Journal of World History 14.1 (2003) 103-105
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Cousins and Strangers: Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850-1930. By JOSE C. MOYA. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. xviii + 567 pp. $25.00 (paper).
With the publication of this prize-winning book, Jose Moya established himself as a leading scholar in the fields of modern Latin American history and transatlantic migration. The theoretical, methodological, and historical problems he examines and the scholarly and analytical abilities and creativity he brings to bear in addressing them make Cousins and Strangers a tour de force that sets new standards for scholarship. Prior to its publication, modern emigration from Spain to Argentina had received little attention, overshadowed by the larger movement of people from Italy (of the 6.5 million European emigrants to Argentina in the period 1820-1930, Italians accounted for 45 percent and Spaniards one-third). In examining the Spanish movement to Argentina, Moya illuminates an important phenomenon with broad and complex social, economic, cultural, and, of course, demographic repercussions for the two societies. No less important, perhaps, he presents his findings and analyzes them in such a way that the resulting work goes well beyond the kind of narrow, "national" history that often seems to defy attempts to define a coherent, recognizable field of modern [End Page 103] Latin American history. His comparisons of Spanish migration to other contemporary transatlantic movements; emphasis on the varied, fragmented, and localized nature of the movement in terms of its Spanish origins (which he maintains consistently throughout the book); consideration of the diverse and changing relationships between Spanish immigrants and various elements of the host society (including, of course, other immigrants); and discussion of patterns of urban settlement all have significant implications for understanding social and cultural formation and change, urban development, and the results of large-scale, mostly privately organized, movements of people. What might have been a relatively circumscribed case history here yields insights that point to the need for this kind of detailed study that allows us to understand both the particularity and the universality of socioeconomic development in modern Latin America and to view that development in the context of the larger world.
The scope and depth of Moya's research are impressive; the book reflects considerable effort and creativity in identifying potentially relevant sources. Notwithstanding the considerable amount of quantitative material amassed and analyzed, Moya uses his data in conjunction with an array of qualitative sources. This approach, together with the nature of the specific topics he addresses—which range from occupational status and mobility to cultural adaptation, residential patterns, politics and the press, and women's experiences, to name just some—produces a multifaceted, multilayered work. His imaginative use of sources and evidence coupled with his lively and frequently entertaining prose make this a stimulating, satisfying, and fascinating book. A major contribution to the study of Argentina and immigration, it also sheds needed light on some key aspects of Spanish society and history of the period. His scholarship is meticulous, well reasoned, and highly original.
Moya divides his study pragmatically into two parts, the first dealing with the migration movement as such and the second with the immigrants' experience in their new home. The first delves deeply into the organization, composition, and implications of the migration movement that drew the bulk of its participants from northern Spain (although it also included significant numbers of migrants from southern Spain and the Canary Islands). While parts of northern Spain that we associate with overpopulation and poverty (Galicia in particular) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries sent many emigrants, Moya concludes that location and the development of kinship and other networks were more important in mobilizing migration and that, in the early period at least, some of the richest and most developed [End Page 104] areas in fact sent the largest numbers of emigrants. The spread and availability of information seem to have been far more effective in stimulating emigration than was poverty as such.
Moya is particularly skilled in balancing his use of extensive and...