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Thinking of Bulgaria in far-away Argentina

Photo: private library

Tens of thousands of Bulgarians are living and working in Argentina. The exact number is unknown, but estimates range between 50,000 and 150,000 people. Many of them have been living or were born in the South American country and some have difficulties understanding Bulgarian language. However, they have always been interested in everything happening in Bulgaria.

One of their valuable sources of information has been Radio Bulgaria, says Ivan Tsankov, who together with his wife Axinia is the founder of the "Bulgarians in Argentina" Civic Association. They are broadcasting their own radio program and they are also preparing to launch an Internet TV channel.

“The overwhelming majority of Bulgarians in Argentina are descendants of immigrants as far as four generations back. In fact, they are Argentines, although some of them have Bulgarian passports. It is their names ending in ‘-ov’, that show they are Bulgarian. Due to the long distance and high travel costs, very few of them have actually been to Bulgaria. But they are still interested in everything Bulgarian.”

The first evidence of Bulgarians in Argentina date back to the beginning of the last century, but larger communities formed after the two world wars.

“At that time, the Argentine government was having a kind of advertising campaign in Europe,” says Ivan Tsankov. “It promised each new settler as much land as he could cultivate. For starving Bulgarians, this is was a true blessing. Entire groups in Bulgaria headed for Argentina without money or knowing the language. Arriving in Argentina, they went places of where lack of workers existed. Bulgaria’s largest community in Argentina is in the province of Chaco, where large cotton plantations exist. Another place is Comodoro Rivadavia, which is rich in oil deposits and the third large group of Bulgarians went to Berisso, near Buenos Aires, to work in large refrigeration installations for meat production. Smaller groups of Bulgarian intellectuals settled in the capital city of Buenos Aires.”

To this day, the largest Bulgarian group in Argentina is located in Chaco, followed by the community in Comodoro Rivadavia and Beriso. Having the desire to help their compatriots, Ivan Tsankov and his wife Axinia created a special website, and then, inspired by its success, created the online radio "My Bulgaria".

"Our broadcasts are entirely cultural topics. There is no news and politics. We do shows related to Bulgarian customs, our national and official holidays. We also have a campaign that seeks out and finds artists poets, and musicians of Bulgarian origin. Through the radio we promote them, and the initiative proved to be very interesting and attracted many artists, including from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries.

We also organized online courses in Bulgarian, which is, in fact, the only alternative for those wishing to learn the language as the most numerous communities are thousands of kilometers away from Buenos Aires and it is impossible to attend a live course. We have met a great interest. People from all over Argentina called as well as people from neighboring countries  like Uruguay, where there are many Bulgarians who wat to learn the language. We have a course of hundred lessons as each lesson lasts an hour."

The first Bulgarian television in Latin America is about to launch. The new media will be called "Los Bulgaros TV" and Ivan Tsankov is the one behind the idea.

"Once a month we will be broadcasting features on cultural topics, as we do not plan to do politics or news, but a different type of journalistic broadcast. We will also upgrade the campaign previously launched on the radio - conversations with prominent Bulgarians or popular Argentines of Bulgarian origin. This is for starters and then we'll see.”

English: Alexander Markov

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