In this well-documented study, Clara Lida recounts the events leading to the formation of La Casa de España en México, an institution founded to give refuge to distinguished intellectuals emigrating from the Spanish Republic in the late 1930s. The institution was born under the sponsorship of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas and the practical leadership of the Mexican economist Daniel Cosío Villegas. Formally instituted in 1939 with Cosío Villegas as secretary and the eminent Mexican essayist Alfonso Reyes as president, La Casa served to give a new home to the Spanish scholars. In 1940, it was expanded and transformed to become Mexico’s prestigious institution of higher learning, El Colegio de México. The study’s goal is to record “the intense and exceptional work accomplished by La Casa de España en México from 1938 to 1940” (p. 22).
The book lives up to its goal, constituting an interesting account of Mexico’s social and intellectual history during this period. It also sheds special light on the intellectual and diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Spanish Republic at the time, although, as the work progresses, the gradual “Mexicanization” of the Spanish transterrados and their cultural assimilation by their adopted host country become evident. Many details come to light about the material, day-to-day operation of the institution, such as the attainment of invitations, visas, and funding for the scholars; outlines of seminars offered; the reception of this elite group by the Mexican community and press; and the diplomatic and political maneuvers required to keep the project in motion. Readers may also find interesting bits of information about prominent members of La Casa, among them musicologists Jesús Bal y Gay and Adolfo Salazar, art critics Juan de la Encima and Enrique Díaz-Canedo, artist and critic José Moreno Villa, philosophers José Gaos and Joaquín Xirau, and philosopher of law Luis Recaséns Siches.