The first mentioned of Croatian immigrants in Uruguay comes from the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. They were largely sailors that had abandoned their ships. Immigration continued until after World War II. There are around 5,000 Croatians and their descendants living in Uruguay today, most of whom live in Montevideo, where the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Croatia is located. The duty of Honorary Consul is currently held by Eduardo Antonich.
In the La Florest district of Montevideo, there used to be a Las Aromas street, in which the Croatian Catholic Society was founded in 1938. Its members didn’t agree with Yugoslavia’s policies, and wanted to have a Croatian street. Thus they managed to have Las Aromas renamed to Calle Croatia on December 14th, 1970, which represented a great victory for them.
Grand opening of Calle Croatia in Montevideo, in 1970 (photo courtesy of Eduardo Antonich).
In the vicinity of Calle Croatia is the Escuela Republica de Croacia school. It got its name thanks to a decision by the Parliament of Uruguay on December 20th, 2007. It is an elementary school for children from first to sixth grade. The school fosters Croatian tradition and culture, and marks Croatia’s Independence Day.
The School flag bearer with the Croatian flag (photos courtesy of Eduardo Antonich)
Honorary consul of the Republic of Croatia, Eduardo Antonich, with his wife, Milka, and the flag bearer in front of the Croatian school.
The Croatian community is also present in the summer town of Punta del Este, a small town of about 12,000 citizens, which is a sister-city to Dubrovnik. This is where the Colegio Republica de Croacia school is located. Through the combined efforts of the Croatians of Montevideo and Punta del Este, with Frane Čizmić leading the charge, the Plaza Croacia square was opened in Punta del Este on July 8th, 2001.
From the opening of Punta del Este, from left to right are Gordana Meštrović, advisor to the Croatian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Frane Čizmić, mentor of the Croatian square, and Jose Čizmić (photos courtesy of Eduardo Antonich).
Some fifteen kilometers away from Punta del Este, on the Punta Ballena peninsula, in the Maldonado area, is the Lussich Arboretum. It was established by Antonio Dionisio Lussich (Montevideo, 1848 – Punta del Este, 1928). His father, Filip Lukšić, came to Rio de la Plata around 1840, as a sailor and trader from Sutivan. Antonio attended a German college in Montevideo, and was a shipowner, writer, and even participated in the Civil War. In 1896, Lussich bought 1,800 hectares of land between Sierra de la Ballena and Rio de la Plata, which was rocky and sandy at the time. By the next year, he had already started the afforestation of the area, first using local and then moving on to exotic plants, keeping in mind to need to protect the area from the wind while preserving the local bird population. In 1979, the arboretum came into the ownership of the Maldonado municipality, where another 190 hectares were added to it, so that it was now home to over 400 exotic and 70 native plant species. This is where the Museo Lussich and Agricultural College are located, as is the Camino Lussich (Lussich’s path).
Antonio Lussich (1848 – 1928)
The building in the arboretum where Lussich lived.