Spanish Republicans and the Evolution of a Hispanic American Publishing Market

The 1930s covered three crucial dimensions that complete the condition of a publishing field: setting up branches of foreign publishing houses, especially Spanish ones; the progressive separation of publishing practices from printing and bookstore practices; and the rise of trade unions of publishers in a society. But what was decisive at this time was the effect of the exile of Spanish republican intellectuals and publishers in Argentina and Mexico. In general, it may be asserted that the evolution of the publishing world in the Castellan language was (and is) segmented by the times and structure of the Spanish market. In this chapter, I have hardly referred to the circulation of Spanish publications in Argentina. Even in the absence of studies in this regard, it may be asserted that the books coming from Spain constituted a considerable segment of the printed objects that always circulated in the Latin American markets. Beyond the relevance that this reference would have, the most significant fact in the history of the book in the Spanish-speaking continent may have been the impact of the presence of Spanish intellectuals and publishers, which, from the mid-1930s, transformed the main Hispanic American markets: both the Mexican and the Argentine ones. A principal effect is the interdependence they generated, laying the foundations for an Ibero-American publishing space.

Given this premise, it is an illuminating strategy to observe the transformations of the Argentine publishing field in the light of the relations between Argentines, Spaniards, and Mexicans that generated the Fondo de Cultura Economica (FCE - Economic Culture Fund/Trust), a publishing house that, as we will see in Chapter 3 is almost synonymous with “Mexican books”. In other words, based upon the new state of international relations that influenced the subsequent transformations of the Argentine publishing field, it is a good idea to start by observing it from the outside. Two particular aspects will be studied here: the career of Argentine publisher Arnaldo Orfila Reynal, who directed the FCE for almost 20 years, and the division of publishing niches between Argentina and Mexico as of the 1940s.

The publishing history of Mexico and Argentina changed after the Spanish Civil War. Towards the end of the 1930s, republican exiles founded publishing houses or renewed existing ones, which had significant effects on the whole field. Since then, publishing in Spanish has definitely been Ibero-American. Thanks to exiles and the war crisis as well as urbanization processes and the expansion of schooling, the Argentine publishing market grew at an unusual rate. Publishing houses of all kinds were founded, various trade unions and sector associations were institutionally consolidated, and books were exported to all Ibero-American countries. In Argentina, some features of this configuration were already present before the republican exile. Furthermore, it can be noted that, as has been seen, the Spaniards were already involved in important publishing enterprises: Benito Hortelano around 1880; Galician Valerio Abeledo set up, in 1901, his bookstore that would take over the publishing space of legal books; Pedro Garcia founded, in 1912, the El Ateneo bookstore that would take over most of the national distribution of books and the publishing of works on technology, science, and medicine in Latin America; then come the already-mentioned cases of Juan Torrendel in Tor; and of Antonio Zamora in Claridad. Additionally, in the 1920s, branches of Spanish publishing houses were set up: Labor in 1920, Espasa-Calpe in 1925. The latter was directed by Joaquin Gil, and Gonzalo Losada worked there once he settled in the country around 1928. In 1936, when the Spanish Civil War escalated, Espasa-Calpe Argentina SA began publishing independently of the matrix house and started to lead the way when it launched the Austral series, directed by Guillermo de Torre, a Spanish literary critic who married Norah Borges, sister of the famous writer. By 1938, after the triumph of the nationalists, the Spanish headquarters declared that it was pro-Franco and demanded the subordination of the Argentine branch. The double commercial and political pressure made Gil and Losada found their own publishing houses. Losada dominated the literary publishing in Argentina for several decades (Schwarzstein 2001: 148 and sq.). Among the exiles, around 1939, Antonio Lopez Llausas joined the Sudamericana publishing house, which had been created shortly before by the poet Oliverio Girondo and the writer and patron Victoria Ocampo. Little by little, he became a major shareholder and, by the 1960s, Sudamericana was the fourth publishing company in the country with an exclusively literary catalogue. Another relevant case was that of Emece publishing house, created in 1939 by Galicians Medina del Rio and Alvaro de las Casas, with resources provided by local patrons such as Alejandro Braun Menendez. Emece began publishing texts in Galician. As in the case of Llausas, Spanish immigrant publishers relied on intellectual initiatives or Argentine capitalist partners. Thanks to the fact that the structure of the Argentine publishing field and the cultural universe was already firm, Losada, Sudamericana, and Emece quickly managed to become large companies specialized in literature. The war benefited the whole Argentine market, which, by the late 1930s, was already the largest producer of books in Spanish. The continental distribution of the books, which was already a reality for previous companies such as Tor, El Ateneo, and Claridad, cemented the prestige of those imprints, which were chosen as the publishing platform for important writers from other Latin American countries.72


By field effect I refer to the impact caused by the innovative projects of new publishers on the book market and amongst established specialists. As in any field, international relations are among the main factors of differentiation and autonomization. They can be expressed in typical market practices (export and import of books, purchase and sale of licenses, etc.) and in professional and other experiences, such as those resulting from exiles, which encourage the transmission of external behavioural models, innovative commercial strategies, etc. In the evolution of publishing markets, international links started to be regulated, especially after World War II, through traditional institutions such as the International Publishers Association and the Inter-American Publishers’ Group, international fairs, congresses (such as those of the PEN Club - Roig Sanz and Subirana 2020), specialized magazines, and higher education programs. Institutions of international expansion of hegemonic countries, such as the Franklin Book Program linked to the United States Department of State, had a decisive effect in several periods. Within the framework of the Alliance for Progress, it contributed in some ways (such as Eustacio Garcia’s 1965 institutional and statistical study) and caused considerable “damage” between the publishing and intellectual networks of Americanism (see Chapter 4 in this book).

It can be affirmed that, in Argentina, the Republicans created many publishing houses and that, in Mexico, they gathered around a political- cultural project of the State that gravitated in the FCE publishing house and in the figures of Daniel Cosio Villegas and Alfonso Reyes/3 This divergence points to a very different relationship in each national case between cultural producers and the State, and to the origin of a certain division between the predominant publishing genres in Argentina (literature) and in Mexico (social sciences and humanities). The FCE was founded in September 1934. As the name implies, the economy was a central issue in a country that had been strongly affected by the crisis of 1929. The origin of the FCE was the result of the action of Eduardo Villasenor, Emigidio Martinez Adame, Daniel Cosio Villegas, and a group of young people who, since the end of the twenties, reconverted their law careers in PhDs in economics, obtained mainly, in universities in English-speaking countries.74 For the foundation of the publishing house, they gathered an important amount of capital from around 20 State banks and private companies, which shows the influence of the founders on the modernizing elites of the Mexican State. As is usual among many publishing houses oriented to the university market, the publishing of books by the FCE was, from the beginning, linked to the success of a journal: El Trimestre Economico. The first books came out in 1935: El dolar de plata by William P. Shea and Karl Marx by Flarold Laski, which started the “Economics Section”. But the publication of books only became regular in 1939,75 after the reconfirmation of Daniel Cosio Villegas as director and the planned arrival of Spanish Republicans, whose intellectual centre was La Casa de Espana, a teaching institution created as an annex to the FCE.76 In 1937, the “Political Science Section”, later called “Politics and Law”, was opened with the publication of Doctrinas у formas de la organizacion poh'tica (Doctrines and Forms of the Political Organization) by G. D. H Cole, a book translated by Alfonso Reyes. In 1939, it started the “Flistory Section”, directed by Silvio Zavala and Agustln Millares Carlo, with the launch of Proudhon by Armand Cuvillier, translated by Marla Luisa Dlez-Canedo.

The arrival in Argentina of FCE Mexican books as of 1940 was an important novelty. These replaced the request for books about “history”, “sociology”, and related disciplines which, until then, mostly came from Spain. The continental distribution ceased to be an exclusive privilege of Argentine and Spanish publishers. The fundamental aspect of this period was the institutionalization of national book markets in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and its growing interrelation in an Ibero-American market. This reality informed perceptions underlying new cultural and market projects:

In 1938 and in Argentina, the Losada publishing house was founded

and Espasa-Calpe was established, both with continental ambitions, which included Mexico. By October of that same year, some of the first founders that were Spanish Civil War exiles (transterrados) of Casa de Espana were already in Mexico (...) Given the imminence of Argentine publishing houses invading the field cultivated by the FCE, there were two possible solutions: ‘reiterate all efforts in the same direction’ or expand activities through new sections related to the economy. His proposal was to create the Sociology Section, directed by Jose Medina Echavarria, the Political Science Section, directed by Manuel Pedroso, and the History Section (...) Cosio restricted the offer to the field of social sciences and (as of 1942) philosophy, considering it had no competition because the Argentine and Chilean publishing houses (the Spanish ones that flooded the market almost disappeared as of 1938) dealt with literature, for which there was ‘a certain boredom’, according to the director. One more point in favour: faced with this competition, paper and printing quality of FCE books was unrivalled.

(Arciniega 1984: 83-84 - my italics)

The FCE only gave a marginal place to poetry, published under the Tezontle imprint, started in 1940. The international division between genres became sharper thanks to alliances, as demonstrated by the representation of the FCE in Buenos Aires by Losada, a generalist publishing house that, above all, published literature. The relationship between the FCE and Losada was the result of solidarity between republican exiles and leftist militants. Losada became known as “the publishing house of the exiles”, and the headquarters of its bookstore represented a central place for the intellectual sociability of Spanish and Hispanic American progressivism in Buenos Aires. Its “intellectual circle” was made up of Atilio Rossi, Amado Alonso, Pedro Henriquez Urena, Guillermo de Torre, Luis Jimenez de Asua, Francisco Romero, Francisco Ayala, Rafael Alberti, Jorge Amado during his exile in Buenos Aires, and Pablo Neruda, among others. The circulation of Losada books was forbidden in Spain. The alliance with Losada served as an advanced exploration before the FCE began its international expansion through Buenos Aires by opening a branch in 1945. Daniel Cosio Villegas, Alfonso Reyes, and Pedro Henriquez Urena chose Arnaldo Orfila Reynal for the management of the Buenos Aires branch. They had known him since 1921, when Orfila travelled to Mexico, as a representative of the Argentine Students’ Federation, for the first International Student Congress. By disseminating university reformism at a continental scale, this meeting resulted in alliances of lasting impact for the differentiation of the intellectual elites in several countries.

Arnaldo Orfila Reynal was born in La Plata in 1897 and died in Mexico in 1998. In 1910 he got into the Colegio Nacional de La Plata school. He did his PhD in chemistry at the University of La Plata (UNLP), and it was in this city that he worked in the pharmaceutical and dairy industries. He joined the Socialist Party, and had a similar career as those of several other alumni of his school, such as Enrique Anderson Imbert, Carlos Sanchez Viamonte, and Jose Ernesto Rozas, who came to hold high positions in the national politics domain. He was actively involved in the student struggles of university reform: in 1918, he was a UNLP student delegate at the Reformist Congress of Cordoba78; in 1919, he was president of the UNLP Student Strike Committee; and, in 1921, he participated in the first International Student Congress as one of the five Argentine delegates. In Mexico, he had a long-lasting friendship with Daniel Cosio Villegas, Eduardo Villasenor, Pedro Henriquez Urena, Rafael Helidoro Valle, Miguel Angel Asturias, Manuel Gomez Morin, Vicente Lombardo Toledano, and other intellectuals who would meet again in Americanist projects, such as the FCE itself. During the 1920s and 1930s, Orfila Reynal was part of a circle of reformers who considered themselves as the followers of neo-Kantian philosopher Alejandro Korn and who set the foundations for the Popular Americanist Renovation Movement. This group had great influence among the dominant academic, artistic, and political elites in the city of La Plata until the emergence of Peronism (1945). Orfila Reynal collaborated with some publishing enterprises of Renovacion; for example, magazines such as Atenea (1918), Valoraciones (1923-1928), and Libertad Creadora (1934). His activity in these print media strengthened the bonds of friendship with Peruvian Manuel Gonzalez Prada and Mexicans Jose Vasconcelos and Daniel Cosio Villegas, among others. The cultural militancy of this intellectual formation attracted Dominican Henriquez Urena and Guatemalan Juan Jose Arevalo, future president of his country, to Argentina. Orfila Reynal inaugurated the Alejandro Korn Free Chair at UNLP and was one of the founders (1937) and general secretary (1938-1948) of the Alejandro Korn Popular University (UPAK), which still works in La Casa del Pueblo in La Plata. He also collaborated with the Claridad and Atlantida publishing houses. In the former, he created the “Autodidacta” series (1944), which aimed at a pre-university audience. In the latter, he signed the authorship of five technical books.79

As signalled by the election of Orfila Reynal as director of the branch in Buenos Aires, the action of the FCE in Argentina was deepened through a network of intellectual relations dominated by a lineage of reformists, Alejandro Korn’s followers, and Socialist Party militants.80 The acknowledgement of Orfila Reynal came at the apex of the domination of this fraction of the cultural elite, when he was the secretary general of UPAK. As was the case with the Colegio Libre de Estudios Su- periores (Free College of Higher Education, CLES), this institution was founded and developed under the opposing climate of conservative dominance in Argentine politics of the 1930s. Orfila and his peers followed the ideals of “creative freedom” proposed by Korn and the pedagogical projects of socialism that Claridad led at the publishing level.

The election of Orfila Reynal as bookstore manager and publisher is consistent with the modelling trajectory of these specialists. Such positions are generally held by individuals with trajectories halfway between culture and management, art and production: individuals with previous experiences in commercial or business media, usually in the field of culture: bookstores, newspapers, and printing houses.81 The publisher- role (or function) and the author-role are carried out as complementary opposites: the trade and production of cultural goods triggers a specific sphere of activity and interests that is rarely compatible with full commitment to literary or academic activity. Unlike most of his reformist peers, Orfila Reynal, partly because of his degree as a chemist, did not publish regularly or work as a professor. Segundo Tri, Anibal Sanchez Reulet, and Juan Jose Arevalo were professors of philosophy; Pedro Verde Tello and Carlos Sanchez Viamonte, lawyers; Luis Aznar, history teacher; Guillermo Korn, journalist and playwright; A. Sanchez Garrido, professor of letters. Unlike Orfila, everyone held positions at university. Publishers are specialists in “public relations”: they know and put writers and producers of symbolic goods in contact; choose translators; coordinate the activity of series directors; follow the work of proofreaders; and know about the arts of paper and advertising as well as make decisions about all these activities. As has been seen, the political militancy and the trip to Mexico in 1921 gave Orfila a capital of sustained social relations that distinguished him as a leader of the cultural and political groups in which he participated.

The significance of the FCE branch in Buenos Aires and Orfila Rey- nal’s cultural promoter role were accentuated after the military coup of 1943 and during Peronism. The rhythms of intellectual and political life in Argentina continued to be taken into account to determine the publishing lines of the FCE. As seen by Orfila Reynal:

  • (...) the Mexican publishing house had almost no competition: Argentine publishers dealt with different topics. FCE had, at that time, few publishing series with a very good reception: Economics, Sociology, History, Philosophy, Politics and Law, Biblioteca Americana, Tierra Firme, Tezontle and the books of Colegio de Mexico. In addition, Argentine publishing houses published literature, psychology, pedagogy and other subjects that were not in the FCE catalogue.
  • (Arciniega 1994: 227)

The dispersion of the cultural projects of the FCE, synthesized in the genres of the catalogue, observed a logic related to an Americanist sensitivity, attentive to its analogues in the rest of Latin America, especially in Argentina. For Cosfo Villegas, who felt that he was Antonio Caso’s disciple, and who, in the 1920s, held the Sociology Chair in the School of Law (Cosio Villegas 1986: Chapter 4; Sora 2017: Chapter 1), the uniqueness of the continent and its destiny were already demonstrated in literary and historical writing:

Few people in the Americas understand that we must take care of our things, whatever their value may be. We have to discover and record that value all the same. The originality of the Americas is well proven in purely literary work. Also, in historical essays (...) Well, that same originality must be infused into other aspects of culture that cannot and should not be limited only to literature and historical analysis. Everything else must take its place in American book production.82

This appraisal was expressed in the FCE catalogue, to the point of affirming that the hierarchy of published genres was led by the Economics and Sociology Sections.83 The Sociology Section began in 1941 and was directed by the Spanish exile Jose Medina Echavarria.84 The Anthropology Section began in 1944 under the direction of Alfonso Caso and Daniel Rubin de la Borbolla, with La civilizacion azteca by George Vail- lant, translated by Samuel Vasconcelos, and La Rama Dorada by James G. Frazer, translated by E and T. Campuzano and Julian Bravo. In 1944, one of the books that had the greatest impact on the history of the Spanish social science was published: Economia у Sociedad (Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft) by Max Weber, translated by a team directed by J. Medina Echavarria.

Until the late 1950s, the novelties of the series on social and human disciplines were almost all translations.85 Once it settled its profile, the publishing house produced slowly, projects on history, essays, and literature, the genres of the national and Flispanic American tradition, genres “without translation”. In 1944, Biblioteca Americana and the Tierra Firme series were created (see Chapter 4 in this book). These series were a very effective means to strengthen the connection between intellectuals acting in Mexico, Argentina, and the rest of Latin America. The prestige gained by the FCE in the late 1940s made renowned Argentine authors wish to be published by the Mexican label (e.g.: Las ideas poli'ticas en Argentina (1946) and La Edad Media (1949) by Jose Luis Romero).86

The FCE branch in Buenos Aires, located on Independence Avenue, started to operate as La Casa de Mexico (The House of Mexico). Its activity consolidated a flow of exchanges supported by the diplomatic activity of Amado Nervo, Enrique Gonzalez Martinez, and Alfonso Reyes, and grew with the frequent visits of Mexican thinkers. As we saw, the characteristics of the Argentine publishing market and the American intellectual movement that flourished there between the 1930s and 1940s, were a constant beacon to design, by contrast, the editorial elections of the FCE. In those years, Daniel Cosio Villegas said, “Argentina is, out of all the countries in the Americas, the one with the best conditions for boosting our project”.87 Through Buenos Aires, the FCE progressively imposed itself as a mark of Mexicanity and contributed to the affirmation of Latin America as a transnational cultural space, as a moral and political word of order. Already in 1955, the golden age of La Casa (The Flouse), when Arnaldo Orfila Reynal directed the FCE in Mexico, Juan Jose Arreola concluded, “Mexico has realized that FCE, like painting and movies, takes its name to all parts of the world in the prestigious label of books that are already divided into numerous series” (Arciniega 1994: 127). Orfila was dismissed from the FCE in November 1965. At that time, he enjoyed enormous intellectual prestige and was an influential spokesman for the Cuban Revolution, which was something unsustainable for the intelligentsia of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz’s government. The political onslaught against the director of the FCE sparked a great scandal among the intellectuals from across the continent, a movement that gave rise to the Siglo XXI publishing house (see Chapter 4 in this book).

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