With these first two volumes, the Instituto de Historia Argentina of the University of La Plata has added a valuable archives to the growing mass of published correspondence concerned with the political organization of Argentina in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Marcos Paz, senator and governor of Tucumán in the 1850’s and Mitre’s vice president until his death from cholera in early 1868, represented one important political tendency in mid-nineteenth-century Argentina —the acceptance of porteño leadership by a select, educated elite in the interior provinces. Yet despite Mitre’s effort to mobilize and popularize these Liberal sentiments, Buenos Aires was never loved or accepted by the majority of provincianos. Only force and economic predominance finally enabled Buenos Aires to conquer political control of the nation.
A detailed, carefully researched essay by Carlos Heras introduces the reader to Paz’s role as soldier, politician, and statesman. The tone is laudatory and occasionally unnecessarily defensive: “fué, pues, federal pero no rosista,” or when commenting on Paz’s repeated and disastrous resignations of executive authority during the Paraguayan War. But Heras has done much to retrieve the figure of Marcos Paz from the greyish oblivion to which he had been relegated by national histories.
The letters themselves help to destroy the image of a political opportunist and to build that of a statesman. The first volume consists of eighty-eight letters written to Paz while he served as secretary, soldier, and emissary for Tucumán’s Governor Heredia in the late 1830’s and over two hundred and fifty letters relating to the important mission which he undertook at Urquiza’s request to the interior provinces in 1853-1854. The second volume concentrates on the years 1858-1862: vital years for the definition of Paz’s political position. Despite his prestige in the northern provinces, Paz failed to achieve the vice presidency in 1860 or to check Derqui’s rise to power. Thereafter he drifted rapidly to the porteño side, and along with the Taboadas in Santiago del Estero he became a defender of the Liberal cause in the interior. One hundred and twenty letters from his archive trace important steps in his growing disillusionment with urquicistas and derquistas, culminating with his imprisonment by national authorities in 1861. After Pavón he emerged as a faithful instrument of the porteño pacification of the interior: the remaining letters in the second volume reflect his role as governor of Córdoba and national commissioner to the northern provinces.
It is to be hoped that the excellent start which these two volumes represent will be culminated with the appearance of the fascinating and extensive correspondence from the years of the Paraguayan War. The Instituto also deserves an accolade for the publication of a names index in each of the first two volumes.