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Commodities and Consumption in “Golden Age” Argentina  

Eduardo Elena

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the global trade in commodities forged new economic interconnections and contributed to the emergence of modern ways of life. As one of the leading exporters of temperate goods such as wool, beef, and wheat, Argentina was at the forefront of these trends, and the country underwent remarkable expansion between 1875 and 1913. Although export goods linked Argentina to consumers in Europe and elsewhere, these vital relationships were often obscured by the malleable nature of commodities, the far-flung scope of overseas trade, and the perceived divergence between rural and urban worlds. Within Argentina, similar dynamics were also at work, but commodities became referents in disputes over economic distribution, social inequality, and national development. The tensions between the export sector and an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society geared toward mass consumption raised questions as to how to manage the nation’s wealth—conflicts involving commodities that parallel those of other Latin American societies. By placing the economic history of commodities into conversation with recent research on the social, cultural, and political history of consumption, this article reconsiders Argentina’s “Golden Age” of expansion and its aftermath. The connecting and distancing power of commodities reveals how populations in Argentina and abroad experienced modern capitalism, including its signature transformations of the natural world and everyday life.

Article

The Creole Circus and Popular Entertainment in 19th Century Argentina and Uruguay  

William G. Acree Jr.

Theater in Argentina and Uruguay, which together compose the Plata river region of Latin America, has been a predominant form of entertainment since the 19th century. Theaters abound in Montevideo, while its sister city. Buenos Aires, has its own Broadway in the famed Corrientes Street. In the age of digital culture, the theater remains a mainstay of cultural life for Argentines and Uruguayans. The success of theater and the making of a theatergoing public in the region have their roots first in the variety of entertainment offered by hemispheric travelers to the region from the 1820s through the 1880s and then, most significantly, in shows put on by itinerant circus troupes in the countryside that only later filled urban theaters. From the mid-1880s through 1900 these circus troupes performed plays known as dramas criollos that dealt with rural traditions and explored issues of migration, social stratification, and tensions of economic modernization. These Creole dramas, like the narrative and poetic tales of gaucho heroes that informed them, became wildly successful, attracting spectators in the countryside and city alike, in venues ranging from makeshift tents to the most opulent theaters. They also became the namesake of the circo criollo, which referred as much to types of performers staging the tales as to the circus event where people flocked to see the new main attraction—the dramas. In effect, the Creole drama phenomenon expanded the presence of popular entertainment across the region and consolidated a theatergoing public. It also gave way to a new strand of modern popular culture in which storylines and characters reappeared in other media, and the impact of the Creole drama experience long outlived the spectacle itself.

Article

Digital Resources: Latin America in Gallica  

Nathalie Dessens

Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, was launched in 1997. The library contains almost five million documents (manuscripts, books, journals, newspapers, maps, iconographic documents, and recordings), many of which are connected to Latin America, offering rich perspectives on the relationships between France and Latin American countries across the centuries. The many travel narratives, testimonies, essays, photographs, and maps available provide rich insight into French perception of Latin America from the early 16th century to the mid-20th century. Although Gallica’s collection of manuscripts on Latin America is not plentiful, one of its main goals is to provide easy access to rare French books printed centuries ago, of which not many copies are available today and which are rarely present in other digital libraries. The richest collection is probably on Brazil, since Gallica has organized a special collection titled “France-Brésil” which provides access to the rich personal collection of books and manuscripts of the first French historian of Brazil, Ferdinand Denis (1798–1890), among other treasures. Gallica has undeniable value for researchers specialized in Latin American history, although working on its collections requires at least reading proficiency in French as the vast majority of the accessible resources are in French.

Article

History of Alternative Communication in Chile: Phases and Endeavors  

Chiara Sáez and Jorge Iturriaga

With the surge of social struggles tied to the implementation of capitalist modernization at the end of the 19th century, diverse forms of technology-based mass communication in Chile arose to represent the emergence of social sectors that didn’t participate in the dominant culture and sought to disseminate an alternative. Working-class and feminist newspapers, neighborhood theaters, and Cordel literature broke away from the traditional elitist and pedagogical nature that had defined the media until that time. Since then, with cycles that have ebbed and flowed, numerous communicative experiences were related to mass culture in controversial ways: they opposed it, converged with it, et cetera. Even though it is possible to trace the continuity between the cases described, this continuity is not clear upon first glance, due to its underground and nascent character. In general terms, these experiences were not established as an autonomous space for technical or aesthetic experiments; when there was a strategy, it tended to be political in nature, whereas communicative material remained conditional. Finally, the study of these cases implies a paradox: the 20th century began with a vast number of alternative communication projects that became institutionalized over the years, but they re-emerged more autonomously during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and the era that followed. This process of institutionalization alludes to an inversely proportional relationship between the process of incorporating the masses into positions of power (in the period between 1925 and 1973) and the development of alternative communication: these experiences are plentiful in the less institutionalized contexts of the enlightened working-class culture (that is, preceding the founding of the Communist Party in 1922 and after the anti-working-class culture that has accompanied the neoliberalism imposed since the dictatorship).

Article

History of the Sciences in Argentina: From Paleontologists to Psychiatrists, 1850s to 1910s  

Carlos S. Dimas

Following independence in the early 19th century Argentina went through decades of internal political and social turmoil. During this time the sciences traversed a dormant period and operated at the amateur level, such as through collectors and hobbyists. Beginning in the 1850s and continuing through the 1860s, many of Argentina’s internal problems eroded. The newly consolidated state undertook a process of extending its influence throughout the nation and fostering a closer and collaborative association with the nation’s interior to foster national unity. Under the banner of ‘civilization, order, and progress’, ruling liberal elites looked for ways to herald social and economic development. The sciences, through practice and institutionalized places, played a critical role for the state. By the beginning of the 20th century, the state had invested in scientific ventures into Patagonia and other areas of the nation to collect and catalogue materials, such as fossils and plants, and had supported the construction of museums to display scientific collections to the public as a means to develop a national identity. Beyond museums and naturalists, the state financed the maturation of the medical sciences to respond to the waves of epidemic diseases that assaulted the nation and the numerous regional endemic diseases that elites presented as evidence of underdevelopment, such as malaria in the northwest and recurrent cholera and smallpox outbreaks throughout the nation. Fields such as meteorology and engineering provided the physical infrastructure to further integrate the nation, through railroads, the standardization of national time, and a space for local Argentine scientific actors to establish national and international careers. With the increased professionalization of numerous scientific fields, the bond between the state and scientists matured. Many used this as a platform to enter into politics, such as Eduardo Wilde, hygienist and Minister of the Interior. Others provided their services to the state to form public policy, as happened for example with the work of psychiatrists, criminologists, engineers, and hygienists. Collectively, these fields demonstrated that the sciences witnessed significant growth into the first quarter of the 20th century.

Article

Japanese in Peru  

Patricia Palma and Pedro Iacobelli

Japanese migration to Peru is embedded within the broader experience of colonization and migration that characterized the modern Japanese empire (1868–1945). Between 1899 and World War II, thousands of men and women moved to Peru’s central and northern regions to work in sugar and rubber plantations. After their contracts ended, many of them moved to Lima and other coastal cities in search of better economic opportunities, opening small businesses and sponsoring brides and members of their families to move to Peru. In the 1920s and 1930s, a vibrant Japanese community in Peru established newspapers and associations to create protection networks for newly arrived immigrants. However, the Japanese community also had to face anti-Asian sentiments, violence, and restrictive migration laws, which hardened during World War II. During the heat of US-Japan hostilities, nearly 1,800 people were abducted and then sent to the United States, where they were placed in American internment camps in Texas and Montana until the end of the War. In the postwar years, the Japanese community worked hard to change the negative image that many Peruvians had of them and made efforts to reconstruct their community. Today, the Nikkei community is dynamic. Members of the Japanese Peruvian community have received accolades for their arts, gastronomy, and political successes, among other fields.

Article

Paraguayan Politics, Economics, and Cultural Identity, 1870–1936  

Bridget María Chesterton

In the period 1870–1936, Paraguay began to redevelop economically after its devastating loss in the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870). Turning to a liberal economic model popular in the region at the time, government officials began selling off large tracts of land to foreign investors, in particular Argentine investors. The liberal era in Paraguay was notoriously turbulent as political rivals often relied on Civil War to gain power. Nonetheless, this period was pivotal in helping to shape ideas about the nation. The era ends at the Febrerista Revolution (1936) when returning Chaco War (1932–1935) veterans made their mark on Paraguayan politics and identity.

Article

Public Health in Uruguay, 1830–1940s  

Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Raquel Pollero

Little examined, Uruguay’s public health trajectory offers an important window on the country’s larger societal dynamics and the possibilities and limits of public health across Latin America. On one hand, Uruguay lagged behind public health efforts and overall institutionalization compared to other countries in the region, through much of the 19th century. On the other hand, tiny Uruguay became highly engaged with international health, medical, and social policy developments, and it modernized, urbanized, and secularized early, with important implications for health and welfare state-building, epitomized in early 20th-century Batllismo. Still, the country’s economic, epidemic, demographic, social, and political vicissitudes meant that public health efforts, too, oscillated between fulfilling aspirations for an up-to-date and far-reaching hygienic apparatus and seeing these expectations dashed during economic downturns, periods of political repression, and when health successes seemingly turned into failures, as with its prolonged infant mortality stagnation. Uruguay also moved from being an importer of public health models and practices, especially from Europe, to exporting its own innovative approaches, as per its internationally renowned rights-based approach to improving child health, embodied in its 1934 Children’s Code and diffused via the pathbreaking Montevideo-based children’s protection institute. Also sui generis were the multiplicity of roles played by the country’s minuscule pool of public health experts, who served at one and the same time as epidemiological observers, institutional leaders, clinicians, and policy elites, making their impact and interactions both fruitful and fraught. The article traces Uruguay’s public health history across three eras, revealing the untold stories and ups and downs of a small but significant public health actor.

Article

Settling Bariloche: Explorations, Violence, and Tourism in the Argentine Frontier  

María de los Ángeles Picone

The early history of the city of San Carlos de Bariloche (Argentina) in the northern Patagonian Andes serves as a window into national endeavors to settle a frontier space. Initial colonial attempts to establish a colony on the shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi (Argentina) can be traced to Jesuit missionary efforts from the Island of Chiloé (Chile). After their independences, Chile and Argentina sought to claim Patagonia as their own. Embedded in this nationalizing mission was the negotiation of the international borderline as well as the violent removal of Mapuche and Tehuelche from territories in the south. In Argentina, the government launched a genocidal campaign (1879–1884) in northern Patagonia. Behind the soldiers followed explorers gathering data about the Andes, in the hopes that nature would reveal the boundary. As border negotiations unfolded in the 1890s, non-Indigenous settlers came to Nahuel Huapi. One of them, Chilean Carlos Wiederhold, established a store in 1895 on the southeastern shore of the lake and sold imported goods from Chile and exported cattle on the hoof across a trans-Andean pass. Business grew, as did the village around it. In 1902, a presidential decree officially founded the colony of Nahuel Huapi and the town of San Carlos, pinpointing the reach of the national government on the frontier. While authorities imagined the cordillera as a space devoid of social tension (presumably because land was available), violence in the form of feuds and crime sprinkled frontier life. Local elites soon depicted Nahuel Huapi as a dangerous space and blamed Chileans and Indigenous people for such violence. In the 1930s, the creation of a national park in Nahuel Huapi sought to resolve this by portraying Bariloche as a tourist site by transforming the Bariloche space through a specific aesthetic that would evoke an idyllic Argentine landscape.

Article

Urbanization in Argentina, 16th to 19th Centuries  

Melisa Pesoa

The urbanization process in Argentina began with the installation of the first permanent settlement in the territory in 1527. During the early colonial period, settlers tried to move inland rather than establish towns on the Atlantic coast. Therefore, the main axis of urbanization strengthened the connection between the central zone with Alto Peru, reinforcing part of the existing indigenous territorial connection. Colonial cities, established by small groups of between twenty and fifty people, such as Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero, Córdoba, and Mendoza, established relations with the territories of Chile, Peru, and Paraguay. Indigenous resistance to colonization was powerful: several cities from the colonial era were not successful and needed to be moved or disappeared. Other experiences such as the Jesuit missions emerged as other models of colonization aside from the traditional one. In this territorial scheme, the coastal region was marginalized from the central nucleus. The ports of the coast and of Buenos Aires fulfilled a defensive military function, although they also served illicit traffic between the Atlantic and Potosí. However, this traffic increased over time, and Buenos Aires progressively gained importance. In 1776, Buenos Aires became the capital of the recently created Viceroyalty of the Rio de La Plata, as a result of the Bourbon reforms. Therefore, during the 18th century, its port was legally opened to overseas traffic, and its hinterland was incorporated into world trade. This initiated a change in the region’s center of gravity, which moved from the interior to the River Plate coast. In this period, the Crown’s interest shifted from the establishment of an imperial structure to securing the marginal areas of the empire through permanent populations with a plan of new settlements in the frontier. This interest remained even after the Independence from the Spanish Crown (1816), in the Republican period. During the 19th century, hundreds of towns were established across the territory, mainly focused on agricultural production or extractive activities. A series of highly important technical advances reached the country. The most relevant was the railway, built at the end of the 1850s and systematically extended from the 1870s. Its installation structured the territory and encouraged the creation of urban centers mainly in the central area of the Pampas. However, further types of colonization emerged related to products such as sugar or yerba mate in other regions of the country. Traditional colonial urban centers, converted into provincial capitals, started several reforms during the 19th century in order to adapt to the changes proposed by this new territorial structure and the new republican spirit. European immigration played a preponderant role in the country’s urban and productive development. The greater availability of workers, in addition to many other economic development actions, contributed to considerably increasing agricultural exports from the 1870s and positioned Argentina among the largest exporters of raw materials worldwide. The resulting system of urbanization had far-reaching consequences for the general functioning of the country in the following centuries.

Article

Wars of Spanish-American Independence  

Natalia Sobrevilla Perea

The wars of Spanish-American independence were a series of military campaigns that took place in the Americas between 1809 and 1825, which resulted in the creation of more than a dozen republics in the territories that had previously been part of the Hispanic monarchy. Triggered in the short term by the Napoleonic invasion of the Spanish peninsula in 1808, there were more deep-seated reasons, however, that led to the collapse of an empire that had existed for three hundred years. Classic historiography has stressed the importance of the Bourbon Reforms that brought to the fore the contradictions within the Hispanic monarchy and gave rise to a sense of proto-nationalism. These interpretations have given much importance to the role of the Enlightenment and the fear brought by possible social revolution. Some authors consider that these wars were the result of the Americans’ long-held contempt for Europeans. These views consider that struggle for liberation had begun much earlier, possibly as far back as the 1780s, inspired by the American and French Revolutions. More recent historiography has highlighted the war that engulfed Spain itself between 1808 and 1814 as the crucial event that led to fighting in the Americas. This event is seen as not just the trigger for the events to unfold, unleashing conflicts that had been simmering for much longer, but what shook to the ground the archaic but surprisingly durable composite Hispanic monarchy. This article will discuss the main events that caused the wars, the moments each national historiography has identified as the ones linked to the independence of their particular region, as well as the events themselves. It begins by looking at the historical antecedents, including the Bourbon Reforms, the American, French, and Haitian revolutions, and at the Napoleonic invasion of the Spanish peninsula. It then discusses the creation of juntas in the Americas and how the confrontation between different jurisdictions resulted in war. The article discusses who were the people involved in the wars and the main events that took place.

Article

The Welsh Colony in Patagonia  

Marcelo Gavirati

In July of 1865, some 160 Welsh immigrants settled in the valley of the Chubut River, located in the middle of a Patagonian territory controlled by the Indigenous Tehuelche. This was to be the beginning of a unique colonization process. Unlike many other migratory experiences, the colonizing effort promoted by a group of Welsh nationalist leaders was aimed at liberating their compatriots from the oppression to which they felt they had been subjected in the United Kingdom. Their utopian objective was to establish a “New Wales,” in which they could work their own land, freely practice their language (Cymraeg, in Welsh) and the religion of their nonconformist denominations, and achieve a certain degree of political autonomy. In spite of facing an unknown and arid territory, the Welsh managed to produce wheat irrigated by canals. What is more, they would overcome prejudices about the “savage” nature of the Indigenous peoples, eventually working with the Pampa and Tehuelche tribes to develop a model of peaceful coexistence based on complementary economic practices, providing a unique example of relations between Europeans and Native Americans. Economic development allowed the arrival of additional contingents of settlers. During the first decades, Welsh was the language of daily life, in social, political, economic, cultural, and religious contexts. The valley of the Chubut River became dotted with chapels. But in 1885, after the military campaigns that deprived the Indigenous peoples of their territories, the Argentine government materialized its sovereign presence over Patagonia. Although in 1891 Argentina made possible the creation of a new Welsh settlement in a valley of the Andean foothills, the process of nationalization and assimilation was underway. Influences within the political and educational spheres, as well as the arrival of immigrants of other nationalities, allowed the national government to gradually displace the Welsh from their position of primacy in the Chubut territory. Although the autonomous Welsh Utopia did not flourish, some traces remain. More than 155 years after the arrival of the first contingent, there are still Welsh speakers and students in Patagonia. The eisteddfod and the arrival of the first immigrants’ ship are celebrated every July 28, a date officially considered to be the founding of the current province of Chubut.