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Reviewed by:
  • Anarchist Immigrants in Spain and Argentina by James A. Baer
  • Rosana Barbosa
Anarchist Immigrants in Spain and Argentina, by James A. Baer. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 2015. xviii, 240 pp. $55.00 US (cloth), $30.00 US (e-book).

James Baer's book on anarchist immigrants in Spain and Argentina covers the period from the late nineteenth century to the outbreak of World War II, following a group of Spanish immigrants in Argentina. Baer uses the concept of transnationalism within this immigration exchange in order to "weave the story of population movements between Spain and Argentina into a perspective on how humans can retain ties to more than one country and how their migrations can influence the history of multiple countries" (11). Overall, he argues that the anarchist movements in both of these countries cannot be understood separately since their nature is a consequence of the exchanges caused by migration. Furthermore, the book shows the connections between European and Latin American histories along various themes, including major European events such as the Spanish Civil War and WWII. The impact on, and influence of, these events on Latin America are usually highly overlooked by non-Latin-American historians.

Even in the field of migration, Latin America is often ignored, despite the fact that Argentina and Brazil were among the top four receivers of immigrants in the Americas. As the author shows, Argentina received roughly five million immigrants between 1871 and 1914. Among these, there were about 1.5 million Spaniards — some of whom were anarchists — who would move back and forth between the two countries depending on the political circumstances of the moment. Indeed, re-immigration and return migration was a common pattern during the early twentieth century : half of all the five million immigrants to Argentina did not remain in that country permanently. Among the group covered by Baer, this was probably even more significant, since some of them would move in order to avoid repression, to participate in political movements, or because they were deported. [End Page 407]

The author makes good use of interviews and local periodicals, especially when covering the lives of individuals like Diego Abad de Santillán, Antonio Loredo, and Manuel Villar. These are people whose experiences in Argentina shaped their role in Spain, especially in the anarchist-inspired Spanish revolution of 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). As Baer points out, the revolution attracted many politically motivated immigrants back to their homeland in order to fight for transformation, as they saw "their native land as a crucible for change" (161).

However, this revolution gave rise to the Civil War, which was a disaster for the anarchist movement. Spain was devastated, the death toll being as high as 500,000, including those who died of starvation and diseases. In addition, General Francisco Franco (1892–1975), who took power in 1939, started a repression campaign, which effectively annihilated the anarchist movement. Overall, Franco imprisoned 2,000,000 and killed tens of thousands. As a consequence, there were about 450,000 refugees, many of whom were trapped in France near the Spanish border after the German takeover in 1940.

Anarchism in Argentina also suffered a major setback around this time, with the rise of populist leader Juan Perón (1895–1974). Indeed Baer shows that Perón was Franco's main supporter when a bankrupted Spain was rejected as a member of the United Nations and was thus unable to enjoy the benefits of the Marshall Plan. The alliance between these two governments is no surprise to Latin Americanists — who are aware of Eva Perón's visit to Spain in the late 1940s as well as the fact that her husband was exiled from Argentina to Spain in the late 1950s — but the relation between Franco and Perón is another connection not well explored outside of Latin America.

Baer could have further explored the involvement of Italian immigrants in the anarchist movements of Argentina and Spain, as they were the largest group of immigrants in Argentina and many of them were also influenced by anarchism. In addition, the book would have provided a broader view of anarchist...


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