During the second presidency of Julio A. Roca (1898-1904) Republican presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt sent four ministers to represent the interests of the United States in Argentina. The author of this book, wife of a former Argentine ambassador to the United States, presents the impressions these representatives had of their host country. The study is a follow-up to her Noticias confidenciales de Buenos Aires a U.S.A. (1869-1892), previously reviewed in the HAHR (50:4 [November 1970] 817-818).
Briefly sketching the biographies of the four men, the author quotes extensively from their dispatches. Considerable attention is given to Argentine-Chilean boundary disputes, the formulation of the famous Drago Doctrine, Argentine reaction to the Spanish American War, and attempts to establish commercial ties between Argentina and the U.S. Finally, the author describes in some detail the close social relations that the North American representatives enjoyed with members of the oligarchical elite during a period she calls “la belle epoque.”
For the working classes of Argentina, however, the period was not so pleasant. The high cost of living, about which each U.S. diplomat complained, contributed to growing labor agitation, including Argentina’s first general strike in 1902. Social disturbances occurred against the background of political unrest, particularly the appearance of Radical and Socialist parties in the 1890s. The wily Roca responded to these developments in two ways. First, he employed states of siege, special legislation to prohibit the entrance of “foreign trouble-makers,” and the police to contain disorders. Second, he introduced to Congress in 1904 a comprehensive code of social welfare and initiated a political reform which permitted the election of Latin America’s first Socialist congressman, Alfredo L. Palacios, in that same year. Unfortunately, Señora Espil does not mention these important developments in the social-political realm, nor does she indicate whether any of the four U.S. representatives were aware of or concerned with these issues.
In sum, this study is of value to scholars interested in the role of U.S. diplomats in Latin America. It suffers, however, from a failure to describe more fully the complex internal situation in Argentina with which these diplomats had to deal.