Immigration has not been a major topic in recent Latin American historiography. Only 2 percent of the articles published in this magazine between 1976 and 1985 dealt with migration, and the number of books is similarly limited. A survey of the field by Magnus Mörner suggests that interest is on the rise now, and that the relevant dissertations, scattered articles, and books may be the foundation for a new understanding of the impact of European migration on the postindependence Hispanic world and the role of internal migration and emigration in Latin America.
Adventurers and Proletarians evolved from “a historical introductory chapter for a collective work . . .” (p. xv) that the author prepared for UNESCO in 1977. It has been translated, annotated, and updated to include recently published references, mostly by Harold Sims. The author’s goal is to survey “the massive voluntary displacement that in Latin America’s case took place between the end of the nineteenth century and the Great Depression. The interregional and intranational migrations that occurred in Latin America during the twentieth century [are] outlined only briefly from a historical perspective” (p. 5).
Unfortunately, Mörner has taken on a task which cannot be accomplished in 130 pages. The result is superficial: the evidence presented is thin, and sources are haphazardly chosen and often peripheral to the subject matter. For example, in Mörner’s discussion of Brazil, he ignores Dauril Alden’s work on the colonial period; prefers the very general História geral da civilização brasileira to J. Fernando Carneiros synthesis of 19th century immigration; and cites only Michael Hall’s article in New Approaches to Latin American History, as if Hall had not written explicitly about mass immigration to Brazil. Immigration in a given nation is treated as monolithic. Thus, Mörner does not differentiate between the efforts of the imperial government to create a class of small landholders in southern Brazil and the efforts of Paulista planters to substitute immigrant for slave labor in the coffee groves.
Although Mörner’s conclusions reflect the current state of knowledge in the field, they lack nuances and do not provide us with clear priorities for further research. This book is welcome evidence from a major figure in contemporary Latin American historiography that we are beginning to “recognize the fundamental importance of massive immigration for some Latin American countries” (p. 76). Nonetheless, Hall’s essay, “Approaches to Immigration History,” referred to above, is more useful in posing pertinent questions and delineating areas for study.