The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism

By Paul H. Lewis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
The Emergence of Industry

The Third National Census, published in 1913, was the most complete survey ever taken of Argentina's population, agriculture, commerce, and industry. Its results only confirmed with statistics the enormous changes that everyone could see. Since 1895, when the previous census was taken, the population had doubled from 3.9 million to over 7.8 million. The amount of land under cultivation had quadrupled. Better methods of farming and stock raising had increased the principal exports, both in volume and in value, by seven or eight times what they had been a quarter of a century before.1 Since Argentine prosperity was based on the production of meat and grain, these gains were widely celebrated. On the other hand, industry had made much progress too, but that was less well known. "The enormous development and growth in value of cattle-raising and farming--our 'mother industries,' as we say-- are well-known because after satisfying the domestic market they are able, by meeting foreign demand for their products, to publicize their worth by way of export figures published in the annual statistical reports on our foreign trade."

So wrote engineer Eusebio E. García in an introductory essay to the volume containing the industrial census. By contrast, he complained, few people were aware of the great strides made by domestic manufacturing. "Orphans of every national tradition," the country's industries "were born and have grown up, spontaneously but timidly, in a hostile environment that favors European finished goods. They have had neither capital, credit, nor any field of action greater than our own country's needs. They have had to confront constantly the implacable competition of foreign imports which, since 1777, when the La Plata River was opened to free trade, have supplied our people's needs, right down to the flour for their bread."2

Industrial activities had been considered so marginal in the past that it was not until 1895 that any attempt was made to get a nationwide account of the number of factories or the number of people employed in them. Prior to that, many activities later classified

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