Located in southern Buenos Aires, on the corner of El Salvador and Avenida Crisólogo Larralde, is the side entrance to the municipal cemetery Cementerio de Avellaneda. On the other side of the street is another cemetery, this one is closed to the public. Overgrown with small trees and bushes and surrounded by a 3-meter wall, it hasn’t been visited in over 50 years.
The reason for this neglect is quite simple; the local community doesn’t want anyone to know it exists. Hidden amongst the broken tombstones and monuments emerging from the shrubbery is a story of gangsters, pimps, and prostitutes who ran wild in the streets of Argentina during the early 1900s. Now buried for over a century, today we hear the story of Zwi Migdal, one of the most notorious gangs that ever existed, and visit their final resting place in Avellaneda.
This Jewish criminal organization, arriving in Argentina during the 1860s, was more nefarious than any other immigrant group. Zwi Migdal was responsible for the trafficking of thousands of young women from Eastern Europe into the brothels of Buenos Aires. The peak of this organization came during the 1920s, when about 400 of these men controlled over 30,000 women, forcing them into prostitution on a daily basis. Through their illicit activities they were able to generate hefty profits numbering in the millions of dollars, which allowed them to flourish for many decades and buy influence within the judicial and political systems of Buenos Aires.