In Las misiones diplomáticas de Guzmán Blanco, Armando Rojas limits himself to consideration of matters which can be subsumed under that title. One can only regret that he chose a restricted definition which excluded a discussion of the Venezuelan context from which the missions emanated. The nine chapters fall into two sections. The first seven recount Guzmán Blanco’s European missions in rough chronological order, beginning with the 1864 loan and ending with the Spanish arbitration of the Colombian-Venezuelan boundary. Some of these missions might be more accurately perceived as interregnal travels since Guzmán Blanco was not always equipped with proper diplomatic credentials. The last two chapters, or approximately half the text, treat, respectively, French and United States claims and the Guiana boundary dispute and overlap the others chronologically. Rojas gives due attention to the European political-diplomatic context and to the Illustrious American’s impressions of Europe, especially his admiration for France.
Rojas used the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry Archives with some profit, but this volume is largely based on such secondary sources as Francisco González Guinán, Historia contemporánea de Venezuela (Caracas, 1954) and Enrique Bernardo Núñez, Tres momentos en la controversia de límites de Guayana (Caracas, 1962). However, neither Edward Eastwick’s Venezuela: o apuntes sobre la vida en una república sudamericana con la historia del empréstito de 1864 (Caracas, 1959) nor evidence of extensive use of the Guzmán Blanco papers in the Fundación John Boulton (Caracas) appear in the bibliography or footnotes.
The general picture of Guzmán Blanco’s diplomatic career presented in this volume is negative. Guzmán Blanco is taken to task not only on the standard charge of siphoning a personal fortune from the 1864 loan, but also for mismanaging other negotiations, particularly that of the boundary with Colombia.
The value of this book lies not in its substantive content, but in the fact that it consolidates a body of material into a single, readily available source.