Few good Bolivian historians have received proper attention in Bolivia, and there have been only a few of them. Bolivia has had plenty of mediocre historians. Among these was Manuel Rigoberto Paredes (1870-1951)—maybe he was a shade better than mediocre. In 1955 Paredes received a biobibliographic study by a foremost Bolivian scholar, the late José Antonio Arze (see my review, HAHR, Vol. 37). Now another study in honor of Paredes is published. Why the attraction for Paredes?—his pseudo-scholarship, his folklore bent, his love for the Indian, his localism, his biographical studies of the most colorful personalities loved by the mob, indeed, make his productions most appealing.
This book collects six essays of the late Paredes, of which the incomplete study of Melgarejo is the longest and has about seventy pages. The others deal with Ballivián, Belzú, and René-Moreno. There is also a short essay entitled “Los estudios históricos en Bolivia.” Another essay deals with the Mojos and Chiquitos missions. Space does not permit an analysis of each essay, but all of them have limited value because they do not represent original research. The letters cited in the Melgarejo essay are devoid of citations. Paredes has style and good organization—he makes history appetizing to the average public. The introductory essay by the late Humberto Vázquez-Machicado entitled “Bautista Saavedra y Rigoberto Paredes,” first written in 1950, is most stimulating.