‘‘Full-blown Peronism made it as far as Córdoba, no further,’’ observed a
character in Bernardo Verbitsky’s novel about workers in a Buenos Aires
shantytown, Villa miseria también es América (1957). Inland from there, the
character continued, ‘‘it stumbled along a little more, but arrived tired, worn
out.’’∞ This pithy observation summarizes the scholarly consensus since: Pero-
nism is a movement that began at the center, Buenos Aires, and only much
later reached the distant corners of the republic. Moreover, ‘‘full-blown’’ Pero-
nism is to be found at the core and should be studied there, where the state was
most powerful, unions most mobilized, and plebeian demands most e√ective.
In fact, this scholarly approach extends beyond the study of Peronism to the
study of twentieth-century Argentina in general; in this scholarship, local
politics either do not matter at all or matter in radically particularistic ways.
Major processes of social and political change are best studied from the center.
This was where institutional power was located, and where it faced its stron-
gest challenges.
Certainly there is a measure of truth in this, particularly in the greater
dynamism and combativeness of Peronism in the industrial core. But it is
evidently not the whole picture, especially when one considers that from 1948
on, Peronism won its largest electoral majorities in the interior.≤ More to the
point, this book has shown how the scholarly consensus emphasizing the
center is wrong in several ways.
First, the case of San Juan underscores the degree to which Peronism was
born in the interior. To be sure, the aid campaign after the earthquake was
powerful precisely because it was national and run from the center. But it was
San Juan that provided the spark to act and the political challenge to confront.
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