This work is the twelfth and final volume of the memoirs or published diary of General Tomás de Iriarte—this series spanning the period of Independence in the Río de la Plata to 1848. The author, a native of Buenos Aires, participated in many of the events of that turbulent era, and although a federalist, opposed Juan Manuel de Rosas when the latter revealed his autocratic and particularistic tendencies in the 1830s. Iriarte fled to Montevideo where he joined other porteño exiles and opponents of the Rosas system. By 1847, he was no longer on active duty with the Uruguayan army and residing in Montevideo he was able to devote himself to this detailed account of the continuing siege of Montevideo by the forces of Rosas’s Uruguayan puppet, General Manuel Oribe. The duration of this siege and its conditions led Iriarte in 1847 to compare Montevideo with ancient Troy—hence this volume’s title.
Throughout 1847 Iriarte hoped for the appearance of a combination of forces which could relieve the siege and effect the overthrow of Rosas. But that year witnessed the zenith of Rosas’s strength. After some wavering, General Justo de Urquiza of Entre Ríos remained loyal to Rosas; the Brazilian Empire was hesitant about intervening in the Río de la Plata; and the European powers then blockading Buenos Aires squabbled over their policies toward Rosas with the result that Great Britain abandoned the blockade and Montevideo was left with only French support. Internally, affairs were no better as corrupt politicians plundered the Montevidean treasury; soldiers went hungry; General Fructuoso Rivera, the untrustworthy military arm of the Montevidean government, was defeated in the field; and French and Italian immigrants, participating in the defense of the city, became disillusioned with the Montevidean government. This state of affairs, as observed by Iriarte, and the prospect of an indefinite exile contributed to the author’s pessimistic evaluation of the forces opposed to Rosas and discouraged, he terminated his diary at 1848.
An unexpected surprise of this volume is the excellent depiction of the social life of Montevideo in 1847. Commerce, politics, and daily affairs continued amidst alarms, rumors, and the uncertainty of the siege, and the diarist is really at his best describing the atmosphere of this besieged city. La Nueva Troya is of much worth to specialists of the Age of Rosas in the Río de la Plata, the Guerra Grande, and Montevidean history. If any great fault can be found, it is Iriarte’s biased and often cruel evaluation of the motives and characters of this era’s prominent statesmen. Recognizing the author’s prejudices and background, and realizing that he would knowingly transcribe false rumors and exaggerations to establish the atmosphere of this beleaguered city, this work is still an extremely useful, detailed source for this period. Unfortunately, it lacks an index, but the daily entries and the excellent chapter headings partially obviate this shortcoming.