This short book has delighted its many readers since 1936. Now in its third edition, a new review of it seems worthwhile simply to remind a new generation of historians of its value. From brief sketches of the lives of three all but forgotten men, the author presents a clear picture of the magnitude of the problems that beset the young republics of Argentina and Chile in their establishment of effective control over their southern regions.

The first portrait is of Orllie Antonio de Tounens, born in a French middle class household, but destined to crown himself Orllie Antonio I, ruler of Araucania and Patagonia. That de Tounens temporarily got away with his grandiose scheme seems amazing today, but in the 1860’s neither Argentina nor Chile could afford much of an effort to control these southern territories. With an imperfect knowledge of Spanish, an interpreter, and audacity, he began his campaign to annex his domain in 1860. Within a short time he had gained the support of many of the hostile tribes of Araucania, investing regal titles to chiefs and anyone else he thought would support his efforts. He was finally captured by the Chilean army in 1862, and deported to Paris as demented. He returned to Argentina in 1869, however, and lead a triumphant march up the Río Negro valley into Chile, where he was turned back by the Chileans. In 1874 he made one last assault on his “occupied” kingdom, but this time he never got beyond the Patagonian coast. Undaunted, he returned to Paris, where he maintained an embassy until his death. At the time of his death a dynasty was established which has survived until the present day.

The other two sketches are not as humorous, but are equally rewarding to read. The first is concerned with the attempt to establish a fish-packing plant on the coast of Santa Cruz, by a heroic and determined Argentine merchant, Ernesto Rouquand. Harassed by the Chilean Navy, unable to get naval protection from an Argentine Navy which was then practically nonexistent, and unable to find any fish, he finally gave up after two bitter years (1872-1874). The final sketch is of Luis Piedra Buena, perhaps the most famous of the three personalities. As Rouquand, Piedra Buena fought an almost singlehanded battle to keep Patagonia Argentine, while a weak Argentine government could only give him moral support.

The author’s style is literary rather than academic, and from this style one can truly catch the humor of the escapades of Orllie Antonio I, or the sadness in the frustrated attempts of Rouquand and Piedra Buena to bring Argentine influence to Patagonia. One can hope that there will be issued shortly Braun Menéndez’s equally good work, Pequeña historia magallánica.