In this book, James presents the story of Doña María Roldán's life. She was a woman who lived in Berisso, Argentina, where she worked in the meat packing industry for six decades, and was a Peronist party activist. In Doña María's Story, James attempts to uncover the truth about an informant's life.
In eighteen seventy-three, Berisso was a center for beef salting. This changed, however, two decades later when refrigeration made Saladeros a thing of the past. Meatpacking brought two significant changes: an enormous factory system, and foreign ownership. The Chicago-based Swift and Armour corporation controlled the economy until it was shut down in the nineteen seventies. These economic changes brought Southern and Eastern European immigrants to Berisso, as well as a bastion of union and a Peronist party.
James' main source was a thirty-hour interview with Doña María. I like the fact that he chose to do an interview because it makes the story more personal, it gives the reader a reliable feel for what was happening in Berisso. However, I cannot help but wonder how much information was lost when converting the interview from Spanish to English. Since James only uses a portion of María's interview for the story, I worry that the portion of the interview that is used in the book may not be the story in which María was trying to tell, but rather the story that James wanted us to hear. Though these concerns are there, James probably cut out some of the interview simply to make the book more readable.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about history or politics. The book does a great job in portraying the past in the meatpacking community of Berisso, Argentina. It also has a vast amount of information about politics, covering the Peronist party in great detail.
One thing that I might change about this book is to see more about María's union and political activism. I feel that this was a very important subject to her, and...
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