Primary Source

Chilean Consul Writes of Immigrants Needing Assistance, 1864


Found in the National Archive of Chile, this is a letter from José de la Cruz Zenteno, the Chilean consul in Mendoza, Argentina to the Minister of Foreign Relations in Chile. Mendoza was and is a province that borders Chile. In the 1860s when the letter was written, state institutions in Argentina and Chile were undergoing significant changes and Chilean migration to Argentina was increasing. In this letter, he refers to Chilean immigrants asking for alms and help from the consulate in the years after the 1861 earthquake in Mendoza that destroyed significant portions of the city. This letter and another from Zenteno show how transnational migrations impacted Chilean state formation, through institutions like the consulate, and state formation at a provincial level in Mendoza, Argentina.

This source is part of the transnational mobility and state formation methods primer


Señor Ministro

Desde que llegué a esta ciudad he visto golpear diariamente las puertas de este Consulado a tantos chilenos pobres i desvalidos en solicitud de socorros i limosnas para vivir, que lastima el corazón. Unos acreditan su miseria mostrando algun miembro mutilado que perdieron en el terremoto que arruinó a este pueblo; otros, con la pérdida absoluta que sufrieron en esa catástrofe de lo poco que tenian; otros manifestando con su vejez i miseria la imposibilidad para el trabajo; i por fin viudas chilenas cargadas de hijos, invocando el auxilio i amparo de los representantes de su nación. 

Estos clamores son continuos, i aunque algo se mitigan con el corto socorro que de vez en cuando se les dá de los pequeños fondos que el Consulado tiene para este i otros objetos, no alcanzan con todo a llenar la milísima parte de esas necesidades. 
Para remediar estos males creo de mi deber indicar a VS que seria mui conveniente destinar para estos infelices el todo o parte de los fondos que tubiesen depositados en arcas fiscales precedentes de las limosnas erogadas por los chilenos a favor de los desgraciados de Mendoza.

Si esto fuese posible, yo desearia que el Sumo Gno se sirviese remitir esos fondos al Consulado, para distribuirlos entre los menesterosos chilenos con carga de rendir cuenta, ya sea nombrando comision al efecto o en la forma que V.S. tenga a bien determinar.

Dios gue a V.S.
Jose de la Cruz Zenteno


Mr. Minister,

Since I arrived in this city I have seen on a daily basis so many poor and helpless Chileans knocking on the doors of this Consulate in search of assistance and alms for survival that my heart weeps. Some demonstrate their misery showing some mutilated limb that they lost in the earthquake that destroyed this place; others, with the complete loss of everything suffered in that catastrophe, which was very little to begin with; others showing with their old age and misery the impossibility of working; and finally Chilean widows burdened with children, invoking the help and protection of the nation’s representatives. 

These cries are constant, and although some are quieted with the small aid that from time to time is given to them with the small funds that the Consulate has for this and other ends, they [the funds] don’t completely manage to fill even the thousandth part of those necessities. 

To remedy these misfortunes I think it my duty to point out to you that it would be quite advisable to direct to these wretches all or part of the funds that are deposited in the coffers coming from alms distributed on behalf of Chileans for the unfortunate people of Mendoza.

If this were possible, I would wish that the Supreme Government see fit to remit those funds to the Consulate to distribute them among needy Chileans with the responsibility of accounting for the funds, whether be appointing a commission to that effect or in the form that Your Honor thinks is best. 

God be with Your Honor,
Jose de la Cruz Zenteno


José de la Cruz Zenteno al Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, 23 diciembre 1864, Mendoza, Archivo Nacional de Chile, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Vol.  120, ff. 165-165v [English translation: José de la Cruz Zenteno to the Minster of Foreign Relations, 23 December 1864, Mendoza, National Archive of Chile, Ministry of Foreign Relations, Vol.  120, fs. 165-165v]

Parts of this letter appear in:
Kyle E. Harvey, “‘Because That’s What His Consul Had Ordered’: The Chilean Consulate as a Labor Institution in Mendoza, Argentina (1859-1869),” Historia Crítica no. 80 (2021): 81–102

How to Cite This Source

"Chilean Consul Writes of Immigrants Needing Assistance, 1864," in World History Commons, [accessed June 30, 2022]