With this impressive study of late nineteenth-century developments in Argentina’s major interior city, Szuchman adds significantly to a small, but growing, bibliography on the new urban history of Latin America. His principal objective is to test Argentina’s ideology of success—the proverbial hacer la América shared by thousands of arriving immigrants from Europe. In order to do this, he examines several populations— samples for the city from the 1869 national census and from archdiocese archives, as well as the memberships of French and Spanish voluntary associations—to determine persistence of individuals in the city, residential shifts within the city, degree of occupational mobility, levels of education, accumulation of wealth, marriage patterns, and degree of social integration by immigrants. Using methodologies reminiscent of Stephan Thernstrom and Peter R. Knight’s work in United States cities, but dealing with data that is far more scattered, Szuchman attempts to introduce more precision into what have been largely impressionistic writings about nineteenth-century Argentine social mobility and class structure. He thus revises generalizations concerning upward mobility in Argentina. His basic conclusion is that Córdoba and probably other smaller cities in the interior, unlike Buenos Aires, had experienced little vertical mobility by the end of the nineteenth century and certainly gave no promise for the development of a middle class.
Córdoba—as was the case in United States cities studied by the new urban historians—experienced extreme population fluidity, attracting both European immigrants and migrants from interior provinces, but soon pushing them on. One may doubt that Szuchman, any more than students of United States cities, can be so assured that individuals, who fail to appear in public registries or subsequent census schedules, actually had abandoned the locality, but the general conclusion of movement seems valid. In terms of mobility for those who stayed, despite some increase in property ownership, Szuchman finds, not surprisingly, no basic alteration in a highly stratified social system or in property distribution. For both French and Spanish immigrants, their societies and mutual-aid groups primarily represented and helped those who already were successful in adapting to the host culture. Once again, for both groups, out-migration from the city proves to be one of Szuchman’s most valuable—and, in this case, most convincing—findings. Finally, Szuchman examines marriage patterns and confirms, with impressive evidence, the tendency of immigrants to marry within their own ethnic and cultural groups.
In this study Szuchman clearly establishes his credentials as a quantifier. But he offers much for the nonquantifier as well. In his analysis of social change, he goes beyond the numbers to bring in extensive descriptive data from court records, census schedules, and newspapers. By combining both approaches, he develops a highly readable account, which also serves to revise several long-standing misconceptions concerning Argentine social history.