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Everything is history.

Maria Saenz Quesada is an Argentine writer whose mission is to popularize history. As a expert in the field of sociological history (or historical sociology), Saenz Quesada teaches and writes incessantly. For more than twenty years she has been the driving force behind the magazine Todo es Historia (Everything is History), founded by the historian Felix Luna. She is widely recognized for her best selling book, Los Estancieros, on Argentina's great ranch owners and is currently co-authoring a book on the ranches themselves.

"I'm interested in literature," Maria confesses by way of explaining her approach to history. "Without overlooking the conceptual framework, I believe that, in historical reconstruction, bringing out social and personal aspects helps to form an image of the past." With respect to the present, Maria asserts, "In general, contemporary history is not well known. In Argentina, because of political upheavals, recent history has come to the fore so strongly that today the great discovery is the twentieth century."

Saenz Quesada's literary output is informative, graceful and vivid. In 1974, the La Bastilla publishing house brought out her La Republica Dividida (The Divided Republic), which focuses on the troubled years between 1852 and 1855. In an gile prose, full of fresh images and insights, Saenz Quesada describes the social, political and economic life of an Argentina divided between the Federal State of Buenos Aires and its "port city." That city was growing apace with but remained segregated from the rest of the Confederated Nation, which had adopted Parana as its capital. It was an age of clashing interests. The city of Buenos Aires controlled customs, while the interior sought to assert its rights with respect to the port. Despite those conflicts, the country had already begun to move toward reconciliation, with the National Constitution as its guiding light.

Editorial Belgrano published the first edition of Los Estancieros in 1980. The book promptly became a bestseller and had seven printings. It covers 400 years of life in the region of the great traditional ranch country south of the Salado River. Minutely documented, Los Estancieros traces the social and economic impact of the ranchers on the formation of the Argentine nation, recounting historic moments such as when the estancieros of Buenos Aires surrounded the House of Representatives in 1829 and conferred absolute power on Juan Manuel de Rosas.

"In the five years I worked on the book," said Saenz Quesada. "I attempted to highlight the way in which the ranchers carved out their niche in the power structure, from the first beginnings in the sixteenth century until the thorough refinement of the livestock in 1910, or the 'fat years,' and the boom in Argentine exports."

Los Estancieros contains references to some 300 Argentine families. It includes archetypical figures such as the super-rich rancher Nicolas Anchorena, who gave rise to the saying "richer than Anchorena"; Candiotti, "prince of the gauchos" of the eighteenth century; the Englishmen Gibson; the legendary cattleman Eduardo Cassey; and, of course, Juan Manuel de Rosas, "restorer of the laws."

In estado Rebelde, Buenos Aires desde 1850-1860 (Rebel State, Buenos Aires 1850-1860, Editorial Belgrano, 1982), the author describes the conflict between Buenos Aires and the Confederation and between the political machine of the caudillos of the interior provinces (Taboada, Lucero, Gutierrez, Benavidez) and Bartolome Mitre, who was the chief of Buenos Aires province and embodied the liberal ideas of the Generation of 1837. The book illustrates how Argentina became organized as a country between the battle of Caseros (1852), in which Urquiza defeated Rosas, and the battle of Pavon (1861), in which Mitre defeated Urquiza. With the Constitution of 1860, the province of Buenos Aires joined the Confederation and the country was finally united.

As a woman, this curious weaver of history could not leave unexplored the specific topic of women's contribution to Argentine history. The Argentine woman of the nineteenth century has, for Saenz Quesada, enormous social and political importance because of her conspicuous role in the managing of the tertulias, informal gatherings that were forums for political debate and intrigue. This female participation in national affairs tapered off toward the end of the nineteenth century with modernization. In addition, the wave of immigration heightened the compartmentalization of society. Men began to engage in politics in clubs instead of in private homes, thus excluding the queen of the tertulia from the proceedings.

Her interest in female historical figures led Saenz Quesada to write a work entitled Las Mujeres de Rosas (Rosas's Women), published by Editorial Planeta. In this work she depicts five key women in the life of the dictator: his mother Agustina, a strong personality; his wife, Encarnacion de Ezcurra; his daughter Manuelita, recalled in the historic role of mediator; his mistress, Eugenia Castro, and Josefina Gomez, his friend in exile.

The author is currently preparing a work on Mariquita Sanchez de Thompson (1786-1868). A member of the "Romantic Generation," Mariquita was a free spirit, full of plans to change the restrictive society in which she lived.

When asked about trends affecting the lives of Argentine women in the last few decades, Quesada acknowledges that they have been steadily acquiring more roles and responsibilities. They have also gained access to higher education and, therefore, have greater political awareness. Nevertheless, she notes that "their struggle is more a matter of values than of power as such."

This observation is important coming from a woman who is both an artist and political activist and has not abandoned her civic responsibilities. In this connection she adds, "If more women were politically active there would be more positive results and more confidence in the future; for the Argentine woman does not give in easily to pessimism."

Maria Saenz Quesada is in the forefront of those intellectuals who enrich Argentine cultural life with their seriousness and professionalism. She gives generously of a great talent, sharing her enthusiasm for popular history with students and readers throughout the world.

By Maria Gowland de Gallo Edited by Martha Gil-Montero
COPYRIGHT 1991 Organization of American States
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Maria Saenz Quesada's literary works
Author:de Gallo, Maria Gowland; Gil-Montero, Martha
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Previous Article:Through the portals of stately ranches.
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