Throughout Argentina’s modern history the province of Buenos Aires has held the key to political control of the nation. In the twentieth century, and particularly after electoral reform in 1912, any party that hoped to capture the republic’s presidency and dominate the national Congress viewed electoral victories in Buenos Aires as vital to success. The reasons are easy to discern; Argentina’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous state, Buenos Aires has provided between 25 and 35 percent of all the republic’s voters and a like proportion of presidential electors and national congressmen. Control of Buenos Aires, then, along with support in a few other districts, has virtually assured the presidential election of those candidates whose party held sway there. In only one instance in the twentieth century (1916) has an Argentine captured the nation’s presidency without also capturing Buenos Aires.

In 1946 Juan Perón won the Argentine presidency, carrying the province of Buenos Aires by a comfortable margin and doing especially well in the working-class suburbs that surround the city of Buenos Aires.1 After 1946 the province remained one of the major Peronist strongholds. The election of 1946 has been the object of considerable scholarly analysis (and debate) and subsequent contests also have received attention.2 There has been relatively little study, however, of the period preceding the Peronist triumph. This article, then, will focus on the politics, parties, and elections in the key province of Buenos Aires for the period from 1912 to 1942 and seek to highlight some of the general trends and characteristics of provincial politics before the Peronist sweep.

Twentieth-century politics in the province of Buenos Aires have been played out against the background of some important social and economic changes. One of the most significant was demographic growth; between 1914 and 1947 the total number of inhabitants in the province grew from slightly more than two million to over four million, throughout representing about one-quarter of the total population of the republic. (See Table I.)

Two great waves of population movement, coming from different directions and different times, largely determined demographic growth and settlement patterns. The first wave originated in the east and was composed of foreign immigrants, mostly from Europe. Beginning in earnest in the 1880s, this wave funneled through the city of Buenos Aires and out onto the Argentine pampa, annually depositing tens of thousands of new inhabitants until, in the 1930s, government restrictions curbed the flood of new arrivals to a trickle. Overall, between 1857 and 1941 the province received the greatest number of immigrants of any area in the country, some 2,095,696.3 The impact of immigration was such that the third national census of 1914 showed that foreigners represented one of every three of the province’s inhabitants. (See Table I.)

The second great wave began in the 1930s and continued into the 1980s. The direction was from the north and west to the east, primarily to the city and suburbs of Buenos Aires. Attracted by employment opportunities, in these decades hundreds of thousands of Argentine-born migrants moved from the interior to the coast. Most came from other provinces, but a substantial number also were from within the province of Buenos Aires itself. Their arrival and settlement, combined with the gradual increase of Argentine-born sons and daughters of European immigrants, reduced the foreign-born proportion of the province’s population to less than 1 in 4 by 1947. (See Table I.)

Both waves contributed to rapid urbanization. Their greatest impact was on the growth of Greater Buenos Aires, or those districts immediately surrounding the federal capital. From 1914 to 1947 the combined population of these counties grew from 458,217 persons, or 22.2 percent of the provincial total, to 1,741,338, or 40.8 percent of the total. (See Table I.) Other centers also experienced great expansion. The provincial capital of La Plata more than doubled its population, from 100,981 to 207,031 between 1914 and 1947. The seaside resort of Mar del Plata grew dramatically from 27,611 to 114,729 permanent residents during the same period. The southern port of Bahía Blanca, a principal center for grain exports, saw its population leap from 49,511 in 1914 to 112,597 in 1947. Other medium-sized cities scattered throughout the province also grew significantly. Olavarría in the south tripled its population during these years, from 7,893 to 24,204. Some 80 miles southeast of Olavarría, the city of Tandil doubled in size, from 15,784 to 32,309. In the west Junín grew from 21,172 to 36,149, and in the northwest Pergamino saw its population expand from 20,549 to 32,382. Overall, more than 70 percent of the province’s inhabitants were in urban areas by 1947, as compared with 55.3 percent in 1914, percentages significantly higher than for the republic as a whole.4

Much of the urbanization that occurred from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s was related to a marked increase in industrial activities, particularly in Greater Buenos Aires. Between 1935 and 1946 the number of industrial establishments in the province grew from 10,385 to 23,745 and the number of persons employed in these from 128,278 to 326,623, with the most significant increases occurring in Greater Buenos Aires.5 Even with industrial growth, however, the main focus of the province’s economic activity remained in agriculture, where Buenos Aires enjoyed a dominant national position. Throughout the twentieth century about 40 percent of all the republic’s livestock has been bred and raised in the province. Buenos Aires also generally has been the nation’s leading producer of wheat, corn, oats, and barley.6

These developments produced changes in provincial social structure. Most important in political terms was the growth of the middle sectors. Table II, constructed from occupational data in the third national census, shows an already significant middle class (27.2 percent of the total) in the province by 1914. Although the fourth national census does not provide comparable data, Argentine sociologist Gino Germani calculated that by 1947 the middle (and upper) classes of Buenos Aires represented a little more than 40 percent of the total; the “popular” classes a little less than 60 percent.7

Despite changes in the middle, the top of the social-economic pyramid remained much the same. The undisputed masters of Buenos Aires were the province’s large landowners, its estancieros and hacendados. Their power derived from ownership and control of the province’s principal productive resource and the concentration of that resource in a few hands—the classic Latin American pattern of latifundio. The extent of their domains was legendary. Jacinto Oddone estimated that in 1928 the top fifty estanciero families in the province combined owned 4,663,575 hectares, or almost 17 percent of all the province’s land.8 Most of the major landed fortunes were created in the nineteenth century. Two principal groups took part in this process. One was composed of families with roots in the colonial period. A second group was made up of European immigrants, many from humble backgrounds, who combined daring, skill, and industry to amass large estates and to leave immense wealth to their descendants.

Not all the estancieros of the province, however, were owners of huge estates. Many possessed “small” (200 to 1,000 hectares) or medium-to-large holdings (1,000 to 5,000 hectares). Generally, this group was composed of the descendants of the immigrant land barons of the late nineteenth century, and although sharing many of the characteristics of the larger estate owners, these people nevertheless saw themselves as distinct from and sometimes opposed to the traditional landed families.9

While estancieros owned much of the province’s land, those who actually worked it were most often tenants, or colonos, who rented the land from the owners, worked it by contract for a certain length of time, and then moved on. Despite the fact that a few renters became owners, the number of tenants grew steadily between the 1910s and the 1940s.10 Enduring the demanding and isolated working and living environment that drove others to urban areas, many tenants eventually began to enjoy a modicum of prosperity on the pampa. Gradually, small farmers—agricultores and chacareros—along with small-town businessmen, shopkeepers, schoolteachers, journalists, public bureaucrats, and a handful of doctors and lawyers, came to form a growing middle class in the province’s rural regions to complement a similar group in Greater Buenos Aires and the larger urban centers.11

At the bottom of the social scale, both in urban and rural areas, were jornaleros (day laborers) and peones. The 1914 census counted 271,979 persons over the age of fourteen as so designated, representing about a third of all those who listed an occupation. In 1914 almost 60 percent of the number were foreign-born and 97.5 percent were male.12 In the countryside, this group, which provided the manpower to care for the herds, harvest the crops, and perform whatever menial tasks were required, lived a transient and uncertain existence, subject to seasonal demands and the whims of their estanciero employers or of the tenant farmers who contracted their services during the harvest season.13 In the cities, jornaleros, combined with factory workers, artisans, service personnel, transport workers, stevedores, and others, helped constitute an expanding urban working class. Although the census data do not allow precise estimates, the overall growth of industry and increased urbanization between 1914 and 1947 strongly suggest that this group grew significantly, too, particularly from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s.

Social-economic change, along with the electoral reform in 1912, substantially altered the size and shape of the province’s electorate. Paralleling overall population growth, the number of registered voters in the province rose from 232,000 in 1912 to 892,557 in 1942.14 During this period very few foreign-born immigrants became naturalized citizens and hence eligible to vote.15 Gradually, however, their Argentine-born sons (women did not receive the vote until the late 1940s) reached the required voting age. Their addition to the rolls served to increase the proportion of the total population eligible for enfranchisement, from a little over 11 percent in 1912 to approximately 22 percent in 1942.16 In addition the literacy of the electorate, reflecting the spread of public education during this period, grew from about 70 percent in 1916 to almost 90 percent in 1938.17

The impact of change on the social structure of the electorate is more difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, the data for Argentine males (those eligible to vote) from the 1914 census, presented in Table II, provide useful information for the beginning of the period under consideration. As the table shows, almost one out of every three voters belonged to the “menial” category. Most of these were the 108,852 Argentine day laborers and peons listed in the census. The next largest group was composed of skilled workers, men primarily engaged in construction work—brick-layers, carpenters, electricians, painters, and ironworkers. The next two largest groups were the “rural skilled” and the “low non-manual.” The first was composed mainly of 30,193 Argentine agricultores and chacareros and the second primarily of 27,388 native-born government employees. The “middle non-manual” was made up mostly by 13,234 comerciantes, or merchants and small shopkeepers, and the “high non-manual” of 9,140 estancieros and hacendados. In sum, in 1914 about 62 percent of the provincial electorate was working-class, almost 31 percent middle-class, and 7 percent upper-class. (See Table II.)

Again, the fourth national census does not provide data that allow for a comparison over time. Nevertheless, the overall growth of the middle class, as well as the expansion of the urban working class, undoubtedly affected the quality of the electorate in the same manner as it did the total population.18

Political leaders in the province were well aware of the general outlines of the social composition of the electorate and of its changing nature. All parties sought to tailor their policies, programs, and campaigns to appeal to the provincial constituency. Especially important was the support—or control—of the single largest bloc of potential voters, day-laborers and peons. Even with the growth of the middle classes, the backing of these voters remained the principal target and goal of all parties. But with social and economic change, politicians also realized the increasingly important role in elections of other groups, particularly small farmers, merchants, bureaucrats, and factory workers.

Between 1912 and 1942 two main parties vied for the allegiance of the provincial electorate and control of Buenos Aires. These were the Partido Conservador, or Conservative party (after 1930 the Partido Demócrata Nacional, PDN, or National Democratic party) and the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR, or Radical party). A third contender was the Partido Socialista (PS, or Socialist party), which was well-organized and enjoyed some strength in suburban and coastal districts, but never gained a firm foothold in the countryside and rarely managed to gather more than 5 to 10 percent of the total vote.19

During the period under consideration, Conservatives and Radicals alternated in power at both the national and provincial level. Nationally, Conservatives controlled government until the election of Radical Hipólito Yrigoyen in 1916. The year following his election, Yrigoyen, using his constitutional authority to guarantee “the republican form of government” in the provinces, intervened in Buenos Aires and replaced Conservative Governor Marcelino Ugarte with a federal official.20 Elections the following year produced a Radical sweep in Buenos Aires, initiating a twelve-year period of UCR domination. The Radical years ended in 1930 when a Conservative-backed military coup ousted Yrigoyen from office following his reelection to the presidency in 1928. The Conservative-military alliance, in its turn, intervened in Buenos Aires and replaced the Radical governor with a federal official of its own. From 1930 to 1943 Conservatives dominated both at the national and local levels.

The confrontations between Conservatives and Radicals in Buenos Aires were often passionate, bitter, and bloody. And in their confrontations the two parties emphasized their differences. Nevertheless, in certain respects they were remarkably similar. Based on the establishment of local committees in each county seat, both parties had more or less the same organizational structure. Both parties, too, sought to project a nationalist, criollo image as organizations firmly rooted in the Argentine historical experience and well-steeped in national traditions. In addition, at first glance, there seemed to be few basic differences of principle and program. Neither party sought any radical changes in the basic social-economic structure of the province or the nation. Generally, both supported liberal free-trade policies and showed little concern for the promotion or defense of native industry. Both parties favored an evolutionary, conciliatory approach to most national problems and rejected concepts of class conflict and class antagonism.

Nonetheless, the Conservatives, more clearly than the Radicals, did represent primarily the interest of the large landowning elite. Although the Conservatives occasionally produced electoral programs aimed to appeal to a broad constituency, in practice, as judged from a survey of the voting record of their representatives in the national Congress from 1912 to 1942, their deputies consistently voted against most social legislation, did little to aid small farmers, supported economic policies that benefited large agriculture but harmed industrialists, and sought to block any legislation that might have undercut the influence of powerful foreign investors.21 Basically, the main thrust of most Conservative campaigns was to attack the opposition Radicals when the UCR was in power and to defend their own policies and actions when they controlled provincial and national office. They took special aim at Radical President Yrigoyen and the Radical governors of the Yrigoyen era, accusing them of demagoguery, fiscal irresponsibility, and a failure to respect local autonomy. These were rather consistent themes for the Conservatives, who in office claimed to represent honest and efficient government, to be fiscally responsible, and to be strong defenders of provincial rights.

The Radicals, of course, took the opposite side. They strongly defended their administrations and attacked those of the Conservatives. In Congress, UCR deputies from the province generally—although not always—supported the passage of social legislation and measures to aid small farmers. Generally, also in contrast with the Conservatives, the Radicals tended to support more equitable, distributive economic policies, the gradual absorption of foreigners into the political process, and stronger controls on the activities of foreign economic enterprises. In the late 1930s especially, the Radicals took a stronger nationalistic position on a variety of economic policy issues than did the Conservatives.

The main philosophical difference between the two parties involved their attitudes toward democracy. The Radicals, from their inception in the 1890s, were firm and consistent supporters of free and honest elections, respect for individual rights, and representative government. On the surface, most Conservative spokesmen claimed adherence to democratic principles and the electoral reforms introduced under Conservative President Roque Sáenz Peña in 1912. But within the party there were many who remained skeptical of the Sáenz Peña law, arguing that it had moved the country too far and too fast along the road to universal manhood suffrage without adequate safeguards to assure that the voters were fully prepared and competent to exercise their civic responsibilities.22

Impressions of the social composition of the parties have also delineated differences. Generally, the Radicals have been perceived as the party of Argentina’s growing middle classes and the Conservatives as the party of the traditional upper classes.23 In general terms, these impressions hold true for the respective parties in Buenos Aires. Recent scholarship has shown, however, that in addition to its middle-class complexion, the UCR, particularly in its early years, also had significant numbers of estancieros and other upper-class elements among its leaders and supporters. Some of these estancieros came from the older, established families in the province, others from the newer first- and second-generation immigrant groups.24 Radicalism, it is claimed, had particular appeal for small- and medium-sized landowners, who believed that the large estancieros and hacendados who dominated the Conservative party did not adequately represent their interests.25 Although the Conservative leadership was predominantly upper-class and essentially reflected the interests of the large landowning families, there were also to be found on the party rolls a fair number of middle-class professionals and politicians from more humble backgrounds. The social composition of both parties, then, was somewhat more heterogeneous and complex than general impressions might indicate.

The differing nature of the leadership of the two parties is revealed in surveying the class composition of the Conservative and Radical deputies elected from the province to the national Congress between 1912 and 1942. Most of these deputies also served as important party leaders during this period. Drawing upon information and categories provided by Peter H. Smith in his study of the Argentine Congress, we find that almost 70 percent (of a total of 104) of the Conservative congressmen from the province were definite aristocrats, or members of Argentina’s upper classes, 13 percent were possible aristocrats, and 17 percent were non-aristocrats. Among the Radicals, on the other hand, 32 percent (of a total of 87) were definite aristocrats, 17 percent possible aristocrats, and 51 percent nonaristocrats.26

As these figures show, the Radicals did have a substantial aristocratic or upper-class component that included some of the party’s important leaders in the province. Throughout these years, however, the UCR leadership was clearly less aristocratic than the Conservatives and appeared to become more middle-class, or at least nonaristocratic, over time.27 The Radical leadership, then, was essentially middle-class, with a significant, but smaller, upper-class component. The Conservatives, on the other hand, had the opposite complexion; a large aristocratic or upper-class leadership, with a significantly smaller proportion in the nonaristocratic category.

Data on the occupations of all national deputies from the province show that lawyers predominated, with 62 of the 217 deputies so identified. The second most common occupation was physician (24). Only 10 deputies were listed as primarily hacendados. These results reinforce the judgment that while the landowning classes enjoyed a powerful voice in the politics of the province, their actual participation in party activities was minimal. Generally, the wealthier landed families preferred to work behind the scenes through intermediaries and to show their political preferences through generous financial contributions to the parties of their choice instead of hitting the campaign trail themselves. Politics, particularly politics in the province of Buenos Aires, had an aura of sweat, blood, and rabble-rousing that offended aristocratic sensibilities. Most landowners left the grubby details to the professionals.28

The point, however, should not be exaggerated. Many politicians had multiple occupations, which sometimes obscured the fact that they were also landowners. This was particularly true of a number of lawyers who were at the same time estancieros or prominent members or large landowning families. Furthermore, although their numbers may not have been great, there were some important provincial landowners who were also important provincial political activists. Table III,29 lists thirteen men who were members of the province’s largest landowning families and also held important governmental offices. Their numbers are almost evenly divided between Radicals and Conservatives. In addition, Table IV 30 shows the results of a cross-check of provincial local and national congressmen, provincial executives, and a landholding guide for 1923. Although the measure is a rough one, the table shows a substantial number of elected governmental officials who were also landowners. The total of 82 is again almost evenly divided between Radicals and Conservatives. The fact that almost 58 percent of the UCR landowners possessed small-to medium-sized (less than 1,000 hectares) holdings as opposed to 38 percent for the Conservatives supports the contention that this group backed the Radicals in opposition to the large owners who backed their opponents.

Impressions concerning the social-economic composition of the voters for the two main parties parallel those of their leadership. The UCR was seen as essentially the party of the middle classes; the Conservatives, as the party of wealthy estancieros who could persuade or coerce jornaleros and peons on their estates to vote for them.31 Analysis of the available evidence, however, again suggests a somewhat more complex picture.

Before turning to this evidence, based essentially on a statistical analysis of election results, some comments on the general characteristics of elections in Buenos Aires are in order. Although elections—provincial and national—were held regularly in the province of Buenos Aires between 1912 and 1942, frequently they were far from regular. Fraud and corruption of the electoral process were constant characteristics of many contests. The techniques of fraud were as varied as the imaginations of the men who perpetrated them would allow. Ballot boxes were stuffed; the dead rose to vote on election day; police and local officials often intimidated, harassed, and coerced potential opposition voters; polls were opened late and closed early; and government employees and others traveled the province to vote numerous times in the same election. Few contests passed without complaints from one side or the other, and proven irregularities commonly produced complementary elections in many districts after the original balloting.

The scope, intensity, and efficacy of fraud are difficult to measure. The “outs” incessantly, even reflexively, complained of being victims at the hands of the “ins.” Reviewing press reports of campaigns and elections and the congressional debates pertaining to contests in the province, it is clear that most fraud and coercion occurred during the periods of Conservative control of the province, and that the intensity and frequency of fraud increased as the Conservatives’ base of support among a growing electorate seemed to shrink. Fraud was especially prevalent in the elections of the 1930s, the so-called infamous decade. Elections under Radical direction from 1918 to 1930 were probably the most free and honest of this period. Conservatives complained to the contrary, and the Radicals did engage in dubious practices from time to time. Most observers, however, agreed as to the relative improvements under the UCR, and the political climate of Buenos Aires during the Radical years was much less of a congressional and national issue than during the periods of Conservative control.32

Fraud had important effects on election results. Most important, the Radicals adopted a policy of “intransigence,” or abstention from elections, in protest of alleged Conservative manipulation of the electoral process, most notably between 1912 and 1914 and in the early 1930s. The UCR protest was registered either by refusing to go to the polls at all or, if casting ballots, voting en blanco to register disagreement with the process while still showing the numbers the party could command. The Conservatives abstained from several contests in the 1920s, ostensibly in protest of alleged Radical irregularities and coercion but in reality the result of disorganization, low morale, and internal party disagreements over electoral strategy.

Internal party disagreements, often leading to fragmentation, along with abstention, had a clear impact on the electoral fortunes of both major parties. These factors, along with changing voter preference, led to some dramatic electoral shifts over the years under study. These sharp ups and downs are displayed clearly in Graph A, which traces the percentages of the total vote for Conservatives, Radicals, and Socialists in national deputy elections between 1912 and 1942. This graph shows the precipitous Conservative decline in the 1920s and the corresponding Radical predominance, with the reverse being true for the 1930 to 1940 period (with the momentary exception of 1940). The reversal of Conservative fortunes in the 1930s, however, owed much (if not all) to Radical abstention in the early part of the decade and the generous use of fraud in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Most observers agreed that if fraud had not been employed, that is, if the Radicals had been allowed to compete in open and honest elections, the predominance the UCR had been able to establish in the 1920s would have continued during the ensuing decade. On the other hand, it is also clear that Conservative fortunes were definitely on the rise in the 1920s and that, given honest elections in the 1930s, that party would at the least have given the Radicals some stiff competition in subsequent contests.33

Fraud, fragmentation, and abstention undoubtedly had an impact on overall voter turnout for elections in the province. Graph B traces turnout percentages for national deputy and presidential contests in Buenos Aires, as well as for provincial deputy and gubernatorial elections, and compares these with national turnout in congressional and presidential elections. Examination of the trends produces several conclusions. First, turnout at the provincial level generally followed the national pattern but was usually somewhat lower than the national norm. This was not unusual for most provinces and probably reflected the fact that turnout in the federal capital, which contained about 15 to 20 percent of the total electorate, was considerably higher than for the rest of the country and undoubtedly upped the national average. Second, turnout peaked during presidential elections (1916, 1922, 1928, 1931, and 1937) when voter interest was high and party efforts to get out the vote were greatest. At the provincial level, gubernatorial contests (1913, 1918, 1925, 1929, 1931, 1935, 1941) attracted more voter interest than elections solely for provincial deputies. Overall, turnout for provincial elections was usually somewhat lower than for national contests. Third, the immediate effects of the Sáenz Peña law, while producing a relative improvement in participation in contrast with previous elections, did not seem to stimulate high voter participation in the 1920s. Part of the decline for this period can be explained by fragmentation and abstention in several elections. Overall participation, however, despite occasional low points, did steadily increase throughout the period, reaching quite substantial levels in the 1930s despite the fraud, coercion, and violence associated with elections. In sum, despite the many vicissitudes and difficulties of the period, and taking into account that figures for the 1930s were not always accurate indicators of either voter preference or exact turnout, the Argentine citizen, at both the national and provincial levels, saw participation in elections as an important right and duty to be enjoyed and exercised.34

Further information on turnout comes from Table V, which correlates various indicators of “modernization” with the percentage of the electorate that participated in the national congressional elections in the province between 1916 and 1942. These correlations indicate that Buenos Aires voters who lived in areas of population increase, urbanization, high literacy, and with a higher proportion of foreign-born went to the polls in greater numbers and with more consistency than voters who did not live in such areas. Generally, too, the closer to large urban centers the voters, particularly the closer to the city of Buenos Aires, the higher the turnout; the farther removed, the lower.35 There was also a strong correlation between turnout and “rural housing,” indicating that the better the quality of home construction in rural areas, the greater the voter interest.

In addition to turnout, Table V also describes the relationship between variables derived from national censuses, turnout, and the performances of the Socialist, Conservative, and Radical parties as measured by their percentage of the vote in national elections between 1916 and 1942. The first four independent variables—population increase, urbanization, literacy, and percent foreign-born—can be considered measurements of modernization, that is, reflective of those areas of the province where dynamic growth and socioeconomic change were occurring.36 Areas of modernization, furthermore, can also be assumed to have been regions that witnessed the most marked and significant growth of new socioeconomic groups, particularly the middle sectors of society. A positive correlation between these variables and party performance, then, would suggest voter support from these new groups for the political party in question. The fifth variable, “rural housing,” refers to the quality of housing construction in rural areas. A positive correlation between this variable and party performance suggests support in wealthier rural districts as measured by the quality of building material. It should be observed that except for turnout and for literacy between 1916 and 1930, these variables reflect the general characteristics of the entire population of the counties overall, not of the electorate (Argentine males over the age of 18) specifically.37

Of the three political parties in competition, the Socialists, as Table V shows, had the strongest relationship between their percentage of the vote and modernization indicators. The Socialist relationship with urbanization was particularly strong. Unfortunately for the Socialists, their overall share of the provincial vote was never much more than 10 percent. Essentially, as noted above, their voting strength lay in isolated clusters in the urban centers along the coast, and the party had little impact at all in the countryside.

In contrast, the Conservative vote almost uniformly correlated negatively with all modernization indicators. This result for the Conservatives, then, reaffirms the impression that the party had limited appeal to and support from new socioeconomic groups and depended on traditional regions and sectors for its backing. Too, with a few exceptions, the Conservative vote did not benefit from high turnout, reinforcing a general impression that the party performed best when voter interest was limited. Finally, the Conservative vote generally correlated positively with the rural housing index, suggesting party strength in wealthier agricultural districts, a finding again consistent with more impressionistic evidence.

The Radical vote, on the other hand, with few exceptions, correlated negatively with the rural housing index, a not surprising result. What is surprising is the generally negative pattern between Radical percentages and the other five variables. On a national scale, for example, the Radicals were seen to benefit from higher voter turnout.38 In Buenos Aires, however, UCR performance and turnout produced a fairly consistent pattern of negative correlations. More important, the same holds generally true for the Radical vote and modernization indicators, a result inconsistent with the impression of the UCR as a party benefiting from socioeconomic change and with support from new social groups.39 It should be remarked, too, that these findings, based on the best available data, are more suggestive than they are conclusive.

Other evidence related to the social-economic base of party support in the province comes from examining those particular areas where certain parties performed especially well over long periods of time. The counties of the corn belt, for example, running northwest of the federal capital, regularly provided the UCR with electoral victories, especially between 1914 and 1930.40 These were generally counties with the small-to mediumsized holdings and a large number of tenant farmers.41 The Radicals also had certain clear areas of strength in the south of the province. In rural districts, this strength was related to the appeal Radicalism had for first- and second-generation Basque estancieros and hacendados.42 In the county of Ayacucho, for example, about 200 miles due south of the federal capital and containing a significant proportion of Basque landowners, the Radicals always won substantial election victories, usually by margins of 4 or 5 to 1.43 Also in the south, the Radicals historically enjoyed strength in the dynamic port city of Bahía Blanca, where they usually prevailed easily over Conservative and Socialist opposition except when, as was sometimes the case, they were badly divided among themselves and split the vote among dissenting factions. Another large city in which the Radicals did well, although somewhat less consistently and convincingly than in other areas of strength, was the provincial capital of La Plata. Seat of government and of Argentina’s second largest university, La Plata was probably the province’s most middle-class city.44

In most of the elections between 1914 and 1930, the Conservatives performed well in counties with small urban centers, the Radicals in those with medium to large cities.45 This trend, considering the process of urbanization in the province, forecast eventual Radical predominance. There were, however, two important exceptions to this general rule. One was the resort city of Mar del Plata, which in the 1920s became a Socialist party stronghold, thanks to the leadership of intendente (mayor) Teodoro Bronzini, who provided municipal government with reliable and honest administration. The Socialist position was strengthened, too, by the fact that the Conservatives and Radicals split much of the vote, giving the Socialists frequent pluralities in three-way contests. The other exception was Avellaneda, by the 1940s the largest city in the province. Although primarily an industrial, working-class city of the type where Radicals or Socialists might expect to prevail, Avellaneda was a Conservative stronghold for most of the 1912 to 1943 period. Conservative dominance there was provided by Alberto Barceló, the unquestioned political caudillo, or boss, of Avellaneda, and one of the most important figures in the political history of the province. He and the Conservatives, like the Socialists in Mar del Plata, frequently benefited from the fact that the opposition—in this case Radicals and Socialists—often split the vote, allowing Barceló’s party to capture the plurality.46

What all the evidence presented so far indicates is that while some general patterns can be discerned, there is no clear-cut or simple correlation between socioeconomic groups and party support. The UCR cannot be seen as simply and exclusively the party of the new urban middle and working classes, and the Partido Conservador, the party of the wealthy landowners and their dependents. Although these groups might have formed the principal foundations for the respective parties, it is clear that both Conservatives and Radicals attracted votes from various social sectors in diverse regions of the province. The Radicals, for example, did well in modernizing cities such as Bahía Blanca and La Plata; but they also consistently won in the partido of Lobería, south of Mar del Plata, the county that in 1916 had the lowest rate of voter literacy of any in the province.47 The Conservatives won in counties with significant middle- and working-class voters close to the federal capital and in rural counties with more traditional social structures scattered throughout the province.48

Certainly as important, if not more so, as the class composition of particular districts in determining the electoral success of Radicals or Conservatives was the quality of party leadership and organization at the local level.49 Of particular importance were the abilities of the local political boss, the caudillo, who knew well the specific conditions of his domain, the particular nature of the electorate, and how successfully to round up support—by hook or by crook—for his party.

Unquestionably the best-known, most controversial, and most effective caudillo in the province was Alberto Barceló, the Conservative boss of Avellaneda. Born in that city in 1873, Barceló came from a family deeply involved in local and provincial affairs. Building on that base, Barceló developed a smoothly functioning political machine that rested on personal service and authoritarian control of government and patronage. Subordinates managed particular districts of the city and Barceló forged links with caudillos in neighboring counties to deliver large blocs of votes to the Partido Conservador. The entire machine was well lubricated with proceeds from illegal gambling operations and generous contributions from foreign companies that appreciated Barceló’s ability to maintain labor peace in the country’s second-ranking industrial city. Most important, through clever maneuvering and maintaining contacts with both Conservative and Radical governments, Barceló managed to keep a constant flow of state and federal funding channeled into Avellaneda, providing needed public works and steady employment for large sectors of the city ’s population.50

Another Conservative caudillo of note was Luis Güerci, political boss of Zárate, an industrial port city some 40 miles upriver from Buenos Aires. A representative of the Conservative party in the provincial chamber of deputies and senate as well as in the national Chamber of Deputies, Güerci’s main activities and achievements, nonetheless, were at the local level. He, or members of his family, frequently served as Zárate’s mayors or presidents of the city council for much of the period between 1912 and 1943.51 Like Barceló, Güerci used patronage and the provision of personal service to develop his political base. Like Barceló, too, he was committed to political life and devoted most of his time and effort to it.52

Reports on political activities in Zárate in the months before the presidential elections of April 1916 describe the caudillo as going from house to house, person to person, throughout the city to establish contacts and to persuade voters to enroll in Conservative party ranks. Even swaying some well-known Radicals to join the Conservative cause, he was reported to have personally signed up 1,230 supporters before the presidential contest, a contest in which the Conservatives triumphed over the Radicals by a vote of 1,363 to 681.53 Güerci paid special attention to the areas where workers in the local meat-packing and paper plants lived. With the assistance of his family, he held fiestas políticas in these neighborhoods and aided in establishing a recreational center near the river for plant workers. In 1915 he had helped to mediate successfully a strike in one of the British-owned meat-packing establishments, a mediation that added to his prestige and influence among both owners and workers.54

Caudillos in the countryside exhibited many of the same characteristics and abilities as Barceló and Güerci. Again, of special importance was the personality of the local leader and the personal commitment and loyalty such a leader could command among the voters. This personalism is well described in another report from before the 1916 elections, this one from the county of Nueve de Julio in the heart of the pampa. In that county the Conservative party’s dominance at the time was traced almost solely to the personal influence of the local boss, provincial deputy Nicolás H. Robbio. As the author of the report noted, “I have heard on different occasions and from the mouths of individuals of different social classes the following declaration, which crystalizes his [Robbio’s] importance and support: ‘If I am a Conservative, it is because of Nicolás,’ which means that without his influence the Conservative majority would be greatly reduced.”55

Service to community and constituents was as much a key to the caudillo’s success in the interior as it was on the coast. In rural areas the politician who could have a road repaired, a bridge built, or a public utility provided, preferably with outside funding, was generally well regarded. Results were often more important than methods. If a leader paid little attention to the niceties of legal or democratic procedures, but benefited the locale and its residents in immediate and lasting ways, any mistreatment of the opposition and other authoritarian practices were often overlooked and indeed often admired. Argentine essayist and politician Arturo Jauretche, first a Radical and later a Peronist, recalled with respect the abilities of the Conservative boss of his home town of Lincoln, who, at the turn of the century, provided the municipality with running water and electric lights well in advance of most areas in the province.56

In the countryside few estancieros were themselves caudillos. Generally, the local bosses were men of modest means who often acted as agents or political intermediaries for influential landowners. In small towns and rural districts they were either members of or closely associated with a small local oligarchy of governing officials, some of whom were appointed by the provincial government, others selected in the locality. Among these officials, the police were a crucial element of any local leader’s power. Policemen were not caudillos, but they were among the most important of the caudillo’s allies. Appointed by the provincial government, they were key actors in all forms of political activity, from reporting to provincial authorities on campaigns to overseeing the electoral process itself.

So far as provincial officials were concerned, the major test of a caudillo’s usefulness was his ability to produce votes on election day. To achieve the desired results, rural caudillos worked with as much dedication and energy as urban bosses. Normally, they knew their districts well and campaigned in them continuously. In the countryside this often meant long and tiring trips by carriage, horseback, or automobile on back-country roads to isolated farms and villages. Politics was a full-time and often exhausting job. Before the Sáenz Peña law, these tasks were eased somewhat by the control that local leaders enjoyed over all aspects of voting, from registration to casting ballots. The predominance of fraud and fraudulent practices allowed the caudillo to produce large majorities for his party with relative ease. It was thought that electoral reform would remedy these ills and perhaps undermine the position of local bosses. The ultimate result, however, seems to have been the opposite. Caudillos after 1912 were forced to behave in more respectable and democratic ways than had been their previous custom, at least until 1930; but as the vote became more important, so, too, did the men who could deliver the vote. And it remained the local leader with personal prestige, an awareness of and sensitivity to local conditions, and the energy and ability to attract political support who served as the base of the political system.57

Caudillismo was seen primarily as a Conservative phenomenon. The Radicals, however, also had very effective local leaders, who, while perhaps more democratic in their outlook and behavior, shared many of the characteristics already mentioned. Notable among Radical caudillos were a number of physicians who became political activists and especially effective in rural districts. In the province as a whole and in the countryside in particular doctors were in short supply.58 Those few who did locate in rural areas were highly regarded and greatly appreciated. Like the more traditional caudillos, they worked long hours, traveled extensively, and knew their clients—or patients—well. They, too, provided a service, health care, which, when the doctor became a politician, translated into votes of thanks for services rendered.59 Fernando C. Lillia, a national deputy and Radical leader in San Andrés de Giles, built his political base and reputation as a doctor associated with the local government.60 Francisco Emparanza, a UCR national legislator in the 1920s, was a physician with his base of political support in the professional services he performed in his home district of Saladillo.61 Emilio and Pedro Solanet, Radical political leaders, in addition to being prominent landowners in Ayacucho, were both doctors. Emilio was a veterinarian, which, of course, was particularly useful in agricultural districts.62 There were also some prominent doctors among the Conservatives. Manuel Fresco, the political boss of Morón and governor of the province from 1936 to 1940, and Pedro Groppo, who held a number of provincial positions and was national minister of finance in the late 1930s, both began their political careers as doctors in the Fiorito Hospital of Avellaneda.63 One of the most respected Conservative bosses in the province was Benito de Miguel, a physician and political leader in Junín.64

In sum, Radicals and Conservatives alternated in power in the province of Buenos Aires. Their dominance depended on a mixture of socioeconomic factors, personalism, internal party composition, and the nature of the national government. Both parties sought, with some success, to develop multiclass bases of support. Although some general trends could be noted, however, much of their backing continued to depend upon the quality of their local leadership regardless of the socioeconomic composition of particular districts. In the postwar era, Juan Perón supplanted with his own person the provincial caudillo and forged a new coalition based on the industrial working class to achieve dominance over both Radicals and Conservatives. As a result, the Conservatives virtually disappeared as an effective force in Buenos Aires. Radical strength there dwindled significantly after 1946. In the election of October 30, 1983, however, the UCR’s Raúl Alfonsín defeated Peronist Italo Luder in Buenos Aires by half a million votes, thereby gaining better than a third of the national total, which provided him the edge over his opponent. Once again the province was the key to electoral victory in a national presidential election.

Finally, the province of Buenos Aires was and is the main political prize in Argentine elections. As such, it has received special attention from national parties and national governments. Politics and elections there have been intense, competitive, and often complex. Whether these characteristics have been more pronounced in Buenos Aires than in other important Argentine provinces which also have been the scene of fierce political and electoral struggles, such as Córdoba, Entre Ríos, Mendoza, and Santa Fe, awaits future research. A study of Buenos Aires, however, does suggest the utility of shifting historical focus from the traditional national perspective and following the lead of those in Brazilian and Mexican studies who have begun to examine local, regional, and state histories. Such studies will both illuminate more clearly the particular characteristics of Buenos Aires and, at the same time, reveal the many diverse components which are part and parcel of Argentine political history in the twentieth century.


In 1946 Perón carried Buenos Aires by a vote of 450,778 to 322,881 (Darío Cantón, Materiales para el estudio de la sociología política en la Argentina, 2 vols., Buenos Aires, 1968, I, 129). Perón carried all the districts of Greater Buenos Aires, where he ran up an overall count of 180,834 votes compared to 89,749 for the opposition. (Ibid., II, 158-161.) The names and boundaries of the counties of Greater Buenos Aires have undergone some confusing changes, particularly since the 1940s. For purposes of this study, the following partidos (counties) will be considered as composing Greater Buenos Aires: Almirante Brown, Avellaneda, Esteban Echeverría, Florencio Varela, General San Martín, General Sarmiento, Las Conchas (Tigre), Lomas de Zamora, Matanza, Merlo, Moreno, Morón, Quilmes, San Fernando, San Isidro, and Vicente López. The city of Buenos Aires, it should be noted, makes up a separate federal district that is not part of the province.


A good collection of many of these studies of the 1946 election and subsequent contests is Manuel Mora y Araujo and Ignacio Llorente, eds., El voto peronista: Estudios de sociología electoral argentina (Buenos Aires, 1980), especially Llorente, “Alianzas políticas en el surgimiento del peronismo: El caso de la provincia de Buenos Aires,” pp. 271-317. See also, Darío Cantón, Elecciones y partidos políticos en la Argentina: Historia, interpretación y balance: 1910-1966 (Buenos Aires, 1973); Peter G. Snow, “The Class Basis of Argentine Political Parties,” American Political Science Review, 63 (Mar. 1969), 163-167; Lars Schoultz, “The Socio-Economic Determinants of Popular-Authoritarian Electoral Behavior: The Case of Peronism,” American Political Science Review, 71 (Dec. 1977), 1423-1446; Walter Little, “Electoral Aspects of Peronism, 1946-1954,” Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs, 15 (Aug. 1973), 267-284; and, Eduardo Zalduendo, Geografía electoral de la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1958).


Carl C. Taylor, Rural Life in Argentina (Baton Rouge, 1948), p. 95.


República Argentina, IV censo general de la nación, 3 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1947), I, 114, and República Argentina, Tercer censo nacional, 10 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1916), II, 220. These percentages are based on the census definition of urban: the proportion of the population living in localities of 2,000 or more persons. For the election analysis that follows, a higher figure was used. See note 37.


Calculated from República Argentina, Censo industrial del 1935 (Buenos Aires, 1938), pp 43 and 195-196, and República Argentina, Cuarto censo general de la nación: Censo industrial de 1946 (Buenos Aires, 1952), pp. 18-19 and 68-69.


Enrique César Urien, Geografía económica de la provincia de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, 1939), pp. 165-177.


Gino Germani, Estructura social de la Argentina: Análisis estadístico (Buenos Aires, 1955), p. 210.


Jacinto Oddone, La burguesía terrateniente argentina, 3d ed. (Buenos Aires, 1956), pp. 185-186.


Arnold Strickon, “The Grandsons of the Gauchos: A Study in Subcultural Persistence” (Ph.D. Diss., Columbia University, 1960), p. 224. It should be noted that size of holding is only a rough guide to power and influence. Estates between 500 and 1,000 hectares could be quite wealthy and important depending upon economic activity and geographic location. For comment on the cattlemen of Buenos Aires and the distinctions between them according to activity and location, see Peter H. Smith, Politics and Beef in Argentina: Patterns of Conflict and Change (New York, 1969), pp. 42-47.


Taylor, Rural Life, p. 191.


Sergio Bagú, “La ciase media en la Argentina,” in Theo R. Crevenna, ed., Materiales para el estudio de la clase media en la América Latina, 6 vols., I: La clase media en Argentina y Uruguay (Washington, D.C., 1950-51), p. 43.


Tercer censo nacional, IV, 226-227.


For the conditions of Argentine farm laborers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Carl E. Solberg, “Farm Workers and the Myth of Export-Led Development in Argentina,” The Americas, 31 (Oct. 1974), 121-138.


Cantón, Materiales, I, 81, 127.


By 1938 for Argentina as a whole only 181,723 naturalized foreigners were enrolled to vote out of a national total of 3,098,266 registered voters. Alejandro E. Bunge, Una nueva Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1940), p. 424.


Calculated by estimating the provincial population at about two million in 1912 and four million in 1942.


Bunge, Una nueva Argentina, p. 423.


Anthropologist Arnold Strickon, examining the voter registries of a rural county in central Buenos Aires, determined that between 1928 and 1957 the size of the middle class of the electorate grew from 10 to 25 percent of the total between these years. Middle-sector growth among the electorate in more urban counties must have been even greater. Strickon, “Grandsons,” p. 350.


For an analysis of the origins and development of the Radical party, see David Rock, Politics in Argentina, 1890-1930: The Rise and Fall of Radicalism (Cambridge, 1975). There are no similar studies of the Conservative party, although useful information on the party’s history can be found in Natalio R. Botana, FA orden conservador: La política argentina entre 1880 y 1916 (Buenos Aires, 1977), and Oscar Cornblit, “La opción conservadora en la política argentina,” Desarrollo Económico (Buenos Aires), 14 (Jan.–Mar., 1975), 599-640. A study of the Socialists is this authors The Socialist Party of Argentina, 1890-1930 (Austin, 1977).


For more on the power of the Argentine executive to impose his authority over provincial government, see Rosendo A. Gómez, “Intervention in Argentina: 1860-1930,” Inter-American Economic Affairs, 1 (Dec. 1947), 55-73.


República Argentina, Diario de sesiones de la Cámara de Diputados, 1912-1942 (Buenos Aires, 1912-42). See also, Peter H. Smith, Argentina and the Failure of Democracy: Conflict among Political Elites, 1904-1955 (Madison, 1974).


These attitudes are well represented in oral interviews with several prominent conservative politicians conducted by Professor Luis Alberto Romero for the Instituto Torcuato Di Telia in Buenos Aires in 1971. Of particular interest for depicting conservative values are those with Adolfo Múgica (C6/2) and Federico Pinedo (C4/2).


For the Radicals as spokesmen for Argentina’s emerging middle sectors, see John J. Johnson, Political Change in Latin America: The Emergence of the Middle Sectors (Stanford, 1958), pp. 94-127.


For an analysis of the Radical political elite in 1916, see Ezequiel Gallo (h.) and Silvia Sigal, “La formación de los partidos políticos contemporáneos: La U.C.R. (1890-1916),” in Torcuato S. Di Telia et al., Argentina, sociedad de masas, 3d ed. (Buenos Aires, 1966), pp. 124-176.


Bagú, “La clase media,” p. 75; Gallo and Sigal, “La formación,” p. 147; and, Strickon, “Grandsons,” p. 224.


From a computer print-out containing coded information on all Argentine national deputies from 1904 to 1955, compiled by Peter H. Smith and made available through the University of Wisconsin Data Services Center. Smith compiled and coded this information for his Argentina and the Failure of Democracy.


Between 1914 and 1930, the delineation of Radical deputies from Buenos Aires on the social scale was 35 percent definite aristocrats, 17 percent possible aristocrats, and 48 percent nonaristocrats. From 1936 to 1942, the figures were 24 percent aristocrats, 19 percent possible aristocrats, and 57 percent nonaristocrats.


Federico Pinedo, participant in and observer of Argentine politics, noted that “those who know the landowners and the politicians know that the landowners who were active in politics were very few in number.…” Di Telia Oral Interview (C5/3), p. 68. The same point was made by Buenos Aires Conservative Roberto Lobos, who argued that political activity required more of a commitment of time and effort than most landowners were willing to make. Ibid., pp. 5-6.


The names, affiliations, and offices of the men listed in Table III were taken primarily from Guillermo Kraft, ed., Quién es quién en la Argentina: Biografías contemporáneas; año 1939 (Buenos Aires, 1939). Their ranking with regard to the size of property owned in the province was derived from Oddone, La burguesía terrateniente, pp. 185-186.


From a review of all Buenos Aires national and provincial deputies and provincial executive officers, as compiled from the Diario de sesiones of the local and national legislatures for the years between 1912 and 1942 and the Anuario ‘Edelberg,’ published in Buenos Aires in 1923, which lists all properties in the province over 250 hectares by name of owner, extent, and county.


Reflecting this impression, Federico Pinedo claimed that after 1912 “the rural masses voted for the Conservatives; the small towns voted for the Radicals.” Di Telia Oral Interview, p. 50.


For a catalogue of congressional debates on fraudulent elections, see Cantón, Materiales, I, 3-29.


These matters are discussed in more detail in this author’s The Province of Buenos Aires and Argentine Politics, 1912-1942 (Cambridge, forthcoming).


Turnout in the 1912 to 1942 period was undoubtedly affected by the fact that the Sáenz Peña law established obligatory suffrage and mandated financial and legal penalties for those who did not vote. It is impossible to measure the effect of these provisions on turnout. It is interesting to note, however, the great fluctuations in the percentages of eligible voters who went to the polls from election to election. The very low turnouts in some contests would suggest that the penalties for failure to vote were not always strictly enforced, or, alternatively, were rather easily avoided. The Review of the River Plate, for example, commenting on the low turnout in the national deputy elections of March 1926, observed that fines for failure to vote were rarely imposed and that “The law of compulsory voting has been to all practical purposes a dead letter for years.” The Review of the River Plate (Buenos Aires), no. 1,788 (Mar. 12, 1926), 13.


Calculated from Cantón, Materiales, II, 8-127.


Gallo and Sigal, in their study of the presidential election of 1916, used essentially the same variables to measure modernization. See Gallo and Sigal, “La formación, pp. 149-176.


The statistical information used to construct Table V was derived from a variety of sources. Data on turnout and votes for each party came essentially from district results compiled by Cantón, Materiales, II, passim, especially for 1916 through 1930 (except 1924) and 1940. These results were supplemented—and occasionally revised—by reports in La Prensa (Buenos Aires), especially for 1924, 1931 through 1938, and 1942.

The information on social-economic indicators came from the third national census of 1914, the fourth national census of 1947, and the national agricultural census of 1937. These censuses provided information for each county of the province for the variable listed, which allowed for correlations with voting information. Census categories, however, were not always consistent and required some manipulation.

The rate of population increase—an indicator of demographic growth and modernization—was determined from the fourth national census, which provided a table (I, 69-71) describing the annual increase in population per 1,000 inhabitants by partido from 1914 to 1947.

Urbanization was determined by using as base points the percentage of the population (again by county) living in cities of 5,000 or more in 1914 and 1947 and then, assuming a constant trend, estimating the percentage for each election year.

Literacy was determined from two different sources. The third national census provided literacy percentages for registered voters, by partido, for 1916. These percentages were used for elections between 1916 and 1930. The fourth national census provided literacy information for all inhabitants over fourteen years of age. These percentages were used for elections between 1931 and 1942.

The percent foreign-born, presumably another sign of growth and modernization, was determined in basically the same manner as was urbanization.

The rural housing index was developed from data provided in the 1937 agricultural census, which described the material used in the construction of farmhouses in each partido. This provided a rough guide to the wealth of each county; presumably, the higher the quality of material used to construct farmhouses, the wealthier the county. A positive correlation between this index and party performance or turnout indicated a positive relationship between these factors and the wealthier districts. The quality index was devised according to the assessments provided in Taylor, Rural Life, pp. 298-308.


Darío Cantón concluded from a study of eight national elections between 1916 and 1930 “that the UCR gained its highest percentages of votes in those elections with the most voters.” Cantón, Elecciones, p. 143.


Examining elections between 1912 and 1916 in various provinces, Gallo and Sigal found strong correlations between the Radical vote and modernization. See Gallo and Sigal, “La formación,” pp. 149-176.


As determined from Cantón, Materiales, II, 8-127.


Tercer censo nacional, V, 6-21 and 841-856.


Arturo Jauretche, politician and essayist active in the UCR in Buenos Aires in the 1920s and 1930s, noted that Radicalism had support among “the young estancieros of the south of Buenos Aires, always one of its strongholds, generally among the sons of Basques.” Di Telia Oral Interview (C2/8), p. 1.


Cantón, Materiales, II, 8-127.


Data from occupations listed in a census for La Plata showed that as early as 1909 the capital had a significantly larger middle class than did the province as a whole. The breakdown for Argentine males over the age of 15 was as follows: working-class, 5,876 (52.1 percent); middle-class, 4,358 (38.7 percent); and, upper-class, 1,035 (9.2 percent). Compiled from Provincia de Buenos Aires, Censo general de la ciudad de La Plata, capital de la provincia: Población, propiedad raíz, comercio é industrias (La Plata, 1910), pp. 107-113.


Cantón, Materiales, II, 8-127.


A useful compendium of information on the history of Mar del Plata is Roberto T. Barili, Mar del Plata: Ciudad de América para la humanidad: reseña histórica (Mar del Plata, 1964). Barceló’s colorful career is traced in Norberto Folino, Barceló, Ruggierito y el populismo oligárquico (Buenos Aires, 1966).


Tercer censo nacional, IV, 480-482.


In Greater Buenos Aires between 1914 and 1930 the Conservatives won more than 50 percent of the elections in the counties of Avellaneda, Lomas de Zamora, and Las Conchas (Tigre). Outside Greater Buenos Aires, they won more than half the time in Azul, Carmen de Areco, Castelli, Carlos Tejedor, Coronel Suárez, Exaltación de la Cruz, General Las Heras, General Paz, General Lavalle, Junín, Laprida, Monte, Rivadavia, Roque Pérez, Tapalqué, and Villarino. Cantón, Materiales, II, 8-127.


A comment by David Rock in his critique of Gallo and Sigal bears on this point. He notes that “The underlying assumption behind the Gallo-Sigal approach is that support for the Radicals emerged spontaneously as part of a national evaluation by the electorate of each of the major parties. This is probably true of card-carrying party affiliates, but it is less certain as far as the electorate itself is concerned. The alternative approach is to see Radicalism as a managing elite able to generate support in different areas regardless of whether these were strictly modern or not, and whose electoral strength lay in its capacity to adapt to local conditions and to construct its political ‘machines’.” Rock, Politics in Argentina, pp. 283-284.


Di Tella oral interviews with Esteban Habiague, Arturo Jauretche, Roberto Lobos, Adolfo Múgica, and Federico Pinedo. Also, Folino, Barceló.


According to a report in the provincial newspaper El Día (La Plata) for Oct. 21, 1935, members of the Güerci family and their close relatives by marriage, the Palacios family, served in Zárate as mayor, councilman, assistant to the mayor, chief of police, police clerk, tax inspector, city inspector, assessor, and school director. Another Güerci, José María, was president of the school board and provincial deputy in the 1930s and a national deputy from 1938 to 1942. Kraft, ed., Quién es quién … 1939, pp. 210-211.


Güerci was shot to death in a spectacular political assassination during the 1940 congressional elections. Biographical information is from obituaries in La Nación (Buenos Aires), Mar. 4, 1940, p. 7, and La Prensa (Buenos Aires), Mar. 4, 1940, p. 12. For information on urban political bosses in Rio de Janeiro who shared many of the qualities of Barceló and Güerci, see Michael L. Conniff, Urban Politics in Brazil: The Rise of Populism, 1925-1945 (Pittsburgh, 1981).


Cantón, Materiales, II, 21.


From reports on the 1916 presidential election campaign in Archivo General de la Nación (hereinafter AGN), Archivo y Colección Dardo Rocha, leg. 237. This collection, primarily the papers of former Buenos Aires Governor Dardo Rocha, includes reports from local police officials in each county of the province assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the three main parties in competition in 1916: the Conservatives, Radicals, and Socialists.


Ibid., leg. 239.


Di Tella Oral Interview, pp. 12-13.


Jauretche observed that the “rebirth” of the caudillo after the Sáenz Peña law was due precisely to the increased importance of the vote. Di Tella Oral Interview, pp. 2-3. The Argentine experience in this regard seems to parallel the Brazilian, where, too, the spread of elections and the growth of the electorate increased rather than diminished the power of backland bosses. See Victor Nunes Leal, Coronelismo: The Municipality and Representative Government in Brazil, trans. by June Henfrey (Cambridge, 1977).


In 1914 there were only 603 physicians for a population of more than two million. Tercer censo nacional, IV, 224.


Conservative Roberto Lobos of Magdalena county observed the work of Radical “physician-caudillos” first-hand and noted that they “gain political influence because the doctor is in a position to extend favors, to treat the sick free of charge, to supply them with medicine; good health is something that is very highly valued by the man who works in the fields.” Di Telia Oral Interview, p. 19.


AGN, Colección Rocha, leg. 239.


La Epoca (Buenos Aires), Feb. 18, 1926, p. 8.


Jorge Newton, Diccionario biográfico del campo argentino (Buenos Aires, 1972), p. 389.


Both, too, were youthful political allies of Alberto Barceló.


Kraft, ed., Quién es quién … 1939, p. 141.