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Rare Books & Special Collections

Norberto de la Riestra (1820-1879)

The Department of Special Collections possesses a collection of letters, sketchbooks, and newspaper clippings of the nineteenth-century Argentine political figure Norberto de la Riestra. While the letters deal mostly with economic and financial matters, the sketchbooks contain copies of letters discussing a wider range of topics pertaining to the political situation in Argentina in the middle of the 19th century.

Biographical Information

Norberto de la Riestra was born in 1820 in San Antonio de Areco in the province of Buenos Aires to Spanish immigrants. As a young man he took refuge in England from the political turmoil in Argentina. At the fall of dictator Juan Manuel Rosas in 1852, Riestra returned to his native country and became active in politics.

Riestra's career in politics began in the Buenos Aires legislature. In 1855 he became Minister de Hacienda for Buenos Aires, from which position he managed to negotiate Argentina's substantial debt with England. His skillful negotiation prompted Bartolomé Mitre to proclaim in the Chamber of Deputies that "de la Riestra had come to save the credit of the Republic."

Riestra would serve as Minister de Hacienda in various administrations for eight years before joining the senate in Buenos Aires in 1863. Towards the end of his career, Riestra lead diplomatic missions to Paraguay and Great Britain. Upon his return from England in 1870, he retired from politics, dedicating himself to his private business interests. He came out of retirement briefly in 1876 to serve once again as Minister de Hacienda in the midst of an economic emergency. Norberto de la Riestra died in Buenos Aires in 1879.

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Description of Archival Collection (MSH/SCH 4019-1 to 4019-36)

The archive contains 29 letters dated 1865-1874, 26 of which are by Riestra. Of these, 24 are addressed to his nephew Gabriel S. Martinez, a businessman in Montevideo and later director of Banco Nación and Banco Hipetecario in Argentina.

The archive also contains three sketchbooks. The first is dated 1862-1864 and contains letters in English discussing political subjects such as the Battle of Pavon, the capital of the state of Buenos Aires, Velez Sarsfeld, and the rate of money conversion. The second is dated 1869 and contains letters in English and Spanish, mostly on political topics, to Baring Bros., Robertson, Camilo Aldao, Velez Sarsfed, Mitre, and others. The third sketchbook contains abstracts and notes in English and Spanish on economics and finance.

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