Among the Argentine revisionist historians, Fermín Chávez is one of the more sincere and prolific. Chávez at least openly admits he is of the revisionist school considered by him to have been consolidated around 1930 but begun much earlier. As a revisionist he divides the rulers of Argentina into those emphasizing ends and those emphasizing means. The nationalism of Alvear (1815), of Rivadavia (1825), of Pueyrredón (1819), and of Roca (1880s) emphasized ends. That of Rosas emphasized means. But it has always been difficult to form an Argentine nationalism, since Argentines are heterogeneous. People came to the country before the nation developed and so have always had a colonial mentality which has to be “decolonized.” This book is to help in that process, by proving that a great native culture was developed in the Rosas era. But Chávez certainly does not prove it.
The artists he mentions were mostly foreigners, mainly Italian, French, German, Swiss, and English. Of the artistic forms lithography was the most important, and here he emphasizes Bade, a Swiss, as do most Argentine historians. It appears also that most editors of periodicals were foreigners. Many writers in the early Rosas period later turned against him, having at first supported his regime. The same thing happened in the first Perón regime. Chávez emphasizes this, but is this so unnatural, even in other Latin countries?
A list of textbooks, published annually (1829-1852), might well have been omitted instead of being used as proof of cultural growth. During some years there are none and in several there is only one. In the early years there are several written by later Unitarian exiles. The list of periodicals, especially newspapers, appears impressive at first glance, until one notes that most of them lasted a very short time, many only a few issues. Dr. Ernesto Celesia, the noted Rosas scholar, once showed this reviewer a list of newspapers of the period which indicated that the number declined rapidly. Again most of the editors were foreigners, and so was the most important historian, Pedro de Angelis, to whom Chávez gives much emphasis.
Almost all the music of the Rosas era dealt with Rosas and Manuelita or was dedicated to them. Even federalist and montonero minuets were composed. Rut here more natives (than foreigners) were composers, and even Alberdi was the composer of a Valsa.
Chávez believes there was nothing wrong with demanding complete and absolute loyalty from the professors and students of the University of Buenos Aires to the federalist cause, saying that it did not interfere with freedom of instruction. He says that after all many later anti-Rosistas graduated in this period. But should that be used against them or in favor of Rosas?
Maybe it is time to heed the words of one of Argentina’s great modern publicists, Ricardo Sáenz Hayes, when he states: “Lo que nos hace falta es una historia inédita, sin resabios perturbadores, sin ilusiones que fomentan el prejuicio de ser más grandes, más poderosos, más opulentos, más gloriosos de lo que somos o son los demás.” (La Prensa, September 21, 1963).