• Argentina

    ARGENTINA is not difficult to locate on a map of the Americas. It shares with its western neighbor, Chile, the distinction of being one of the two American countries to reach farthest southward toward the Antarctic. It stretches some 3,694 kilometers (close to 2,300 miles) from north to south, and has within its boundaries a notable variety of climate, topography and vegetation.

    Prairie land, called “pampas,” dominates the center of Argentina. This is where the “gauchos” long displayed their expert horsemanship as they tended the vast herds of beef cattle. In the far northwest there is high desert mesa land. To the northeast, where visitors gasp at the grandeur of Iguassu Falls, there is humid jungle. Southward one passes through the lowlands of Entre Ríos (literally, “between the rivers” Paraná and Uruguay) into rolling fertile farmlands. And south of the pampas the arid land called Patagonia stretches from the Colorado River to the Straits of Magellan, a region that has proved highly suitable for sheep raising.

    Northward along the cordillera many lakes are encountered. Here, too, is San Carlos de Bariloche, center of the region that has been called “the Switzerland of South America.” Farther north is Mendoza and its neighbor province of San Juan, Argentina’s land of fruit and wine.

    Such a land, with all its beauty in variety, could and did attract a multitude of immigrants from many countries of Europe, so much so that by 1970 Argentina had become home to 23,364,431 persons. From such a burgeoning population Jehovah God would not and did not withhold his proclamation of peace, the good news of his kingdom by Christ Jesus. In 1924 His tidings of good things in store began to be preached in this vast national territory.


    Juan Muñiz, a loyal Christian and active Witness, had much to do with those beginnings and was closely identified with the Kingdom interests in Argentina right up to the day of his death, September 10, 1967. Throughout those forty-three years he devoted his time, energies and means to the spread of true worship. According to his own account (see The Watchtower,

    1964, pages 761-764), he first gained an appreciation of Bible truth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he had a store. That was in 1916. The following year he started declaring the “good news” and was baptized. In 1920 he sold his business so as to be able to devote all his time to preaching.

    J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, asked him to go to Spain and look after the preaching work there. Due to his being continually followed by the police, he was not able to do much in Spain, so Brother Rutherford assigned him in 1924 to care for the Kingdom work in Argentina. There was already a man in Argentina who had received literature from the United States, so Brother Muñiz contacted him and got him started in the Kingdom work in the territory of Misiones far to the north. (See map at page 49.) This man was Brother Kammerman.

    There was already a large German-speaking population in the country. This prompted Brother Muñiz to ask President Rutherford for the help of brothers who could speak German. Thus it came about that in 1925 Carlos Ott, a German pioneer, was assigned.

    Brother Eduardo Adamson, who for many years worked alongside Brother Muñiz in the field ministry and in the Watch Tower Society’s branch office, tells of the fine example set by Brothers Muñiz and Ott in their unswerving devotion to Jehovah. He also relates: “Since Brother Muñiz received no help from anyone but needed financial help, he wrote the Society in Brooklyn requesting aid and it was duly wired to him. This would be his last request for help, since he was determined to make a go of it without financial assistance from outside the country. He lived up to this determination, even though it meant working long hours at night repairing watches, clocks or sewing machines.”

    Greater Buenos Aires at that time had less than 2,000,000 inhabitants. This was the logical starting place for organized activity, forming a hub from which the Kingdom work would spread to the remotest parts of the country, as well as to Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile. Brother Ott tells us how the work was done: “We would get up at 4 a.m. and call at the houses street by street, leaving tracts under the doors, particularly the tract

    Where Are the Dead? Later the same day we would visit the same homes with such publications as The Photo-Drama of Creation, The Divine Plan of the Ages, The Harp of God, and the booklet Can the Living Talk with the Dead?, this latter one being specially appropriate due to the prevalence of spiritism in Buenos Aires.”

    Tracts were handed to people attending meetings of the various Evangelical cults as they filed out of their respective meeting houses. Brother Ott recalls how “one of those Protestant preachers came out and told Brother Muñiz we had no right to be there​—that he and his church were there first. Brother Muñiz retorted: ‘Well, in that case, the Catholics were here before you; and the Indians were here before the Catholics! So you have no right either!’” As a result of that tract work one Evangelical group became a group of real Bible Students, many of whom proved to be faithful servants of Jehovah in after years.

    Another means of reaching the public was the radio, and before 1928 Brother Muñiz was using this medium. Information was provided by the Brooklyn office, and later

    Luz y Verdad, the Spanish edition of The Golden Age (now Awake! ), carried material specially adapted for reading over the radio. Recordings of Brother Rutherford’s talks were also used. In the 1930’s radio stations in Buenos Aires, Bahía Blanca and Córdoba were used, and thereby many persons were drawn to the organization. But in the early 1940’s Brother Muñiz wrote the radio station that we were discontinuing this method of preaching because of the censorship. It so happened that there was a priest in the office of the censors.


    In 1925 Brother Ott began preaching to the German-speaking population. He would visit German schools and obtain the addresses of the German families. Many of those people came to an appreciation of the Bible truths through his activity. “In two months,” he reports, “some 300 addresses were obtained; much literature was placed and many subscriptions for the German edition of

    The Golden Age were obtained. Even many German-speaking Jews took literature.” Some Germans had already learned about Jehovah’s purposes before coming to Argentina, and some of these were activated or reactivated when contacted by Brother Muñiz or Brother Ott; among them Carlos Schwalm from East Prussia and the Krugers from South Africa; two other Germans who learned the Kingdom message here in Argentina were Brothers Ricardo Traub and Paul Hinderlich.

    Because of the European background of so many of Argentina’s population there has always been a friendly attitude toward those coming from other lands. Of course, those early publishers of the Kingdom did meet up with some very fanatical Catholics​—Argentina, you see, claims to be 88 percent Catholic. But Brother Ott reports: “Although this is a Catholic country, the clergy have not always been held in high esteem. I remember during the presidency of Alvear (Radical Party president, 1922-1928), the children playing in the streets of Buenos Aires would shout ‘Touch wood!’ when a priest came in sight. This was their way of saying that a priest brought bad luck, and that to have good luck one must touch wood.”

    Brother Ott also explained why there was so much complacency among the people of this country: “The Argentines had not suffered the terrible World War, so they could very easily feel and say that such calamities could never happen to them. During the Spanish civil war the general comment here was: ‘Let the Spaniards kill one another off​—it is no concern of ours!’ They were sure that they would never witness such suffering.”

    With the exception of some interest Brother Muñiz found in Paraná, Santa Fe and Rosario on his return trip from Paraguay in 1925, and the work by Brother Kammerman in Misiones Province, the preaching and literature distribution were concentrated on Buenos Aires and surrounding towns. There the branch office was established in 1926 with Brother Muñiz as branch servant.

    In 1929 Brother Muñiz sent Brother Traub to take care of the Kingdom work in Chile. En route to this assignment Brother Traub stopped for a short time in Mendoza and did some preaching. Thus it was that the Hermán Seegelken family learned about the Kingdom hope. It appears that Hermán had long been aware of the hypocrisy in both the Catholic and the Protestant churches, so he eagerly accepted the message of the Kingdom. As a result, all eight of his children were

    given a good foundation of Bible knowledge. Their uncle, Lucidio Quintana, who so often had said that the Seegelkens were crazy due to their new religion, later accepted that “crazy” religion too. He was overseer of the congregation and a pioneer minister for many years, faithfully serving to the time of his death. Thus the group in Mendoza began with the Seegelkens, the Truneckas, and a few others.

    The decade of the 1920’s was drawing to a close and the nucleus of the theocratic organization had been formed. According to the information that we have at hand, there was one regular pioneer in the country in 1925 and 2,681 pieces of literature were placed. By 1928 there were three pioneers and thirty-one congregation publishers reporting activity. Now a great field was to open up, far beyond the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires​—a territory of 2,776,655 square kilometers (about 1,073,226 square miles), the second-largest country of the South American continent!


    Despite the vastness of the territory and the fewness of workers, a foundation had been laid years before that would prove to be a valuable asset in the expansion of the work, particularly in the 1930’s. This foundation consisted in the laying of railroad tracks over a network of more than 40,000 kilometers (24,860 miles), giving Argentina the most complete railroad coverage in Latin America. As far back as 1857 the first train had operated on a short line out of Buenos Aires, and in the following years the network constantly grew. These railroad lines served a threefold purpose for our brothers, namely, for transportation for themselves, as supply line to keep them stocked with literature, and as territory, as we will soon see. The thirties would prove to be exciting years of theocratic expansion.

    Brother Adamson explains it this way: “The pioneer work was done in a peculiar fashion in those early years of the work. Due to the geographical and commercial arrangement of the country, most of the railroads spread out from Buenos Aires to all the different parts of the country. So pioneer territories followed these railway lines, there being at the time few other means of communication. Pioneers were assigned long sections of the lines, and had to cover all the towns and cities of that section, or, perhaps, of the entire line, sometimes finishing up many hundreds of miles away from the start of their work. Travel was in second-class coaches with hard wooden benches, if money was available, or on flatcars of freight trains, taking all their belongings with them: a carton of literature, a suitcase, and perhaps a bicycle.

    “Their portion was not an easy one, so our hearts went out to them, and many of the friends did their best to help them out financially and with clothes. I will never forget how we felt when one of these pioneers was murdered in the city of Santa Rosa, La Pampa Province. Brother Rossi had preached to a man who then excused himself and went indoors as if to look for some money to contribute for the literature. He came out with a gun. Brother Rossi tried to get away, but was shot in the back.”

    A subscription for the Golden Age

    magazine in German placed by Brother Ott brought joy to José Reindl. He re

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