- The Age of Youth in Argentina: Culture, Politics, and Sexuality from Perón to Videla by Valeria Manzano
The Age of Youth in Argentina: Culture, Politics, and Sexuality from Perón to Videla tells the history of the teenagers and youngsters that came of age and embodied the modernization of Argentina in the "long sixties," a time of accelerated social change and political instability between the final years of the Peronist government in the 1950s and the State terrorism of the mid-1970s. The challenge to traditional authority presented by their novel ways of experiencing sexuality, culture, and politics, and the reaction against that challenge, are the subject of this superb cultural history.
"Modernization" is here both the structural change produced by urbanization and the incorporation of middle and working classes into an increasingly feminized educational system and a high-employment economy, and the ideological attempts at controlling young people's place in that structural change. If being young had traditionally meant learning to be an adult, since the mid-1950s young people carved out their own place in interaction with the state, family, public sphere, social and psychological sciences, and a global wave of media, consumption, and radical politics. Their resulting subjectivities, among upper-middle class countercultural circuits in Buenos Aires as well as in middle-class and industrial neighborhoods throughout Argentina, challenged the inherited forms of authority. The importance of this challenge prompts Valeria Manzano to convincingly call the Argentine long sixties "the age of youth."
Chapters 1 and 2 describe the emergence of the category of "youth," as a result of the expansion of secondary and higher education under Perón, and the debates within the cultural establishment, after the 1955 coup d'état, around the dangers presented by the emerging youth culture. Catholic organizations, worried about a loosening of moral norms, joined progressive voices from psychology, pedagogy, and journalism concerned with the problem of how to adapt the new youth to the requirements of a "modern democratic culture." Manzano juxtaposes these debates to the actual experiences of young people through a vivid portrait of an educational system that of an educational system that, while [End Page 591] enforcing an authoritarian pedagogy, also fostered the mixed-gender sociability pioneered by student policies under Peronism.
Chapter 3 analyzes leisure through "New Wave" music and the cultural politics of jeans—for the first time the youth dressed differently than their parents. A fantastic description of class distinctions based on musical taste and the issue of affording "authentic-foreign" jeans is coupled with an analysis of the way in which new gender models, produced by mass media and young consumers, challenged tradition. Sexual autonomy was unstoppable: even the most mersa (cheesy) and conformist youth icon, Palito Ortega, after thanking his mother's "clothing and dinner," obeying his "just and kind" father, and praising his school, proclaimed "how lucky, tonight I'll see you" (80).
Chapter 4 reconstructs the young women's search for autonomy. By the late 1960s they were "leaving home" and engaging in premarital sex. A 1969 survey among female college students showed that 80% of them had "lost their virginity" (119), the tip of the iceberg of a cross-class phenomenon. Conservatives, Catholics, progressive psychologists, and the youth themselves negotiated this profound change by tying sex to love: framing premarital sex within an affectionate relationship that would eventually lead to a stable (heterosexual) family. At the same time, "morality campaigns" by the police against public juvenile spaces led, by the 1970s, to the association of morality and politics under the counterinsurgent rhetorical trope of the "enemy within."
Chapter 5 analyzes the young male rockers that contested social imperatives by creating their own sociability of records, concerts, and magazines. Initially isolationist, this cross-class counterculture ended up partially overlapping with political groups through their common rejection of authority. In a brief and insightful analysis of the links between roqueros and the larger history of masculinity in Argentina, Manzano suggests that, by...