Señor Carrasco is a recognized scholar of some merit, having previously written several biographies of important political figures of the nineteenth century. This present study of his is the first full length biography we have in Spanish on the phenomenal career of the tin magnate Simón I. Patiño. Given the tremendous importance Patiño played in twentieth-century Bolivian history, it is all the more surprising that we have had to wait so long for such a work.
Because of this tremendous gap in Bolivian economic history, this book unquestionably fills a vital need. But it is, nevertheless, equally clear that Señor Carrasco has left out a vast amount of material on this great Latin American entrepreneur and has produced a far from definitive study. While he presents a fairly balanced and adequate treatment of Patiño’s early years within Bolivia, his narrative of events after ca. 1910 completely falls apart. He never tells us what, exactly, Patiño did in Europe from 1908 to 1914 when he had his headquarters in Hamburg or how he operated the American, British, and German tin smelters of which he had astutely gained possession. How and why did he expand into Far Eastern tin mining; what was his role in establishing the International Tin Control agreements; what relationship did he have with National Lead of the United States; what general investments did he make in other non-metal areas? These are just a few of the questions either completely ignored or totally glossed over in this work.
Rather, Señor Carrasco prefers to spend over half the book opposing the black legend of Patiño by simply whitewashing him. While the Bolivian left has certainly over-deprecated his work and vilified the man, this is still no reason for the right to glorify Patiño beyond all human recognition. Fot Carrasco to call Patiño’s monopolistic buying of Bolivian tin mines a determined patriotic act of national liberation from Chilean capital is ridiculous. To ignore his cholo background and to justify his every act is to lose the essence of the man and all true sense of evaluation.
Patiño was unquestionably Bolivia’s greatest industrialist and probably the only Latin American able to break into the great world of international finance and to survive with an amazing vigor. The why and the how of this cannot be obtained from this work. Señor Carrasco has only scratched the surface of the vast amount of research that must be done if Bolivia is to understand the man who vitally affected over half a century of her history and if Latin America is to know one of her greatest international figures.