Archaeology, Ethnography, and Ethnohistory
McEwan, Colin, Luis A. Borrero, and Alfredo Prieto, eds. Patagonia: Natural History, Prehistory and Ethnography at the Uttermost End of the Earth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997. First published under the auspices of the British Museum, this is a collection of learned but accessible essays on topics ranging from Patagonia’s natural environment to early human occupation, first encounters between Europeans and indigenes, the origins of the Patagonian “giants,” and even Patagonian travel literature.
Environment and Natural History
Hudson, William Henry. The Bird Biographies of W. H. Hudson. Santa Barbara, CA: Capra Press, 1988. A partial reprint of the romantic naturalist’s detailed description of the birds he knew growing up in Buenos Aires Province, with illustrations.
Guidebooks and Travelogues
Darwin, Charles. Voyage of the Beagle (many editions). Perhaps the greatest travel book ever written, Darwin’s 19th-century narrative bursts with insights on the people, places, and even politics he saw while collecting the plants and animals that led to his revolutionary theories. The great scientist observed the city of Buenos Aires, the surrounding pampas and Patagonia, and met key figures in the country’s history, including the dictator Rosas.
France, Miranda. Bad Times in Buenos Aires. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1998. A timeless title, perhaps, but it refers to the author’s sardonic analysis of her early 1990s residence in the Argentine capital.
Green, Toby. Saddled with Darwin. London: Phoenix, 1999. An audacious if uneven account by a young, talented writer of his attempt to retrace the hoof prints—not the footsteps—of Darwin’s travels through Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. Self-effacing but still serious, the author manages to compare Darwin’s experience with his own, reflect on contemporary distortions of the great scientist’s theories, and stay almost completely off the gringo trail.
Guevara, Ernesto. The Motorcycle Diaries: A Journey around South America. New York and London: Verso, 1995. Translated by Ann Wright, this is an account of an Argentine drifter’s progress from Buenos Aires across the Andes and up the Chilean coast by motorcycle and, when it broke down, by any means necessary. The author is better known by his nickname, “Che,” a common Argentine interjection.
Moreno, Francisco Pascasio. Perito Moreno’s Travel Journal: A Personal Reminiscence. Buenos Aires: Elefante Blanco, 2002. Absorbing translation of the great Patagonian explorer’s northern Patagonian letters and journals, including his thrilling escape down the Río Limay from his indigenous captors.
Naipaul, V.S. The Return of Eva Perón. New York: Knopf, 1980. The great but controversial British Nobel Prize–winning author’s acerbic observations on Argentine society, in the context of his visit during the vicious 1976–1983 dictatorship.
Roosevelt, Theodore. A Book Lover’s Holiday in the Open. New York: Scribner’s, 1916. After retiring from politics, the still vigorous U.S. president undertook numerous overseas adventures; among other stories, this collection retells his crossing of the Andes from Chile into the lakes district of northern Argentine Patagonia, and his meeting with legends like Perito Moreno.
Symmes, Patrick. Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend. New York: Vintage, 2000. Symmes follows the tire marks of Che’s legendary trip from Buenos Aires through Argentina and Chile in the early 1950s.
Willis, Bailey. A Yanqui in Patagonia. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1947. Out of print but well worth seeking, this U.S. geologist’s memoir is a vivid account of the northern Patagonian frontier in the early 20th century. It’s also fascinating for his assessment of the region’s potential, and for his account of intrigues within the Argentine governments of the day.
Wilson, Jason. Buenos Aires: A Cultural and Literary Companion. New York: Interlink, 2000. Part of the “Cities of the Imagination” series, this is a breathlessly thorough summary of what porteño, other Argentine, and foreign authors have written about the capital. It’s particularly good at providing a sense of what untranslated Argentine authors have written about the city.
Government and Politics
Castañeda, Jorge G. Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left After the Cold War. New York: Knopf, 1993. A former academic and Mexican foreign minister makes Argentina the starting point in his analysis of the democratization of Latin America’s revolutionary left, with a particularly good analysis of the Montoneros urban guerrilla movement.
Andrews, George Reid. The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1800–1900. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980. Pathbreaking research on the so-called “disappearance” of the capital’s Afro-Argentine community, which once made up nearly a third of its total population.
Dujovne Ortiz, Alicia. Eva Perón. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996. Filled with controversial assertions, this nevertheless absorbing biography is most eloquent in describing the transformation of a poor provincial girl into a powerful international figure through relentless and bitterly ruthless ambition, blended with a genuine concern for the truly destitute. Shawn Fields’s translation to English, unfortunately, is awkward.
Goñi, Uki. The Real Odessa. New York and London: Granta, 2002. A remarkable account of the controversial links between the Juan Perón government and the shadowy organization that spirited Nazi war criminals from Europe to Argentina. Employing a variety of archival sources on a topic that most often relies on rumor, Goñi implicates the Vatican and its Argentine branch as go-betweens in negotiations with the Nazi regime’s remnants.
Nouzeilles, Gabriela, and Gabriela Montaldo, eds. The Argentina Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002. It’s too big and heavy to carry along on the road, but this diverse collection of essays and extracts is an excellent introduction to the country through the eyes of Argentines, and visitors to Argentina, since colonial times.
Rock, David. Argentina 1516–1987: From Spanish Colonization to the Falklands War and Alfonsín. London: I.B. Taurus, 1987. A comprehensive narrative and analysis of Argentine history prior to Carlos Menem’s presidency.
Scobie, James R. Buenos Aires: From Plaza to Suburb, 1870–1910. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974. A classic account of the city’s explosive growth of the late 19th century, and the transition from “Gran Aldea” to “Paris of the South.”
Shumway, Norman. The Invention of Argentina. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991. An intellectual history of Argentina’s founding myths, and the degree to which elitist debate excluded entire sectors of society from participation and resulted in frequent ungovernability.
Slatta, Richard. Cowboys of the Americas. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1990. A spectacularly illustrated comparative analysis of New World horsemen, including both Argentine gauchos and Chilean huasos.
Literature and Literary Criticism
Fuentes, Carlos. The Campaign. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991. He’s not an Argentine himself, but Mexico’s great contemporary novelist has managed to express the epic contradictions of the independence era through the character of a criollo from Buenos Aires.
Gerchunoff, Alberto. Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1998. Evocative vignettes of life in the Jewish agricultural colonies of Entre Ríos, some of them romanticized but others portraying violence and deceit on the frontier.
Martínez, Tomás Eloy. The Perón Novel. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988. Based on the author’s own lengthy interviews with the exiled caudillo, for which fiction seemed the appropriate outlet. According to Jorge Castañeda, “Whether Perón ever actually uttered these words is in the last analysis irrelevant: he could have, he would have, and he probably did.”
Martínez, Tomás Eloy. Santa Evita. New York: Knopf, 1996. One of Argentina’s leading contemporary writers tackles the Evita myth in a fictionalized version of her postmortem odyssey from Argentina to Italy, Spain, and back to Buenos Aires.
Vásquez Montalbán, Manuel. The Buenos Aires Quintet. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2003. In this seemingly disjointed but ultimately coherent and insightful novel, first published in 1997, the late Spanish journalist sent his fictional gourmet detective Pepe Carvalho to Buenos Aires to track down a returned Dirty War exile.
Wilson, Jason. Traveler’s Literary Companion: South & Central America, Including Mexico. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1995. An edited collection of excerpts from literature, including fiction, poetry, and essays, that illuminates aspects of the countries from the Río Grande to the tip of Tierra del Fuego, including Argentina and Chile.
Woodall, James. Borges: A Life. New York: Basic Books, 1997. An analytical—in the Freudian sense—biography of Argentina’s most prominent literary figure. Originally appeared in Britain under the title The Man in the Mirror of the Book (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition