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Colección: La Educación
Número: (119) III
Año: 1994

Reseña-Ensayo / Book Review-Essay

Cristián GARCÍA-GODOY. Tomás Godoy Cruz. Su tiempo, su vida, su drama (Tomás Godoy Cruz. His Period, His Life, His Drama). Washington, D.C.: Vida Plena, 1991, 811 pages.


Thirty years of patient and laborious research in bibliographic and documentary sources on the Argentine Province of Mendoza, Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile are highlighted in Cristián García-Godoy’s work on national leader Tomás Godoy Cruz, a native of Mendoza.

The author explains the emphasis placed in his research:
The history of Tomás Godoy Cruz—as well as the history of Mendoza, which initially constituted a region, later a city and finally a province of Argentina—deserves to be studied and presented with some care. It should not be a mere chronological presentation of historical data. It should present the consequence of an effort to gather, unify and integrate, from a humanistic viewpoint, the political and military events, the economic and financial facts, the religious and social circumstances, the creation and transformation of its institutions, the evolution of its thought and the forms of expressing itself, whether in the field of Law, Science, the Arts, Politics or the ways of living together.
Political, economical, social and cultural events, from the period of the Viceroyalty to the times of Caseros, are described in this work.

The work starts with an Introduction, which offers a general outline of the characters and the events, pointing out the highlights of the national history surrounding the protagonist.

Next, a Chronology evolves from the birth of the national leader’s father, Mr. Clemente Godoy y Videla, who took part in decisive events for Mendoza, such as those following the May Revolution. Also included are events of local and national history of which Tomás Godoy Cruz is the protagonist, and the various homages which were paid to him until the time the work was printed. The author then concentrates on the central topic, which he divides in four sections: 1) The Godoy family in Cuyo; 2) The public man; 3) The man in exile; and 4) The private man. Each chapter carries its scholarly devices and corresponding annexes. The work closes with a reflection and epilogue, after which an extremely profuse bibliography is included. Thematic, onomastic and illustrative indexes are included as well.

The Godoy Family in Cuyo

The origin of the “Godoy” name dates from approximately the 12th century when the old inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula fought with the Moors for control of the land. Those remote times mark the beginning of the Godoy lineage, one of the oldest in Spain. The author follows the Godoys to South America, where the family of Francisco de Godoy—married to Isabel de Aguirre y Meneses—resides, and extends to descendants who live in the province of Cuyo.

When referring to Tomás Godoy Cruz’s ancestors, the author outlines the outstanding features of Hispanic Mendoza with its armed confrontations and difficulties, its slow settling and expansion. The customs and lifestyles characterizing the society of that period are described throughout, as well as the economical activities of the region which are notable and deserve credit.

The final chapters of this section are centered on Tomás Godoy Cruz: his birth, education and studies, first in Córdoba and later in Santiago de Chile, until he graduates in Sacred Biblical Books and Law.

The Public Man

The second section, which is the most extensive part of the work, starts from the May Revolution’s impact on Mendoza, emphasizing the significant role played by Don Clemente Godoy y Videla in the events that lead the city of Cuyo to defend the Junta installed in Buenos Aires, and Don Clemente’s subsequent performance in the Government’s Provincial Junta.

Soon after that, Tomás Godoy Cruz returns to Mendoza when the decisive event for the American independence takes place: San Martín’s return to the River Plate and his subsequent appointment as Superintendent Governor of Cuyo.

The author presents us with an aspect that has been seldom dealt with: the cordial relation between the Cuyan Governor and the head of the Godoy family. In this regard, he proposed the theory that San Martín resorted to the knowledge and quality of such an outstanding neighbor as Don Clemente to instantly capture the idiosyncracy of the human group he was dealing with. This knowledge was extremely important in his selection of the best manner to lead the citizens and prepare the outstanding project he had in mind.

Upon his arrival in Mendoza, San Martín organizes the Lautaro Society (Logia de Lautaro), a secret but non-masonic society. The author provides us with a list of its possible members and also refers to the cell that took shape in the Army shortly before San Martín’s departure from Chile. Both groups, presided over by the General, constitute the most efficient means for carrying out the Continental Plan.

While San Martín prepared his campaign for freedom, the author refers once more to the figure of Tomás Godoy Cruz to probe the most important roles he played as a politician: Deputy for Mendoza of the Congress in Tucumán and Governor of the Province. Regarding the former, he highlights his position as the personal and confidential agent of San Martín before the other Deputies. In the profuse correspondence they exchanged and which the author transcribes in the Annex, there are references to State and War matters. The underlying events of the Declaration of Independence are also obvious: the debate regarding about the necessary number of votes for the sanction, the reaction caused by Belgrano’s proposal, the skillful handling of this matter by San Martín and the role played by Cuyo’s representation in writing the Act of Independence.

In the subsequent Congressional activity until the resignation of the Deputy from Mendoza and his return to the Province, emphasis is placed on his responsibility in the nomination of Pueyrredón as Supreme Director, the Declaration of Independence, the sanctioning of the Temporary Regulation and the debate on the Government format. Also discussed is the Deputy’s belief in the need for a Constitution at a time in which the internal and external scene of the United Provinces was complicated, and that eventually lead to the fall of the Directorate or Governing Body.

During this time, Chile affirms its independence and San Martín prepares the expedition to Perú. The turbulent days of the year 1920 go by, culminating in Cuyo with the separation of the cities that constituted the Superintendence, and the beginning of Tomás Godoy Cruz’s government. As a guarantee to the culmination of the Continental Plan, the Mendozinian Governor is responsible for putting an end to the old tricks of José Miguel Carrera. His hand did not shake when ratifying the his death sentence by the Court because the independence of Perú could not be compromised by the attitude of the Chilean “caudillo.”

Once his performance as Governor is completed, the Government assigns him new tasks: He is named representative for Mendoza at the meeting that culminates with the signing of the San Miguel de las Lagunas Agreement, and member of the Junta of Representatives as of 1825.

After the Oncativo Battle and the troops of General Paz march against the federal governments of the interior, and the fighting between Unitarians and Federals began favoring the Federals, Governor Corvalán leaves the capital and marches south with a group of followers. Godoy Cruz temporarily assumes the Government until the nomination of Videla Castillo, who appoints him General Minister.

The author asks himself the question which, at this stage, the reader is also asking himself: Why did T. Godoy Cruz, the defender of Republican and Federal principles, who has maintained himself on the sidelines of any party fighting, agree to participate in this Government? García Godoy offers a possible explanation: Due to the extremely serious crisis the Province is experiencing, he accepts the responsibility for the sake of public health, bearing in mind the temporary nature of the position.

However, Godoy Cruz’s brief performance in this Government marks his life for the years to follow. When the Triumphant Auxiliaries of the Andes headed by Facundo Quiroga arrive in Mendoza, the situation is defined by the battle of Rodeo del Chacón. The outcome of this battle is followed by the exit of the most prominent leaders of the Administration, and Tomás Godoy Cruz travels to Chile and initiates a long period of exile. Rodeo del Chacón put an end to his public life.

The Man in Exile

A consequence of the unitary defeat is the confiscation of the belongings of those who were committed to the Administration of Videla Castillo. The embargo proceedings included in the Annex show the economic solvency of the family and the abundance and relevance of their library. The confiscation is followed by accusations of complicity in the killing of El Chacay—all of which fall upon the unitarian group—charges which are denied by Godoy’s family.

During his stay in Chile, Godoy Cruz dedicates himself to teaching and intellectual activities. Two publications constitute the fruit of those years: the manual on Nursing of Silk and the Cochineal Insect (Cría de la Seda y de la Cochinilla) and the Elementary Course on Geography (Curso Elemental de Geografía). In the meantime, in the Argentine Confederation, the French intervention has been forced to retreat and after the battle of Rodeo del Medio and Famaillá, the Northern Coalition sinks. Aldao returns to Mendoza and takes charge of the Government in 1842, and Tomás Godoy Cruz is granted permission to return by the Government. Shortly after, he returns to his family and reclaims his patrimony in 1844. From that point, and until his death, he stands aloof from political matters and waits in expectation at the local and national history events which are evolving.

The Private Man

Events shaping the personal life of Tomás Godoy Cruz evolve in orderly succession. We see him in Tucumán between 1816 and 1817; in Buenos Aires from 1817 to 1819; and finally, back in Mendoza, with the prestige attained in his political career, becoming an outstanding member of the Mendozinian society. Supporting this prestige is his library—the inventory of which is described in the Annex. The library provides sound testimony of the preparation and intellectual concern of its owner. At this point, while staying in the city of Mendoza, he marries María de la Luz Sosa y Corvalán, an outstandingly beautiful woman from one of the most prominent families in Mendoza.

The tragic chapter in the life of Godoy Cruz’s family begins with the untimely death of one of his children due to tuberculosis, the same illness that threatens them all. Shortly after the national leader’s death, the other young son dies and the following year an event occurs that deeply stirs the society of his time: the murder of his son-in-law, Doctor Federico Mayer Posadas, which was planned by Ms. Luz. Following the scandal, the widowed daughter travels to Buenos Aires, where she dies shortly after. This death puts an end to the national leader’s family.

The final chapter describes the death of Tomás Godoy Cruz. Secluded in his home, estranged from his wife, whose main concern are parties and social gatherings, his life ends in silence and loneliness. On May 15, 1852, Ms. Luz gives an important ball and while the lively chatting of the guests fills the hall, Tomás Godoy Cruz agonizes in his room. The maid goes to his room and finds him dead. When she tells his wife what has happened, the maid is ordered to lock the door and remain silent. Obviously, it is not reason enough for Ms. Luz to stop the ball!

That is how the man who has given so much to Mendoza and to the independence of his country dies, alone and forgotten.

The final event marking the family tragedy is Ms. Luz’s death itself. On March 20, 1861, during the preparations for the ball to be held that day, Mendoza was devasted with a terrible earthquake and the home of our national leader crumbled. Ms. Luz’s life was taken in the tragedy and the family history draws to an end.

Upon concluding the account of Tomás Godoy Cruz’s life, the author appraises his performance throughout those decisive years of Argentina’s national history:

What was, therefore, his mission? To contribute, in association with San Martín, to the fact that the freedom crusade should not be considered an internal insurrection. From there stems the Declaration of Independence. In addition to governing the dismembered Province of Cuyo, he worked on the creation of the basis for a coherent Republican life, promoted a solid defense of Cuyo’s economy, and provided it with a political space so the thinking and feeling of the inhabitants of the inlands had a permanent impact on the national destiny.

For San Martín, he was a trustworthy associate in the Lautaro Lodge, in the Congress of Tucumán and the Government of Mendoza. That is why he was, at all times, his most beloved friend.

To O’Higgins, he was a containing wall that destroyed any career assault, and for that he was granted the rank of Brigadier of the Chilean Army.

To Pueyrredon, he was a strong ally, and never a submissive character keeping his power unlawfully.

For Mendoza, he was the most prominent citizen to be born in that Province. For Cuyo, he was the military leader most deeply convinced of the need to establish inter-provincial relations and, perhaps, to be once more unified in the old Province that carries this name.

The author sustains that the consultation of this publication is invaluable to those who wish to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the local history during the initial period of Argentina’s political emancipation.

Ana E. Castro