Félix Luna is perhaps Argentina’s most popular historian, and Soy Roca, now in its fourth edition, is definitely a hit. Written entirely in the first person as a memoir, it exemplifies the recent trend toward viewing Argentina’s generation of 1880 in a more favorable light.
Luna is a superb writer, imaginative and knowledgeable, and his able prose produces a compelling narrative. He understands perfectly the interior’s hatred of Buenos Aires. He points out that Boca, as a rising officer, viewed the army as an agent of national unification. Luna correctly demonstrates Carlos Pellegrini’s statesmanship. In one of the few analytical insights, Luna has Roca regret the regional imbalance affecting Argentina by 1896. Roca himself becomes a classic elite figure, as comfortable in Europe as in Buenos Aires.
Soy Roca, though objective, is not a piece of true scholarship. The narrative is not documented and the bibliography reveals the author’s dependence upon secondary sources. The Archivo de Tribunales and a few personal collections are the only archival sources that Luna consulted. He did not even use the massive Archivo Julio A. Roca in the Archivo General de la Nación.
Without the Roca archive, Luna blunders at times. The discussion of the 1891 acuerdo is incorrect: Roca never held as high an opinion of Mitre as Luna would have readers believe. Roca probably did not intend to work with Mitre in complete sincerity. Contrary to the book’s assertion, the government did not have the complete support of the interior during the early 1890s. Then Roca was still the strongest politician and not the remorseful figure portrayed. Because Luna did not often utilize the works of leading academic scholars, he errs by claiming that Figueroa Alcorta intervened more often in the interior than any other president.
Aside from these mistakes, Luna has produced an interesting book that will aid researchers and stimulate the public. The author understands his subject well. The profession still awaits a solid biography of Roca, but Soy Roca is a pleasant interlude.