BUENOS AIRES – More than 1.5 million people are using the digital database of the Latin American Migration Studies Center, or CEMLA, each year to search for information on the trans-Atlantic journeys of European migrants who arrived in Argentina in the 19th and 20th centuries, fleeing famine and war.
The center, founded by the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, whose original mission was to assist Italian immigrants arriving in the country, has been gathering data for more than 30 years.
Among the database’s more than 7 million items, the most documented area is the great 1882-1960 migratory wave that brought millions of people escaping from hunger, war and political oppression to Argentina.
From Spain alone, “more than 1.5 million people” journeyed to what was then considered a land of opportunity, CEMLA president Irineu Zotti told EFE.
The center obtains data from handwritten records kept on ledgers by Argentina’s National Migration Administration and old magazines, research reports and newspapers, whose “excessive wear and tear from use” led the group to start an ambitious recovery project in 1992.
About 97 percent of the material has been digitized and there are more than 7 million indexed references accessible on one Web site, as well as a program specifically created by experts for this purpose, allowing users who contact CEMLA to find their roots.
In 2015, “about 1.6 million people visited the Web site with an average stay of seven minutes,” reviewing documents via the application, Zotti said.
As it works to digitize and index the remaining 3 percent of material, CEMLA is developing new apps that will allow easier classification of data, enabling cross references to locate specific information for research and a better understanding of history.