Argentine historians have employed the term second discovery of America to describe the years following the Spanish Civil War, when exiles fled the peninsula to seek refuge in the New World. According to University of Buenos Aires historian Hugo Biagini, however, that second discovery occurred earlier, during the latter half of the nineteenth century, when an estimated 35,000 Spanish intellectuals and professionals reached the Southern Cone. Those immigrants subsequently made meaningful contributions to the culture of Argentina and other American nations.
This handsomely bound volume is one of those published under Spanish patronage in conjunction with the Columbian Quincentenary. Standing as the seventeenth historical study in the series V Centenario del Descubrimiento de América, it was sponsored by the provincial delegation of Seville.
Latin Americanists will welcome this work not just because it addresses a comparatively neglected historical period, the 1870s through the 1920s, but because it sheds light on the intellectual origins of the Spanish migration to America during those decades. Biagini, a specialist in the history of Argentina’s “Alluvial Era,” 1870-1930, demonstrates that many of the new arrivals were liberals fleeing from persecution after the failed republican experiment of 1868-74.
Modernizing Argentina welcomed the immigrants not just for the skills they possessed (3,500 of them alone were physicians), but because they helped the native Hispanic population preserve linguistic and cultural traditions eroded by massive immigration from other parts of Europe. Spanish immigrants were leaders in the Hispanist movement of 1898 and after. They helped Argentina resist the U.S. political and cultural penetration of Latin America. Even more significant was their participation in domestic politics; the “Revolution of 1890,” for example, when President Miguel Juárez Celman was forced from office and the Radical Party was born.
Twelve of Biagini’s students and colleagues contributed essays to this collection. Among these are biographical chapters on socialist politician and feminist Enrique del Valle Iberlucea, pedagogue José María Torres, bibliophile and freethinker Luis Ricardo Fors, and liberal journalist and politician José Paul y Angulo. Paul y Angulofled Spain in 1870, accused of masterminding the assassination of Spanish ambassador Juan Prim, whom Paul y Angulo had accused of betraying liberal ideals.
Other chapters are thematic, treating the Spanish emigré contribution to journalism, music, philosophy, literature, history, political philosophy, pedagogy, and medicine. The essays are heavily footnoted, drawing on archival sources mostly in Buenos Aires. The book’s only flaw, though a considerable one, is its lack of an index.