“Dad: don’t try to antagonize my wife.” The secret story of Argentina’s first civil marriage

Alois Tabernig was born in Austria in 1829 and arrived in Argentina in 1860. After a short stay in the city of Buenos Aires, he settled in Rosario, but attracted by the aspiration that Colonia Esperanza was beginning to show, he moved to that city through Santa Fe in 1864 and opened a blacksmith shop.

In his native country, Alois married a woman with whom he had three daughters: Regina, Magdalena and Catalina. However, his wife died and he had to be left to care for the three girls. But this double function, that of mother and father, did not stop him from dreaming of falling in love again and starting a new family one day.

A second chance at love

Alois, a practicing Catholic, meets a young Protestant, Magdalena Moritz, 18 years his junior, in Esperanza. They fall in love and soon after he proposes to her, something that was impossible at the time because they had different religions. There was no Civil Registry and no Civil Code.

In the Museum of Colonization in Esperanza, there is a preferential space where you can see portraits of the characters of this history of civil marriage, the scarf used by the young woman and a living room set that belonged to them.

“The year was 1867. A newspaper reported that the priest objected to the celebration of the marriage, claiming to be the Protestant bride and declaring that he would marry them only if she renounced her faith. However, another version indicates that the priest’s motive was of a personal nature. Some of the settlers who went to mass on Sundays in the church facing the square left their plows and tools in need of repair at Alois’ forge, opposite the church, while they attended the religious service. The incessant pounding of Tabernig’s anvil drove the priest who celebrated mass out of his mind, and so relations cooled. In vain were the requests of the groom and the intervention of other neighbors in favor of Alois, who, because of his intelligence as a plow maker and because of his cheerful character, was much loved by his neighbors, “Jose Luis Iniguez, former president, told La Nación from the Center for Historical studies of Las Colonias (Esperanza).

“At half-past five the bridegroom appeared in Sunday suit, leading the bride firmly by the hand”

Faced with this situation, which seemed to have no favorable resolution, Alois remembered an old German tradition and, with the permission of the municipality, planted a very tall tree, equidistant from the Catholic and Protestant churches of the town, where he hung a sign that read: “The Tree of Liberty “. Later, in agreement with the parents of Magdalena Moritz, he notified all the neighbors of Esperanza, inviting them to meet on Sunday afternoons in the square, where matters important to the neighborhood would be discussed.

Portrait of Magdalena Moritz.
Portrait of Magdalena Moritz.

“At half-past five in the afternoon Louis, the bridegroom, appeared in Sunday suit, leading the bride strongly by the hand. He approached the tree, sat on a bench, and told the reasons why they were not allowed to marry. With this in mind, he asked those present to be his witnesses to take Magdalena as his wife, guaranteeing that the children born would be considered legitimate and reserving the right to celebrate the act in the church as soon as the priest allowed it. he explains .. to La Nación Guillermo Bonvin, councilor from Esperanza, who presented a project approved unanimously so that this important and transcendental event that happened in Esperanza would be identified in “Plaza San Martín”, the place where took place, with a monument – a monolith with a plaque as a sign of respect to this unification, which took place in 1867.

The scarf the bride wore to the wedding.
The scarf the bride wore to the wedding.

How was the situation resolved?

When it seemed that love would prevail over religion, the next day the priest appeared at the couple’s house to inform them that they were in sin as the marriage was invalid. Alois, who was very clear that his decision could not be reversed, told him: “Father, do not try to make enemies of my wife, because for me the family is the most important thing.” Finally the bishop of Paraná had to admit the marriage and some time later the couple were married at Hope Church.

Alois had three daughters and three sons with Magdalena Moritz. His second wife died in 1917 and he in 1920. His remains rest in the Esperanza Municipal Cemetery.

Alois had three daughters and three sons with Magdalena Moritz.
Alois had three daughters and three sons with Magdalena Moritz.

Certainly Alois would not have imagined that a street in the City of Hope would bear his name, much less that the Museum of the Colonization of the city would give him a preferential place where you can see portraits of the main characters of this history of civil marriage , the scarf used by the young woman and their living room set.

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