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La Educación
Número: (116) III
Año: 1993

ARGENTINA. Putting aside the undeserved judgment that “anti-Spanish sentiment in La Plata produced what became an enduring myth [SIC] of military prowess, as General José de San Martín defeated the troops loyal to the Spanish crown,” I suggest the authors read The San Martin Papers, published in the United States in 1988. Again, the “Struggle over Nationhood” is explained in simplistic economic terms. There is also a surprising confusion about the role of Unitarist and Federalist—called “factions” and not “ideological parties”—regarding the role of the crucial port of Buenos Aires and its revenues. In doing so, they forgot the need for autonomous governments for the rest of the Provinces of the then Argentine Confederation, created in 1831 by the Treaty of Confederation, similar to the Articles of Confederation of the United States.

The almost inevitable ascent to political power of Juan Manuel de Rosas—but only through the governorship of the Province of Buenos Aires—and his role and rule are reduced to a combination of a “politically ambitious cattle rancher”; a “physically imposing figure”; a desire “to rule all of Argentina,” and a goal of “policies favoring the estancieros (ranch owners), thus furthering the consolidation of a landed aristocracy.” I ask, “What about the social situation, special economies, and domestic policies in all the other Provinces? A reading of Julio Irazusta’s several volumes about the policies and politics of Rosas, Levene’s and Barba’s well-documented explanations of how Rosas entered politics and became powerful, decisive and towering, as well as Zorraquin’s enlightening essay about our federalism  probably could have helped the authors. However, they relied only on books about Argentina which were written in English, mostly by British and other foreigners, which, although  understandable, is not academic. Should I conclude then that when a person writes about the United States he must base his opinions on Spanish writers; and when he writes about Argentina and Latin America, it is sufficient to read English writers?

Some of the most glaring omissions and misconceptions of the authors are Urquiza’s role; Buenos Aires’ severance of ties with the Confederation; Sarmiento’s ideas reduced to his formidable literary but not historical Facundo; the War of the Triple Alliance; and Julio A. Roca being reduced to several lines about “the Indian-fighter presiding over the Europeanization of a South American republic.”

In the end, they declared that the political elite of Argentina had few doubts about its mission. Like their counterparts in Brazil and Mexico, the Argentine politicians and intellectuals saw themselves as applying the true principles of European science and philosophy. They believed in both economic and political liberalism. They quoted the pseudoscience of Herbert Spencer, arguing that if an aristocracy ruled Argentina, it was the result of natural selection. May I ask whether this is interpretive history, or whether this will help to reduce misinformation?

The other chapters provide a great deal of undigested second-hand opinions, partisan electoral propaganda, and “lugares comunes,” which will be fastidious to review in detail. However, whoever tries to base his understanding of Argentina on this chapter will probably be wrong most of the time. Undoubtedly, he will be pleasing to political activists of diverse persuasions, but he will not please responsible historians and academicians, of which Argentina is well endowed.