Robert M. Haigh expands his earlier treatment of Güemes (HAHR, November 1964, pp. 481-490) in this short monograph. He holds to his conviction that Güemes was not a tyrannical caudillo, but rather an agent of the dominant group. Since the question “tyrant or tool” was already decided in the article, one should not expect an extensive discussion of the subject here. This failing might have been partially overcome had the author taken the reader into his confidence by commenting on his discovery of Güemes’ true role.
Divided into four brief chapters, Haigh’s monograph concentrates on the royalist-patriot struggle in Salta during the chaotic 1810-1821 period. It is a particularly sensitive account of the attempt by a remote province to maintain its identity in the face of both constant threats from Spanish Upper Peru and intrigues in Buenos Aires and the neighboring provinces. Five appendices coupled with a useful index and bibliography provide valuable biographical data concerning Salta’s kinship elite.
The work builds to the last chapter, wherein the relationship of Güemes to the kinship elite is made explicit. The validity of Haigh’s theory depends on his demonstration of Güemes’ connection with the coterie of dominant landholding families. While the author’s conclusion is eminently plausible, history would have been better served had he presented but one shred of direct evidence to prove conclusively that the election of Güemes by the Salterio elite was a conscious act. Still—though scholars have assumed the inbred nature of regional leadership in Latin America—it is Haigh who has performed the signal service of documenting this phenomenon for the Argentine northwest.