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Hernández-Arregui, Juan José 1913- 1974

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Juan José Hernández-Arregui, 'What is the National Being?' (Excerpts)

Juan José Hernández-Arregui (1913-1974), the Argentinian author of the Spanish book published originally in 1963 in Buenos Aires from which the excerpt here has been translated into English, was a journalist from a very young age, an intellectual, and an official. Having received his PhD in 1944, he from 1945 worked principally as a history and economics professor, and had a cultural program in the State Radio.

At the time, in 1946, a career army officer, Juan Perón (1895-1974), who in 1943-1945 had served as secretary of labor and social security and as minister of war in a military-led government, became Argentine’s president. He and his wife Eva were very popular especially among the poor for his social policies and approach to the working classes, and he worked closely inter alia with the General Confederation of Labor to promote economic independence. In 1955, a military coup forced him into exile, first in Venezuela and finally in Spain. (He would serve as president again from 1973 until his death in 1974). Although he was in exile and his party was outlawed, his broad brand of nationalism—leftist-statist with strong right-wing populist elements—remained deeply influential in Argentina.

Hernández-Arregui was a case in point. Though fired from academic posts after the coup, he remained the director of the Instituto de Historia de la Universidad Nacional de la Plata, retained his radio program—and was able to militate for Perón. In well-read newspaper texts, he soon called for Perón’s return. And his books—at that time most importantly Imperialismo y cultura (1957) and La formación de la conciencia nacional (1960) besides ¿Qué es el ser nacional? [What is the National Being?] (1963) which is excerpted text gere—made him a leading protagonist of el peronismo revolucionario, revolutionary (i.e. leftist) Peronism. Peronism defined itself and was seen as a very much Argentinian ideology, not unlike earlier nationalisms in South America’s second-largest country.

At the same time, as other nationalist ideologies since the 19th century, it and related nationalisms developed within global context. In the event, a key context was the rising tide of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, as Michael Goebel’s “Von der hispanidad zum Panarabismus: globale Verflechtungen in Argentiniens Nationalismen” (2011) has shown. Sure, the Cuban revolution exerted a considerable pull especially on leftist Peronists as it did on other in Latin America and beyond. But the Algerian War of Independence greatly interested Argentines, too. And perhaps most influential as a model to think with was the anti-imperialist leftist-statist nationalist Egypt under President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970; r. from 1954), as the text here shows.