Genetics of Argentina


With Argentina in the news today, here’s part of Razib Kahn’s 2012 post on admixture among Argentines:

PLoS ONE has another article up about admixture in Argentina. The interesting aspect is that in its self-conception Argentina, like the United States of America or Australia, is a European settler nation, and therefore unlike Mexico, Boliva, or Brazil, each of whom de jure or de facto espouse a multicultural and multiracial identity. Buenos Ares is in its mentality more a Southern European city situated in the antipodes, with a touch of old Mitteleuropa (Argentines are avid consumers of psychoanalysis). As noted in the PLoS article, ~1 percent of the citizens of Argentina identify as indigenous, but ~20 percent of the ancestry of Argentina’s population seems to derive from Amerindian sources! The paper itself adds little new here. Rather, it increases the sample size, and confirms that the Amerindian ancestry does seem to be lower in Buenos Ares, the magnet for so much Italian immigration.

I went to South America in May 1978 with my father. Being 19, my primary interest was looking at girls. Rio proved disappointing. The weather was cool and rainy, and most of the women were wearing rain gear. The only people on Ipanema and Copacabana Beaches were male volleyball players in Speedos.

In Buenos Aires, it was chilly but dry. Our tour group stayed in the expensive downtown shopping district, so there were thousands of attractive young women out shopping at all hours. (Inflation in Argentina was running about a million percent per hour and the locals seemed determine to spend their money as fast as they got it.) A curious observation was the uniformity of looks, both in clothes and hair color. Designer jeans hadn’t yet quite taken off in America, but they were already a uniform on Calle Florida.

Similarly, at least in my memory, virtually all the young women were brunettes, with straight hair down to their shoulders, with dark eyes. The hair color may have been fashion, too: perhaps hair dying wasn’t chic in 1978, or the government in its economic thrashings about had imposed a high tariff on Clairol products, or something.

Or it may have been partly racial. I had been told that everybody in Argentina was European, so I assumed this must be how Spaniards and Italians looked. But, the counter idea presented itself to me while I was there that most people were a little bit mestizo — not as much as the average Mexican in Los Angeles, but enough to rule out having many blondes and red heads.