The basic thesis of this work is that the Indians of the Pampas and the Argentine Chaco are the desaparecidos of 1879, and that the liberal positivist literature of the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries has done its best to hide this fact (p. 12). The author’s purpose is to indict the liberal positivist elite of Argentina for the above exterminations. For good measure, he adds the destruction of the Guaranis of Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70), carried out by the liberal elites of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay against the Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López (p. 16).

The author goes on to assert that this is the pattern observed throughout Latin America in the same period of time, when liberal positivism and Social Darwinism provided the Latin American elites with the theoretical justification for the oppression or extermination of the native populations of the Americas. He cites the Argentina of Julio A. Roca, the Porfiriato in Mexico, the coffee barons of the first republic of Brazil, the landowning-mining elite of Chile, which exterminated the southern Araucanians, as well as the liberal positivist legislation and actions of late nineteenth-century Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, and most other Latin American countries against their oppressed and dispossessed Indian populations. In sum, Viñas concludes, all throughout Latin America, Amerindians were the main victims of the late nineteenth-century liberal positivist elites, which were part of the colonial imperialism of the bourgeois capitalist variety.

This book, in a very limited edition of one thousand copies, is divided between a little more than a hundred pages of text and over two hundred pages of documents, each preceded by Viñas’s opinionative and erudite introductions.

This is definitely a work for the specialist, particularly the two-thirds of the book dealing with documentation, in which is found a useful contribution to scholarship. The young graduate, even if well-versed in Spanish, will find Viñas’s literary jargon very hard to digest. Still, even the undergraduate Latin American studies major will benefit from a careful and patient reading of the third chapter. Chapter five is even more useful to understand the process of elimination of the Indians in the Argentine Pampas and Patagonia, and the forces behind the process, from the fort system to the coming of the Remington rifle. No one, however, can question Viñas’s extensive research, erudition, and literary ability, which make his work a useful reading experience.