¡Feliz Cumpleaños! (or, Macalisters in Argentina)

¡Feliz Cumpleaños! to argentino footballer Carlos Javier MacAllister, who represented his country three times in international matches during his career. He was born in Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina, on this day in 1968.

As his name suggests, MacAllister is one of an estimated 100,000 argentinos of Scottish descent. According to a recent article in the Scottish Times, Argentina has the largest such population outside the English-speaking world.[1] Scots began to settle in Argentina in the first quarter of the 19th century. Some of the earliest, more than 200 people, arrived in 1825 as part of a planned settlement, only to discover that the arrangements made for them had fallen through and they would have to fend for themselves. There were no Macalisters in that unhappy group, but the name begins to appear in local records not long afterwards. In 1832, for example, Parlane M’Alister & Co. donated $1000 towards the building of the Scotch Presbyterian Church in Buenos Aires – the ‘& Co.’ suggests that this M’Alister had business as well as spiritual investments there.[2] Two years later Robert Macalister of Paisley, Scotland, married Anne Downes at the British Episcopal Church in the same city. Both parties gave Buenos Aires as their regular residence.[3]

By 1850, Macalisters were being born in the province, most of them with Spanish names. Some of them were the children of people whose own names have obviously been ‘Spanished’ and were probably immigrants, but others have at least one parent who appears to be Argentine, suggesting that the Macalister settlers were already marrying into the local population. In fact, most of the Scottish immigrants to Argentina appear to have assimilated quite thoroughly. Their descendants are argentinos – but their names, like that of Carlos Javier MacAllister, give them away.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013


[1]John Fitzpatrick, ‘Scots in South America: The Forgotten Diaspora‘, in the Scottish Times, 3 April 2012. 
[3]Jeremy Howat, ‘St. John’s Marriages, 1833-1839’, from British Settlers in Argentina and Uruguay, Studies in 19th and 20th Century Emigration, accessed 3 March 2013.

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