The exhibition “Lithuanians of the World: Uruguay and Argentina” was exhibited in Vilnius Lukiškės Square this fall. It tells the stories of Lithuanians who traveled to South America in the mid-20th century.
Along with the photographs of Uruguayan and Argentine Lithuanian community members by Berta Tilmantaitė, nineteen narratives tell stories about Lithuanians who came to South America in search of happiness and peace or to escape misfortune. The members of the Uruguayan and Argentine communities shared their memories of Lithuania, told about difficult first years and their desire to return home, as well as the importance of the local Lithuanian community and attempts to preserve national identity abroad.
Meeting with the members of Lithuanian community “Mindaugas” based in Berisso, Argentina
The expedition of the Lithuanian Archives Literature and Art to Uruguay and Argentina that took place on January 2019 was supported by the February Sixteenth Fund (Lithuania). During the trip, researchers gathered documentary heritage of Lithuanian communities’ in South America cultural activities and recorded their memories and stories. Twenty six meetings took place and many unique historical archival documents were collected. The members of the community handed over photos, memoirs, letters, and periodicals.
It is not known when exactly the first Lithuanians arrived in Uruguay and Argentina. However, it is known that in the early 20 century, the Lithuanians established communities and were very active in Uruguay and Argentina. They helped Lithuania to declare independence, raised funds for various charitable foundations, published newspapers and books and organized performances, commemorations, and dinners. Although cultural activities have helped to keep the Lithuanian language alive and maintain national identity, the membership in Uruguayan and Argentine Lithuanian communities has been diminishing.
Photo credit: Berta Tilmantaitė