The prospect of growing yerba mate, used to make the herbal tea that is Argentina's national addiction, drew Swedes to Misiones at the beginning of the 20th century, not all the way from Sweden but from Brazil, where they had been lured by German-based recruitment offices. In Brazil, the new arrivals soon discovered that the recruitment officers propaganda was nothing more than empty promises. Around 1913 word started going around that across the border, in the Argentinian territory of Misiones, the land was more fertile and the government was providing incentives for farmers to grow a profitable cash crop known as the green gold - yerba mate.
Two contingents of emigrants made the voyage south. In 1890-91, most of the 2 000 were workers and families from the crisis-ridden industries in Stockholm and Sundsvall. In 1909-11, most of the 700 were miners from the far north who left after the failure of a nation-wide strike. The first Swedes to cross the border to Argentina found not only Brazilian, Paraguayan and German colonists, but also a group of Finnish intellectuals who had fled their country in 1906 for political reasons. After the town of Oberá was officially founded in 1928, the Swedes soon became a minority, but as they had come first there are today neighbourhoods that carry the names of those pioneering farmers - Villa Kindgren, Villa Fredriksson, Villa Erasmie.
In 1914 ten men cleared a 20-km path (picada) through the jungle between the first Swedish settlement, Villa Svea and a German colony. The road is still known as the Picada Sueca. Around 500 Swedes were estimated to have settled in the area by the 1920s and they organized a school, an ethnic-based association and a congregation. In September many Swedish descendants still participate in the Oberá Immigrants Festival.
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