betrayal the candy sellers (Spaniards), the fruit peddlers (Italians), and the other vendors who clogged the streets of Buenos Aires with their "baratijas" [cheap goods] (Jews, Turks, and Arabs) who together represented "ese porcentaje excesivo de individuos de pensar distinto, de razas, religiones y procedimientos diversos."
This anti-immigrant sentiment (anti-foreign) was easily translated into anti-Semitism, which both immigrant and creole populations jointly advocated. Ironically, jingoistic creoles manipulated immigrants, who expressed anti-Semitic sentiments, in covering their own more generic anti-immigrant and anti-foreign feelings. However, anti-Semitism in Argentina had some nuances that served to mitigate its levels of virulence. These included the possibility for immigrants to assimilate into Argentine society and the belief that Argentina was a country of opportunity and liberty for the immigrant populations including Jews.
Argentina and the Jews:
While Jews have probably been in Argentina since the arrival of the original Spanish explores in the early part of the sixteenth century, they have not openly participated in Argentine society as Jews until well into the eighteenth century. Largely participants in the commercial life of the region as agents for British banking and trading companies these Jews were primarily Sephardic and German in origin. It was not until the late nineteenth century that the Argentine government openly fostered the immigration of Jews. The government sent a special mission with the goal of fostering Jewish emigration from the Russian Empire in 1882. It was headed by José María Bustos. After the great persecution of the Jews in the 1880 pogrom, Eastern European Jewry began to stream out of Russia to the United States. The Julio Argentino Roca government (1880-1886) believed it could convince these emigrants to come to Argentina. Preliminary steps were taken by Carlos Calvo in 1881. He was able to report to Roca that the German and French Chief Rabbis would send letters of introduction to the Russian Jewish leaders and that they would support the Argentine government's plan. In 1882, Bustos was sent to Europe to carry out the program. He was taken ill en route to Odessa and was forced to return to Paris. The mission collapsed because the leaders of the Ukrainian Jews, in the absence of Bustos, decided to emigrate to the United States. Later, in 1889, the Argentine government began negotiations with the Jewish philanthropist, Baron Hirsh, in Paris for the establishment of Jewish colonization and these negotiations resulted in the founding of the Jewish Colonization Society in 1890. Jewish immigration, either sponsored by colonization associations or spontaneous, increased greatly in the period after 1900 and continued well into the 1930s. During the alluvial era over 100,000 Jews entered the country and by the end of the 1930s an additional 150, 000 entered making Argentina the second largest recipient of Jewish immigration in the Western Hemisphere and, Buenos Aires, the second largest Jewish community after New York.
This new Jewish immigration was largely Ashkenazi and did not mix well with the Spehardic and German Jews. These Eastern European Jews came to be universally called "Rusos" in the common parlance of Buenos Aires. In some instances, Sephardic Jews from the Ottoman Empire, or from North Africa, came to be confused by Argentines with other non-Jews from these areas and generically labeled as "Turcos." Thus, Jews in the popular culture of the city, came to be seen as people with strange customs, food habits, and dress, along with the practices of a religion little understood by the increasingly immigrant population originating from Italy and Spain. This population saw the Jew through the eyes of cultural bias originating in their home cultures of Europe. They were not alone in this distorted view of the Jew, for the Argentine creole population also had distorted views inherited from Spanish colonial culture in the region.
The Theme of the Jew in Argentine Literature:
The old Argentina was gone by 1910. The new one, created by immigrants, was about to begin. An Argentina in which the creole no longer played a dominant role. The impact of massive immigration was such that the even the ruling oligarchy found that the country had changed so much that even it had no place in the emerging "modern" Argentina, or the so-called Argentina nueva. It too became marginalized and sought to restore "creole" values and culture against the onslaught of the increasingly cosmopolitan and "foreign" culture of the immigrant dominated society of pre World War I Argentina. This lead eventually to the creation of nationalist groups, such as the Liga Patriótica Nacional (established circa 1902), which sought to foster patriotism and "Argentinism," and the later Liga Partiótica Argentina (established circa 1919), which sought to manipulate lower-class creole anti-foreign antagonisms to suite the political purposes of the upper-class League. It should be recalled, as well, that 1919 was the year of the "Semana Trájica," in which, patriotic Argentines defending their county against the Communist "menace" brought about through the successes of the 1917 Russian Revolution attacked Jews and Jewish shops. After all Jews were "rusos."
This anti-immigrant sentiment quickly found its translation into literary form as early as the 1870s, or well before the full impact of massive immigration on Argentine society and culture. The negative image of the Italian in the José Hernández epic poem Martín Fierro serves as an excellent example of this sentiment. The novels of Eugenio Cambacéres such as Pot-pourri, Música sentimental, Sin rumbo, and En la sangre clearly contain an anti-immigrant message. The virulent anti-foreign message contained in the novel La Bolsa by José Miró, who wrote under the pseudonym Julian Martel, focuses on the conspiracy of international Jewish bankers to defraud Argentina. The evil Baron Mackser is the personification of this Jewish conspiracy and Miró described him as having the "sello típico de la raza judía." Several authors, both Argentine and American, have discussed this anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic theme in Argentine literature, most notably David William Foster, Eugene E. Sofer, Judith L. Elkin, Alberto Kleiner, Leonardo Senkman, and Juan José Sebreli.The image of the Jew in the popular theatre, sainete criollo, or sainete porteño has not been part of their studies, possibly because they may not consider this genre to be "literature." 21
However, since the sainete was the vehicle for the "here and the now" and reflected on stage the reality of daily life, these plays are excellent sources for the popular image of the various components of Argentine society and the conflict within the society of the time under study. A number of distinguished Argentine literary scholars and social scientists have noted this fact, among who are Ernesto Sábato, Edmundo Guibourg, Ismael Moya, Blas Raúl Gallo, and Raúl H. Castagnino. For example, the literary figure Edmundo Guibourg wrote as part of his introduction to a selection of sainetes the following:
Nuestro sainete porteño, por imitación de factura, se aplica asomado a la observación del cosmopolitismo cuando después del 80 el aluvión inmigratorio se radia en nuestra urbe, sorepasando en número a la población criolla.... Circumstancia que acuerda al sainete de nuestras latitudes tanto la interpolación de síntesis dramáticas pasionales como los ridículos de lo trágica cotidiano, deformado por la caricatura.
These images included the creole (upper and lower classes) white, black and mestizo; and the immigrant, Italians, Spaniards, Jews, and all other "gringos." All these groups are described in a context of conflict. As the sainete genre evolved over the years after the 1880s, the authors refined these porteño personas into not only stereotypes but into formula driven ones so that it became possible to define the sainete by the characters required for its presentation. For example, according to saineteros Alberto Vacarezza and Carlos R. De Paolí, writing in the period after 1920, in order for a sainete to be effective, it had to take place in a tenement and have the following characters: immigrants (Jews, Italians, etc.), slum gossips, workers, and various criminal types such as prostitutes, pimps, compadritos, boss men, thieves, etc. For example, the necessity of including Jews as part of the immigrant scenes is clearly shown in the sainete by Carlos M. Pacheco Los Fuertes: Ecenas de Inmigración. Here, while Jews are represented in the scenes that take place in the Hotel de Inmigrantes (Argentina's Ellis Island), they have no speaking role. Their function is to add an air of realism to the scenes. For these reasons, this study will focus on the image of the Jew in this genre of Argentine popular theatrical culture.
Curiosity about Jews:
The non-Jewish population of Buenos Aires seems to have been very curious about the Jews within their midst. Newspaper and magazine reports on the community and its customs were fairly frequent in the early days of the twentieth century. While it is true there were reports on the Italian and Spanish communities, these were more matter-of-fact in that they did not dwell on "la colectividad" (a term often used alone to denote the Jewish community) as being unique or different. For example, the popular magazines Caras y Caretas and Fray Mocho devoted coverage to the founding of the first Yiddish newspaper and to Jewish religious practices. In one long photo essay "Ceremonias Judias---El Dia del Perdón," extensive coverage is given to the holy day of Yom Kippur and its significance to Jews. Interestingly enough though, this essay covered the practices of the Jews most closely associated with "normal" European immigrants, the German Jews. This essay gave no coverage explaining the practices most associated with the Hassidic or Eastern European Jews who were the brunt of the ridicule included in the anti-Semitic stereotypes.
As the Yiddish theatre grew in Buenos Aires, forming a theatrical triangle with Warsaw and New York, the theatre magazines of Buenos Aires took note. For example, an article on the Jewish theatres appeared in the section "Comentario de los teatros" of the theatre review Comoedia, "El teatro isrelita en Buenos Aires." This article, written in 1931, commented on the activities of the well-known Jewish actress, Marcela Waiss and the actor Morris Gilber, recently arrived from Poland via New York. Since he spoke only Yiddish, the use of a translator was necessary. The article discussed the origins of the Jewish theatre founded in Buenos Aires by Waiss' father, which first used the Italian theatre "Stella d'Italia" on Callao Street. He founded a theatrical company and played in the teatro Libertad, and later in the teatro Dora (later called Marconi). Marcela Waiss played as part of the Aleppi Company and worked six years in the teatro Nacional, which was considered the "cathedral" of the sainete. Further articles commented on the growth of the Yiddish theatre and the excellence of its presentations. For example, again in Comoedia, a long article was devoted to the lead actor of the Yiddish "Compañía Isrealita," Jacobo Ben Ami. 
The Creole View of the Jew in the Sainete Porteño:
The earliest sainete that included Jews as the primary protagonists in the play was Donde menos se piensa salta la liebra. This sainete by Fausto Etchegoin and Eduardo Casetti was first presented in the teatro Boedo in January 19, 1914. The authors portray Jews as sharp traders and cheats, and the play takes place in a "tienda de compra y venta" (cambalache). The Jew's daughter Rebecca, who is born in America and speaks perfect Spanish, initially wants to marry the Gallego, Manuel. However, since he wants to return to Spain as a success (Hacer á América) and she wants to stay in America and go about in a car (another view of success), she drops him. She meets a Jewish doctor who can finance her materialistic dreams of success, and provide her with a rise in social status not possible with the Gallego. This Jewish woman is, therefore, presented as materialistic and as a social climber. Simón, father of Rebecca, who speaks Spanish with a heavy Jewish accent, does not like Italians whom he sees as dupes. Further, Simón has an illicit relationship with Candelaria, described as a viuda criolla. She needs money to pay her rent in the conventillo. She fears the encargado [tennement superintendent], who is an Italian, will turn her out on the street. Simón gives her money for the rent in return for unspecified favors. Thus, the father and daughter exploit Italians, Spaniards, and creoles. While the authors are not particularly favorable to immigrants in general, they are especially harsh on Jews.
Carlos M. Pacheco repeats the theme of Jews as second-hand dealers in his 1916 sainete, La guardia del auxiliar: escenas de la vida policial, which opened in March 31, 1916. It deals with incidents taking place in a police station. It includes drunk Italians, crazy Germans and Jews who speak in "jiberish." In one scene there are two Jews, speaking in heavily accented Spanish. In their dialog, for example, one says: "...no istá conocido di polecías, sinior, poide levanta. [[exclamdown]]Caras quince años la tengo casa di cumbra y venta qui ti dice cambalacha pero mijor ortícolo qui ti encontras. Tronces vinido Rusias sobrino qui hace las goras e la ponía el fábricas. Este sinoir la cumbrabacasa. El otro recibido seña y vendia a un otro y escaba."Pacheco again repeats the theme in his 1919 sainete El Otro Mundo. Here the Jews, Vamberg, his wife Lea--described as la rusa vieja --and his son, Adolfo, are the main characters in one brief scene. The father is disappointed and angry with his son's lack of ambition: "[[exclamdown]]Mala hijo! [[exclamdown]]Disgraciado! Podias tomar el ejemplo di hijos de Libisky, qui uno di ellos ya tiene in poerta di calle, il chapa di doctor di medicinas." The son asks, in regular Spanish, what is it his father want him to do? The father answers that he should work in the "compra venta di Jacoba" This is not the answer the son wants to hear--angrily he retorts that he does not want to work in a cambalache (he uses use the Argentine word and not "compra-venta"). His father yells: "Pir eso garabas qui no es tuyo?...Sumden novoia uremia provenmioskia kitia...[[exclamdown]]Sudor di padres que ti dan la vida." Lea, alarmed by the tone of her husband's words, intercedes on behalf of her son "...Boyamia, michigumia...bastante, caramba." This was the only scene in which Jews played a role, and it is unclear from the context of the entire sainete just what was the purpose of this scene unless it served only to make fun of Jews, through ridicule and scorn.
The constant repitition of the theme of Jews as sharp traders fits within the saineteros trite theatric device of repitition, after all if it worked once it would work twice, etc. Clearly this was the practice of Pacheco. When he devoted one sainete, Ropa Vieja, entirely to the theme of Jews in Buenos Aires, it focused on this theme as well. It was first presented on July 6, 1923. It takes place in a "casa de compra y venta." Main characters are: the shop owner, Abraham Simonisky; his son Samuel, a medical student; his daughter Ruth "la hija del Judio. Ha heredado su nariz y su alma;" and the Mother, "La vieja," described as "...es sin duda la madre de la usura." The classmates of Samuel in medical school ridicule him by calling him "Ropa Vieja." He falls in love with the daughter of his professor. Her mother opposes the match and brings the girl to see the cambalache as a way to embarrass and disgrace Samuel. In the shop, she says to her daughter "...como ves, esto hasta huele mal ...otra religión, otros hábitos...otro sentido de vida." Daughter agrees. Samuel is crushed and humiliated by both the mother and the daughter. He goes off to practice medicine in a little town where the people describe him as a person with "...nobleza en su corazón. Realiza el bien sin mirar a quien...y no solemente atiende a los pobres." The father goes to visit his son and, when he arrives in the town, he discovers that his son has fallen in love with a creole girl. This he accepts and is happy for his son. Surprisingly, religion is not important to the old Jew as long as there is love and happiness. The father helps his son and, with this aid, the son is able to marry girl. The play ends with the son changing his name to the Italianized Samuel Simoni. Whether or not he converts to Catholicism is unclear, but by suggestion, he does abandon being Jewish. The message is that assimilation is the secret to success and happiness. Additionally, while Pacheco presents anti-Semitism as cruel, by inference he presents Judaism as being anachronistic. The best way to avoid anti-Semitism and, at the same time, to be progressive is to cease being Jewish--or different--and assimilate.
The 1921 sainete, [[exclamdown]]Criollos, Gringos y Judíos!, by Alberto and Marion Rada (first played in November 21, 1921) takes place "en pleno barrio judio." Humberto Malatesta, who owns a cambalache and claims the dishonest practices of Jews are putting him out of business, sets the stage by commenting on Jews in general: "...los judios hano traido tré cosa al mondo... L'usura, el machimalism [communism], e la peste borbónica..." Don Putijar, the play's lead Jewish character, owns a competing compra-venta, and is viewed by the Italian as a cheat and thief. Both the Jew and Italian are in a constant battle of one-up-manship and always end up fighting. Putijar's son, Donalé, is ashamed of his father and what his father does. He does not want to be part of the world of "judios barbudos y mugrientos" and threatens to burn the shop down. His father accuses him of being a "Bolcheviski, hijo maximalista espiritu de Lev Troskey ...aseino de tu raza..." Jaikale is Putijar's daughter and Jolanda is the daughter of Humberto Malatesta. Donalé is in love with Jolanda and her father orders Putijar to stop his son from seeing Jolanda. Putijar says how can he, after all "El amor está libre."
While the love match serves as the sainetero's traditional device to highlight ethnic conflict, this one is particularily complicated because Máximo, son of Humberto, and Jaikele are in love with each other as well. Both fathers oppose this love match. However, Jaikele says "el amor por si solo es una religión, esos redículos perjuicios de religión y de casta" she will overcome. If the plot was not convoluted enough already, the authors now adds even more, another love match. Demitrio, a ward of the family picked up in Siberia, loves Jaikele but she does not love him. When he asks her father for her hand in marriage, he is rebuffed. The father says he is not of the same social class of the family. According to Putijar "tus padres eran esclavos [serfs] en mi tierra." Demitrio asks what does that have to do with him now since they are in Argentina where such differences do not matter. The father insists on the class diference and refuses to allow Demitrio to marry his daughter. Demitrio retorts that Putijar is not such a high class person, after all "y tú le olvidas que eres cambalachero?" Putijar throws Demitrio out of the house. Demitrio, as he leaves, curses the Jew "...Pues caerá sobre tu casa, la maldeción de Juda...y óyelo bien, Putijar Ravinovich [[exclamdown]]guay de ti! si le oaurre algo a Jaikale! [[exclamdown]]Guay de di si se cassa con hombre que no sea "idis!" Humberto, overhearing all this, comments as an aside, [[exclamdown]]Lo ruso contra lo italiano...nunca...no puede sere! Italia sempre prima!"
Both parents plot to ruin the honor of the girls so that their sons will not marry them. Both sons and daughters find out about the plot and conspire together. They plot to "dishonor" the girls and therefore force the fathers to let them marry. Humberto's son does not go off and "dishonors" the girl, only the Donalé does, and this seems to show how Jews are less honorable. The fathers are foiled and the Italian laments "[[exclamdown]]Una italiana co un ruso! [[exclamdown]]no se ha visto nunca al mundo!" Yolanda marries Donalé and now she is Yolanda Malatesta de Rakislovcho. The Italian says "La madona que apelido?" but he accepts the fact of the marrage "Vengaa a los abrazos de su padre...hija de mis "extraña"! e osté bambiene ...venga rusito...que mercía ser italiano per lo pierna que es!" Máximo asks permission to marry Jailkale. Even after the marriage of the other two, both fathers still oppose the match and they say their religions forbids such marrages. However, Humberto's employee Zorrilla, who also serves as a matchmaker, says: "[[exclamdown]]La religión! En este país, amigo, más religión que el amor ...que el más grande y puro de los cultos. Venga a esta tierra de permisión, rusos, turkos, chinos, ingleses y alemanes...forman aqui un hogar de paz y de alegria, tengan muchos hijos y edúquenlos, sin más culto que el de la patria, el amor y el trabajo que es en el que se educan los hombres que engrandecan a sus tierra! Humberto reflects and cries out "[[exclamdown]]Viva la patria!" Pudijar asks "Y nosotros desde ahora estamos amigos!" Demitrio, unbelieving of what he see occurring about him, asks Putijar if he has agreed to have his daughter marry a non-Jew. The answer is simple: The Jew says yes and blesses the the lovers. Demitrio leaves the scene, angry, frustrated, and bitter. He burns the shop of the Jew, leaving Putijar ruined. He is saved by Humberto who cries out triumphantly "Italia primera!" The play ends leaving the audience with the clear message that, while both parents finally accepted the love matches, the Italian is far more charitable and forgiving. In large part, the reason for the changes in heart of both men is due to the positive impacts of living in Argentina. The free land of Argentina is the catalyst for change with the inherent values of an hospitable mother to all from abroad, the immigrant.
Another short play, described as a "comedia dramática en dos actas," entirely devoted to Jewish characters, also opened in 1923. This was by F. Defilippis Nova, Hermanos Nuestros, which opened on November 5, 1923. The author presents Jews sympathetically, as tailors and clothing manufacturers, with the tailors Abraham and Joseph, David an old blind man, Aaron as a worker, and Isaac as the owner. These characters do not speak with an accent nor is the dialog given in a Jewish voice. This author focuses the play's plot on the purity of race (religion) in conflict with assimilation. Isaac's son and daughter want to enter the larger world of Argentina, a place described as offering Jews opportunity without persecution; but, still one of great anti-Jewish prejudice. It is an interesting presentation. Jews are not the brunts of humor nor are they ridiculed. Yet, the thesis presents devote Jews as making their own problems by not wanting to change and become Argentines. Assimilation is the way to avoid problems. Thus, being different is to create problems.
A corollary to the theme of Jews as sharp and dishonest traders is the theme of usury. In addition to the examples given so far in this paper, there are many others that can be cited that use this thematic image of the Jew. For example, in one sainete produced by the major theatre company of the well-known actress, Sofia Bozón (Olinda-Bozón), Ensalada Rusa, Jews are presented as usurers and sharp traders. Additionally, the Jewish cambaceros are the target of a running joke of being outsmarted by the creole thief Pancho. In two other sainetes where this theme is present, the authors have created a thematic twist. In Giacomo Mussolini (ácrata) by Antonio de Bassi and Antonio Botta, which opened on June 28, 1925, the Jew Simón is the usurer. The sainete takes place is a conventillo. The Jew threatens to foreclose on a loan he made to one of his fellow tenants, which the tenant used to buy a taxi. The debt cannot be paid because the taxi drivers are on strike and the debtor has no other source of income. A creole friend of the taxi driver suggests "[[questiondown]]Por qué no me deja que lo recibe escondito atrás la puerta con la llave inglesa a ese ruso? Le cancelo la cuenta en seguida...! The suggestion is not followed and the taxi is confiscated. However, in this case, the Jew gets his just rewards when he and his agent, El ñato Pueblo, described as a "pintoresco tipo de charlatán," seize the car. It blows up killing both the compadrtito and the Jew. Unknown to both, the car was filled with explosive, which the strikers planned on using to kill the exploiting bosses, instead they killed the exploiting Jew.
In the second example, the usurer is an Italian who becomes Jew-like and unlike the above case, he finds redemption because he is really not a Jew. The play is [[exclamdown]]Usurero!, by Juan Carlos Muello and Enrique Sergé. They described their work as a "grotesco en 3 cuadros." In a review in Comoedia, the reviewed called it "una produción de buena calidad" and that the public considered it a hit. The reviewer made no comment on the topic of the play nor on the content of play. The three main characters in this "grotesco" are the partners: Genaro Mostacholi, an Italian who loses his government job at the "Ministry." He forms a partnership with a friend, the Catalan Cuvilla, to become "prestamistas" (usurers), a third partner is the Jew Moisés Trampolinsky. Throughout the play the authors use the term "ruso" as a euphemism for Jew, and all rusos who are in this play are usurers. At first Genaro is resistant to the idea of loaning money at high interest "... [[questiondown]]usurero yo, que reconozco que e' una plaga que el gobierno debería exterminar." When Genaro states he is afraid of what others will say of him, Cuvilla assures him that no one need know that he is involved "...en todo caso buscaremos un testaferro...un judio...por ejemplo...." Cuvilla promises that, with an investment of 2000 $, Genaro will become a millionaire in ten years. Genaro lusts after wealth "...E mirando bien, el diez por ciento mensual, no e mucho.... [[exclamdown]]No e' un robo!..." Cuvilla, who is described as a "corredor de prestamistas, cuarenta años catalán, tipo de hombre emprendedor y decidido," is not troubled by what people will say, he too is interested only in the returns of money he will receive.
Ten years later the men are rich and owners of a bank with Genaro as the one who is running things. He is so money driven that even Moisés Trampolinsky admiringly and grudgingly says of him "Parece ruso." Genaro becomes so money driven that when Trampolinsky pleads for financial assistance from the bank to aid a relative, Genaro as president blocks the request. Later when a client requests a minimum delay in the payment of a loan, Genaro pawns her off on Trampolinsky. She turns out to be Genaro's daughter-in-law, a fact he does not know, since she is secretly married to his son. When her request is forwarded to Genaro, he denies the extension. It turns out, as these convoluted plots are prone to do, a letter of credit is falsely paid because Genaro's son assumed his father would honor the request for a payment delay. We now have embezzlement. Trampolinsky who knows all this, feigns innocence and asks Genaro what should they do with a client who has forged the signature of payment. Genaro has but one answer, arrest him. The son is arrested and carried off to jail where he escapes. Since, Genaro thinks it is Trampolinsky's relative who was arrested, he takes quiet pleasure with the arrest, and to his daughter, Amalia, he confides "Acabo de embromar a un ruso (se frota las manos)...." Amalia retorts "[[questiondown]]A un ruso? Me parece difícil." He replies gloatingly "[[exclamdown]]Soy un feómeno!"
He is such a phenomenon, that he out foxes himself. In a later scene, an old acquaintance from Genaro's days in the Ministry, Jesus, who at that time loaned money to Genaro, comes to the usurer's Banco Salvador Argentino to borrow money. He meets with Genaro and is astounded that Genaro will not loan him money except at exorbitant rates. Shocked and dismayed, he leaves the bank calling out at Genaro "[[exclamdown]]Usurero! [[exclamdown]]Usurero!" In last scene, Genaro discovers to his horror that it was his son who was arrested and not the relative of the Jew, and that his son is now an escaped felon. Thus, the Jew bested Genaro after all and in the most cruel way. Both Cuvilla and Genaro rue the day they decided to become "Jews." Cuvilla suggests that they dedicate their illgotten gains to philanthropy, but Genaro moans "Demasiado tarde. Ya tenemos olor de rusos prestamistas." In the last part of the play, a delegation of bankers visit Genaro to award him for his services to the industry (un pergamino). Genaro becomes hysterical and moans out in great pain that it is too late.... It's all a lie... it's all a lie, he cries out. "[[questiondown]]Banquero? [[exclamdown]]Mentira! ...[[exclamdown]]mentira!...[[exclamdown]]Userero! [[exclamdown]]Userero!"and he runs off. The theme of play is that money is dirty and those who love it too much are ruined by it. Jews are money lenders and those who try to be like Jews end up like Jews---but with a twist, Genaro is remorseful and basically not cruel---this is not true of Jews.
If there was a year in which Jewish topics were the rage of the porteño stage, it was in 1926. The season started with the production of Judio by Ivo Pelay, which opened in May 1926. "La nueva obra de Pelay es muy teatrical: tiene su nota sentimental, no le falta la nota crónica y hasta hay en ella una concepción superior que no aliondaremos, pues parece que e [sic] larguemento [sic] es una importante rehabilitación de un problema de raza y de religión que hoy en nuestro medio no tiene razón de ser." The famous character actor, Roberto Caseaux, starred as an educated and assimilated Jew. He did not dress in the traditional Hassidic garb and have a long beard. He dressed more as a German (v. Polish-Russian) Jew in a three piece suite, wore a goatee, and used a monocle. The play was well received by the public and as favorable reviewed by unnamed critic. The play Jesusa by José M. Vazquez opened shortly after and it includes a Jewish primary character. The Revista Manicomio Teatral, presented by Manuel M. Gonzalez in the "Monocomio" [teatro] Porteño, had a skit called [cuadro primero] "Judias y caretas, caretas...caretas" by Ivo Pelay. Pelay also read a monologue "El judio erante." An ad carried in the theatre magazine Comoedia described the revista as a "Gran revista espectaculosa, bailable, embargable y boxeable en muchos epsodios policiales y judicales, original de los locos de la casa..." Ivo Pelay's contribution to the revista was such a success that the revista was renamed simply as Judia. Most critics felt this was also a way for Pelay to take advantage of the corresponding success of his sainete Judio, which was on stage at the same time.
In an interview regarding Judia, published in Comoedia, Pelay clearly stated the reason for the name was that the protagonist is Jewish and, furthermore, it has nothing to do with the success of Judio. He went on to perceptively discuss the impact of this new musical on the porteño stage. He hoped that his effort would produce something on the order of American musical theatre. The fact that Ivo Pelay wrote Judio as well as the musical Judia led Comoedia to joke about the impact of Jews on the Argentine theatre in a cartoon showing an old Hasidic Jew looking at a woman in a hospital bed with her head all done up in bandages. Above the bed is a sign "teatro nacional" and on a table in front of the bed are medicine bottles labeled "Judia," "Judio-Aaron" (a play by Samuel Eichelbaum in the teatro Sarmiento) and "Judio." The message of this cartoon is that these plays, based on "Jewish" themes, were good medicine for the national theatre. Perhaps the ailing patient would survive and get well. 
An important review of El Judio Aaron appeared in the theatre journal, Comoedia. The reviewer described the play as "una obra de grandes valores...." The reviewer went on to comment that in spite of its title, El Judio Aaron was a work "netamente argentino, porque estudia un problema local y lo presenta en forma concluyente y simpática..." In a later Comoedia commentary on the play, it is described as having "la virtud de llenar noche a noche la sala del Sarmiento." These reviews are in marked contrast to the review of his play Nadie la Conocío Nunca. The basis for this play was an incident during the "Semana Trájica" in 1919 where a band of right-wing youths assaulted a poor old Jew. The play opened in the teatro Ideal in April 1926. The unsigned review appeared in Comoedia shortly after the play opened. The play was panned because, according to the reviewer, "El asunto, relacionado con la lucha de razas en la Argentina, quisás porque ha perdido su actualida, no esta para que el público le conseda el suficiente interés." One can only conclude that when plays presented Argentina as a land of opportunity, as a country in which bias and prejudice due to religion or race did not exist, these were applauded. However, when a play suggested anti-Semitism existed or defended Jews on the basis of their right to be practicing Jews, than this was wrong. This attitude fits in well with the apparent presentation of Christians being tolerant and open to intermarriage, while Jews were not. To present Jews as usurers and sharp traders was all right because, apparently, reviewers felt this was a statement of fact that did not need commentary. Additionally, the reviewer's comment that Judio and Argentino were not compatible terms also gives insight into how some Argentines defined Argentiness by excluding Jews. Thus the Jew as the "other" is clearly denoted.
If there is a sainete that can be truly described as being viciously anti-Semitic, it is the 1932 production La policía ne se equivoca nunca, un caricatura policial, by Florencio B. Chiarello. The main character is "El Judio Jacobo," who the author described as a "[[exclamdown]]Estafador de estafadores!" and as a "[[exclamdown]]Judio caburé, seductor de mujeres, al diez por ciento!" His full name is Jacobo Chivatoff, which plays on the Spanish slang word for beard, chiva. He has been arrested for trying to seduce a woman in public, or according to the arresting officer, Cabo Pizza: "Acabo de comprobar lo que se dice de usted." Jacobo asks "[[questiondown]]Y qui ti dicen?" Policeman replies "Que usted engrupe a toda la mujeres con albanico." What called the policeman's attention to the Jew was the fight that ensued after woman Lucia refused to have anything to do with the Jew and refused to give back the fan. Jacobo tried to get it back and the policeman not only arrested him but congratulated the woman on besting the Jew. In the police station, Jacobo prays in "Idisch" and moans aloud when he is accused of being a fence, or as described by the desk officer "[[exclamdown]]Este Judio ha sido detenido por reducidor!" When he is photographed for the police files, this orthodox Jew's beard is forcibly shaved off to the great merriment of those present in the police station. Policeman Pizza explains "Lo pelamos y lo deschivamos, para sacarle una fotografía al natural." Jacobo, throughout the process, continues moaning "[[exclamdown]]Asasinos! [[exclamdown]]Verrugos! [[exclamdown]]Verrugos!" and the police retort by calling him "Asasino de Jesucristo!" The play is supposed to be a comedy and the brunt of the "humor" is the Jew who is brutalized. His only crime is that he asked a Christian woman to marry him. She leads him on by calling him affectionately "Jacobito" when she asks him why he wants to marry her since he is a Jew. He replies "Soy Judio, piro tengo todo lo qui tiene un cristiano." Intermarriage between the creolized sons and daughters of immigrants and creoles is all right. However, when it is between an immigrant Jew and a creole woman, it is for immoral reasons and the subject for arrest. The old myth that Jewish men are corrupters of Christian women clearly had currency in Argentina, a country purportedly free from anti-Semitism.
Probably one of the best known of the saineteros is Alberto Vacarezza (1886-1959). Famous for his sainetes dealing with the life of the poor in the slum neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, he created a whole host of characters that have become part of the folklore of the city of Buenos Aires. The author of over sixty sainetes, his plays dominated the theatre seasons of 1928 and 1929 when he had thirteen playing on the porteño stage. Two of his works are devoted exclusively to "Jewish" themes and two others includes a Jewish character. Those sainetes that are devoted to Jewish themes are El barrio de los Judios (1919), El cambalache de la buena suerte (1923). The other two that contain at least one Jewish character are El cabo Quijote (1927) and Los pesqueros (1933). El Barrio de los Judios, a sainete in verse in one act and three cuadros, debuted in the teatro Nacional during the winter season of 1919. It was produced by Araca-Simari-Franco Theatre Company. El cambalache de la buena suerte, first played on October 26, 1923, in the teatro Nacional and was produced by the Araca Company as well. It is a revista with three cuadras and takes place in a compra-venta, or as called in Argentine Spanish, a cambalache. El Cabo Quijote, first played in August 29, 1927, takes place in a conventillo in Villa Crespo. The Olinda-Bozán Compañía produced the last sainete, which debuted on February 9, 1933, in the teatro Broadway.
Lily Franco, well-known student of his work, described Vacarezza treatment of Jews as a "sentido fraternal" ["brotherly feeling"]. This is curious because in none of his works are Jews accurately or fairly treated. The image presented by Vacarezza of Jews is at best a two-dimensional stereotype of a cheating usurious sharp trader engaged in the second-hand trade. If there are sympathetic portrayals of Jews, it is generally the son or daughter of the old Jew who wants to marry a non-Jew. This marriage, of course, is opposed by the parents, who in their opposition, Vacarezza presented as being narrow-minded and tied to an out-dated religious belief system. In the sainete El barrio de los Judios, for example, the daughter of Samuel, the second-hand man, wants to marry the Christian, Antonio. She is admonished in heavily accented Spanish by Salomon who loves her: "no podrás ser tan canalia/di olvidar il religión/ de do pápa, porque, tu alma/ tendrá que sofir despoes/ la madición de tu raza/ y sería tu vida entonces/ una manantial de desgracia...." She retorts in perfect Spanish " [[questiondown]]Y qué se me importa a mi estas cosas...?" After all she is Argentine born and all of the Jewish insults and threats do not mean anything to her. She says that the she is Argentine and not by implication that other nationality, Jewish. Furthermore, she went on to say the issue of race is not important. What is important is the quality of people, their goodness and their true feelings: "...uno vale/por lo que tenga aquí adentro,/y a la que es bueno y honrada/sería cosas de muy necios/el preguntarle si es hija/de judios o noruegos/sin antes averiguar [[exclamdown]]cuales son sus sentimientos!"
Olga and Juan Antonio run off and are married by the Church. Antonio's parents, who do not oppose the marriage, are informed but not her parents because her father would stop the wedding. Just after the ceremony, Samuel finds her and orders her home. She retorts that he no longer runs her life but her husband is the one who now "manda." With the marriage of Olga, Samuel becomes free himself. It seems that Solomon holds a huge loan against the shop of Samuel. Solomon, who is a usurer, held the loan as a means of forcing Olga to marry him. The hold now is broken. All can rejoice in the wedding and even Samuel now accepts the marriage. The play ends with one character saying that there is no religion here only love, there is no nationality here only that of Argentina. The message of the play is clear: Argentina is a liberating country. Even Jews can be liberated from their narrow-minded religious perspective. The sub-theme portrays Christians as being open to change and new conditions--the parents of Antonio, for example, do not see Olga's religion as a barrier to the marriage.
In the 1923 sainete El Cambalache de la Buena Suerte, Vacarezza repeats the same themes and adds some more anti-Semitic characteristics. This play takes place in a compra-venta store owned by Salomon Krajeorjevich who has son Isaac, a daughter Rebeca, and a younger son Miguel. Salomon serves as a fence for a series of petty crooks whom he cheats on a regular basis and in turn is robed by them. The crook "el Pajarito" is a prime example of this cambalache's clientele. His relationship with Salomon clearly tells the audience about both men: El Pajarito wants to sell for 10 duros "un bobo amarillo con cadena reforzada y madalla a Don Leando." Samuel offers "uno cincointa," in turn, the thief calls Salomon a usurer. Salomon accuses the thief of being "pir lo qui ti coista a vos meter la mano in bolsilio ageno." As he steals a revolver that is on the counter, El Pajarito professes his honesty to the usurer Salomon. Thus, Jews are sharp traders, usurers, and thieves. Further, while both men are thieves, the creole El Pajarito is by far the cleverer because he can outsmart a Jew. Throughout the play El Pajarito continues to steal things from Salomon and then resell them back to him. In the bargain Salomon thinks he is a sharp dealer but the Pajarito knows who is "más vivo."
Vacarezza introduced the theme of intermarriage in this sainete as well. Salomon admonishes his daughter not to keep looking out on the street: "No ti fijas in compadrito que ti camina contra il pared, fijate in novio Ratolfo qui istá comerciante seris." She loves, however, the creole Valentín. Her brother, Isaac, is upset as well, due to her affection for Valentine, and he admonishes her: "Tú tendrás que hacer lo que corresponde al buen nombre del familia y al religion de tus padres." Valentín used to be an employee of Salomon. He fired Valentín because all he did was look at Rebeca and talk to her. Now, how can Rebeca marry an unemployed clerk?
Samuel sent his employee Joselin out to spy on Rodolfo Prujermann, the purported novio of Rebeca. Joselin finds out that Rodolfo owns three properties: "una istá in calle Yatal Cucho" (Isaac corrects Ayachucho); "otro in calle Bartolo dame mi metro" Salomon asks "Que?" The employee answers, "Bartolo dame mi metro" istá calle qui si te vas de acá poide qui incointras primero y si vienes di allá, más despois qui istá primero, no vas incontrar. [[exclamdown]]Que esperanza!" Salomon "[[questiondown]]Y la otra?" Joselin, "La tiene acá in istá calle...qui no habla nada [play on the word "Callado"]." Salomon "[[questiondown]]Callao?" The point of this dialog is to show wealth of novio and to make fun of the Jewish immigrant whose Spanish is at best rudimentary. This type of parody on the immigrant builds on an earlier tradition of the "bozal," or person who speaks Spanish poorly because it is not his native tongue, later more fully developed with the character of the "cocoliche" or parody of the Italian who speaks a bastardized Spanish.
Salomon has another son who is "acriollado," Miguel. He serves to highlight the conflict between the immigrant and the native born. Isaac makes fun of him by calling him "Criollo di porqueriá" because he does not respect their father. An earlier incident with Valentín clearly showed how Miguel saw his father. When Valentín asked for a raise from 80$ per month Salomon denied his request because, as stated by Salomon, he could get workers for less. Miguel accused father of being an "Usurero." Miguel, in turn, does not think much of his brother who he calls "ruso cambalachoro" Miguel states: "Soy idis, pero mi patria es está; manyuen como seré de criollo que hasta he nacido en la calle Ombú." Manuel, portrayed as without a trade, is jealous of his older brother. Manuel feels his father loves Isaac more because he "chamuyo el iris" and he studies to be a doctor. In essence, one brother seems to be the "ideal Jewish son" while the other is not. However, it will be Miguel who proves to be the savior of the family and this role Vacarezza developed in the context of the relationship between Rebeca and Rodolfo.
Rodolfo comes in to talk about the engagement with Rebeca. Neither Rodolfo nor her father involve in the discussion. Angered by this omission, Miguel jumps in and defends her rights: "Qué aqui no estamos en Odesa. Habilitamos un país de espiritú permanente demócratico y en mi cáracter de ciudandano y en defensa de lo intereses de la benemérita patria de Leguizamón y Leiria, no permito que se haga presion sobre la voluntad individual y en consequencia digo: Dos puntos. Que es perfectamente inútil el consentimiento familiar, si antes saber qué es lo que dispone la interesada.... [[exclamdown]]Conteste la querellante! E está conforme en contraer matrimonio con el caballero aqui presente...." Rebeca expresses her love for Valentín. El Pajarito plots to rob store and burn it. Miguel and Valentin plot to arrange the marriage. Salomon, Isaac and Rodolfo plot to get Rebeca married the next day. Salomon catches El Pajarito in the act of robbing the store and calls police. Police come and arrest Joselin. Vacarezza is playing with the audience and with his characters: who looks more like a thief, the Jew or the El Pajarito? Obviously the Jew, whom the police arrest as the thief. While Samuel works to extradite Joselin from police, El Pajarito safely alone inside the store, continues to rob it, and escapes with several suitcases filled with goods. As he leaves he says "[[exclamdown]]Ah rusos mal educados! Yo les vi á enseñar a venir a incomo darlo a uno en las horas de trabajo!" Meanwhile, Rebeca is forced to marry Rodolfo in a religious ceremony and Miguel finds out that Rodolfo is not what he purports to be. He is in reality Kramir Traviesky and is already married. He seduces young girls "marries' them and turns them into prostitutes. Since Rebeca is married only by religious rite, she is saved because the marriage is not legal without a civil ceremony. Therefore, she is not really married. The father is grateful to his younger son and allows Rebeca to marry Valentín who truly loves her. Salomon recognizes that he was wrong in opposing the marriage, and in holding to outmoded views relative to the values of life. The Jewish ways are passé and the new way is to be Argentine: "Desde hoy más adelante mi tambíen quiere ser criollo" and he lets a tango be played as a sign of his change--before he thought the dance was sinful--now it is all right. The Jew is acriolado. The play ends.
In El Cabo Quijote, (1929) Vacarezza includes a Jewish couple Moisés, a furrier called "ruso descueradore de gatos" by the Italian Don Nicola, and the wife of the Jew, also described by the Italian as a "rusita llena de perendenques." These three characters are always fighting and insulting each. Their only purpose in the play is to provide "comic relief" and to add reality to the patio scenes of the conventillo. Another character, Sebastian a creole, looks upon these people of the "new Argentina," the land of the immigrant, and laments: "Y pensar que estos son los hombres de áhura."
Based on this review of the Vacarezza's works, the Jewish themes focus on Jews as usurers, Jews as sharp traders, Jews as cheats, Jews as being narrow minded. Furthermore, there are broader themes that focus on the issues of Argentine nationality, Argentina as a place for new ideas, conflict between the old European-based generation and the Argentine born generation, and assimilation. These by definition include Jews as part of the larger immigrant population. Very easily some of the stereotypical definitions are exclusively Jewish; for example, the Jew as a sharp trader and as usurer--the classic Shylock figure. Others images used in the sainetes are more inclusive and Jews could be replaced with Italians, or Gallegos. The example that could be used here is the assimilated son or daughter in conflict with the values of the immigrant parent or parents who could be Italian, Spanish, Jewish, or even Turkish..
The last work to be discusses is a sainete (estudiantina) by three Jewish authors Mauricio and Luis Bliffeld and Felipe Teper. While it may appear to be out of the scope of this brief study, it is discussed in the content of the impact of the theatre image of the Jew even on Jewish authors. Se Recibió Silberstein, Estudiantina en tres cuadros opened on June 25, 1932. The play's protagonist, Leonardo Silberstein, has graduated from medical school and his aunt Sara holds a party in his honor with his friends and family. His parents Isaac and Rebeca are stereotypical Jews who speak with a heavy Yiddish accent, For example, they say bionas versus buenas and alegkres versus alegres, they make tea in a samovar and drink from a saucer with a sugar cube in their teeth.
At the party is a girl called Elisa, who Leonard tells his parents is his novia (16). His mother is shocked, "Pero cómo ... [[exclamdown]]sí no es idish! [[exclamdown]]Es una "goi".... No sabe lo que es un samovar..."(16). His father, when introduced to her, asks if she is a Christian? His son replies "Si es critiana, [[questiondown]]Qué tiene de particular [[exclamdown]]Nos queremos! [[exclamdown]]Eso es lo suficiente!"(16) The father cries out a Christian and the mother asks why has God so castigated them? Isaac wails, as a reason why his son should not marry a Christian, is because "somos una raza diferente"(17). The son's reply to his parents "Sí...la historia de siempre! Razas distintas...pueblo elegido.... [[questiondown]]Elegido para qué?.... Para ser extraños en los ámbitos de la tierra y vagar sin patria durante siglos y soglos?" (17) The father will not accept the love match and cries out "[[exclamdown]]No los quiro ver más! [[exclamdown]]Prefiero quedar ciego qué verlos! [[exclamdown]]Nal hijo! [[exclamdown]]Goi! [[exclamdown]]Goi!" All the while he is saying these things, he is pounding his chest in lament (17).
In an another scene the father sends a matchmaker "Schadjen" Samuel to visit his son. This character is described as an old Jew with a long beard, somewhat disheveled, and with a Yiddish newspaper in his hand. He wants to speak in Yiddish. The son refuses and wants to speak only in "castellano." Samuel describes how he has all kinds of girls with large doweries available for marriage, but Silberstein refuses to listen to him and orders him out, accusing him of being a "comisionista de matrimonios" (18-19). Elisa comes in and they kiss passionately and with much love. Later, Silberstein meets a friend, who asks how things are. He replies that things have gone not well or as he had hoped. His mother died and his father blames him. He no longer sees his family "Soy como un hijo maldito.... Esas malditas religiones.... [[exclamdown]]Cuando terminaremos con el carneval de los prejuicios!"(21). Later his father comes by the medical office [inconsistency earlier he said he no longer saw family]. The father is now much older so bent over that he can barely stand up. Elisa and her friends, Juanita and Campana, are also in office. They ask the father how he is and Elisa wants to go but he says it is all right for her to stay (22). The following dialog ensues:
Father (replies as to how he is): "[[exclamdown]]Oh muy mal...el tiempo...los disgustos...mi hijo...!"
Juanita: No hay que ser tan inflexible, don Isaac.
Isaac: Es que ustedes no comprenden.....
Juanita: Conprendemos muy bien, don Isaac. La medicina nos ha formado nuestra religión de la humanidad, que acepta todo lo que sea amor y que tiene por credo de la Naturaleza....
Isaac want his son to leave Elisa and come home. She agrees to this only if it is a way to make Silberstein happy. Obviously her love for Silberstein is so great that she is willing to make such a sacrifice. Clearly, Christians are far more compassionate and understanding than Jews.
Siberstein's reaction to all this is summed up in the following interaction between father and son. According to Silberstein, his father once told him that he did not believe in all those religious things himself, but only does so out of custom. The father denies this. Son goes on to retell a story his father once told him. It is about a Cantor who disappeared and later surfaced with a group of Christian missonaries. When he was confronted by Isaac for betraying Judaism he responded, "La diferencia que hay entre nosotros los judios y ellos los cristianos, es que nosotros decimos que el mesías llegará algún dia montado en un caballo blanco y ellos sostienen qué ya llegó. Pero como yo sé que ninguna de los dos partes tienen razón, me es indiferente cantar para los unos como los otros"(23). Isaac says his son is a traitor to Judaism; the son says no, he is a man who attacks only fanaticism. The father says Jews should not mix. Silberstein retorts "Esas son mentiras de la religion..." (23) The old Jew says that son will never be happy with "...una mujer que no sea de tu raza...somos sangre diferente, nuestras costumbres son también distintas..." (23). The son replies that his father should be strong enough to overcome these prejudices, father says he wants his son to come home, but the son says never. Silberstein's father says good-bye for ever. He warns his son that some day he will repent what he has done "Acuérdate que ningún judio rompe del todo con su religión. [[exclamdown]]Querrás que tus huesos descansen en lugar judío."(24) The son answers his father by saying it is not difficult to break with something that one does not believe. He does not believe if Judaism any more (24). As Isaac leaves, his son says to Elisa that his father will return "hardará en volver trayéndonossu perdón.... Se lo llevó la debilidad y la rutina...volverá." The play ends with Silberstein holding Elisa and saying "el amor...La religión de todos los tiempos." (24)
The reviews of Se recibio Silberstein were universally favorable. The commentators were struck by the message of the play which they interpreted as the triumph of reason over ignorance. Judiaism was equated with "una tradición ridícula" bested by a noble truth "la medicina lo ha formado en la religion de la humanidad" (La Prensa). According to the Buenos Aires daily La Critica the play "asoma en ella [producción] un alegato contra los prejuicios raciales y religiones; sosteniendo los autores que tales prejuicios no debieran subsistir, pues son siempre hijos de la ignorancia" thus the only true religion is love. The message is clear, even from these Jewish authors, assimilation and the abandonment of Judaism are the ways to be modern and progressive. The twist to the earlier theme, and this may be the "Jewish" variation, is that the true religion is science and that all religions lead to prejudice. Even so, these authors presented Judaism negatively as being narrow and biased.
This study reflects a problem that exists in many multi-ethnic and multi-racial societies. This problem is often defined by the following questions: Is there a dominant culture and value system that defines the society? Are all components of that society required to conform to that norm, either through moral suasion or coercion? In countries that were large receivers of immigrants, these questions were often not clearly answered and herein is the real problem of definition of these societies. For example, in the United States what is an American; in Canada, what is a Canadian; and in Argentina, what is an Argentine? In some societies, they have defined themselves on the basis of what they were not. For example, in Australia, until only recently, they defined themselves as being non-Asian and implemented a discriminatory immigration policy to exclude Asians. Argentina, according to its Constitution was to be open to immigrants from all over the world and the central government, under the dictum gobernar es poblar, could not limit the entrance of any group. In reality, this proved not to be true and the Argentine governments practiced a de facto immigration policy that excluded so-called undesirables, largely defined by their political beliefs, anarchist for example; race, Asians in the period prior to 1945; and religion, the Jews during the World War II period.
These exclusions served in some ways to define what the policy makers saw their county to be demographically and politically. In an earlier time, they defined the country as an "Europe in America" and by doing so, excluded people of color, especially the Afro-Argentine, from being considered part of Argentine nationality. The Afro-Argentine was in essence defined as "the other." The easiest way to deal with "the other," based on the practices of the Argentine cultural elite, was to ignore it. Simply put, the Afro-Argentine disappeared.
An essential part of the definition of Argentina as a "Europe in America," was its religious and ethnic composition. The Argentine elite recognized this and as cogently stated by the Argentine consul general in Rome in 1902: "Es también notorio la bondad, de la emigración italiana, reconocido universalmente como de primer orden ... se establece [bien] en territorios como el nuestro, donde encuentra similitud de clima, lengua, costumbres y religión..." The "Europe in America," the elite wished to create in Argentina by the early 1900s was one dominated by the "Latin" race that would have "assured ethnic dominance in the Argentine Republic." For example, the Director of the National Immigration Service, Juan Alsina, wrote in 1895: "La raza latina, especialmente la italiana, dará unos miliones más de su hijos, para constuir aquí en la Argentina, una república cristiana." By the centennial of Argentine independence in 1910, Argentina was a Latin country and many members of the elite could state with pride:
nos permite afirmar con entera exactitud, que la raza latina, cuyo primera simiente arrojó el conquistador español en lo que es hoy la República Argentina, es la que sigue predominando con mayor fuerza ahora, robustecida y consolidada con las poderosas adiciones que le aportan Italia, España y demás países latinos...
Clearly, therefore, the Argentine elite saw their country as a Latin European nation composed of Spanish and Italians Catholics. Anyone who differed from this religious and ethnic norm, excluding the Spanish Catholic creole base population, was likely to be considered as "the other."
In the popular theatre, the presentation of the images of the Italian and Spanish immigrant were often humorous, satirical, but hardly ever cruel. While intermarriage between the sons and daughters of Italian and Spanish immigrants was a theme in many sainetes, it was presented in a vein of pointing out the foibles of the parents and the Argentiness of the children. None of the participants in the inter-ethnic relationship were asked to change, or give up part of their being. The meat of the sainetero was the stereotype. Thus, creoles are compadritos, Gallegos shop keepers and tight-fisted, Italians fruit peddlers, and Vascos milk men. In most cases they were funny characters, honest, with some minor exceptions, and hard working.
It is only Jews who are usurers, sharp traders, cheats, and fences. Curiously, the saineteros presented "the Jew as criminal" as a unromanticized evil, while at the same time the compadrito (especially the malevo), or the creole criminal type, was romanticized into a folk hero on both the porteño stage and in the tango. For example, Carlos Gardel could sing about the ultimate criminal, the malevo, as a hero, and even assume some of the characteristics of this folk-type; yet at the same time there are no songs sung honoring the Jew as a criminal. Additionally, the saineteros presented the creole pick-pocket and other petty thieves as being clever and able to out fox the Jew. Only the Jew is consistently presented as an unrepentant and unredeemable thief. The Jew is also accused of wanting riches and, in the case of the sainete Usurero, this Jewish trait of money-lust is self-destructive for creoles. This sainete is a morality play and its didactic message is that, if one seeks wealth through sharp trading or usury, the consequences will be simple: one will become a Jew. Even so, in the tangos contemporary to this play, the popular image of the wealthy is to not work and to be able to go the cabaret, have women, and to drink champagne. The tangos' messages clearly glorify the wealthy and most particularly the idle rich. It is also noteworthy that the Jews portrayed in the sainetes generally live in the porteño slum tenement, the conventillo, not a place known as the residence of choice for many of the idle rich.
Jews are presented are the "other" in a cultural melting pot where Italians and Spaniards blend in while Jews do not. Jews are truly the "other" and the only way of overcoming this onus is through intermarriage and the lose of identity by changing one's name and religion. Jews, through their insistence in maintaining outdated religious values and practices, are opposed to letting their children be modern and Argentine. This too is a sin. The "Jewish" problem according to the Argentine culture brokers, as transmitted by the saineteros, could be resolved in the same way the problem of the Afro-Argentine was solved: miscegenation and disappearance. Were the Argentine culture brokers anti-Semitic, yes the same way they were anti-black. Were the saineteros anti-Semitic; yes they were, but they would deny it the same way they would deny that they were anti-black. They would argue that they advocated the creation of an Argentine people, a people that could be inclusive of the all and in the process would disappear the other, in this case the Jews of Argentina.