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By the end of 1915, two inexpensive book series devoted to the diffusion of colonial and nineteenth-century texts flooded the shelves of Argentine bookstores. Their deliberately resonant and all-encompassing names - La Biblioteca Argentina (The Argentine Library) and La Cultura Argentina (Argentine Culture) - were unmistakable signs of their nationalist character and aims. Developed respectively by Ricardo Rojas and José lngenieros, two of the most important intellectuals of Centennial Argentina, the nearly simultaneous launch of both series also underscored the editors' enduring competition to promote their contrasting versions of the nation's political and cultural past. The timing of the series' appearance, three years after the approval of the Saénz Peña law of secret, universal and mandatory suffrage, and one year before the country's first clean presidential election, was not a coincidence. Conceived in the first decade of the twentieth century, in the context of escalating ideological tensions generated by the massive arrival of immigrants to the country, the series' sudden and simultaneous release around the middle of the century's second decade reflected the emergence of a new political and social reality: the right to free political participation won by popular, anti-hegemonic groups after long struggles against the constraints imposed by a single-party political 'system, the corruption of suffrage, and the intimidating pressures exerted by the old ruling sectors.


This work was originally published in the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies.



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