restricted access Introduction: The Ugly Suitor
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BOB — University of Nebraska Press / Page 1 / / Case of the Ugly Suitor / Jeffrey M. Shumway 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 [First Page] [1], (1) Lines: 0 to 16 ——— 0.0pt PgVar ——— Normal Page PgEnds: TEX [1], (1) Introduction The Ugly Suitor No one will ever know how ugly Gumesindo Arroyo really was. We do know he was too ugly for José León Canicoba’s taste, and it was Canicoba’s daughter Francisca who fell in love with Gumesindo. Gumesindo Arroyo lived in the port city of Buenos Aires and, as of March 1842, he had been visiting the Canicoba home for two and onehalf years. But Mr. Canicoba, perhaps naively, did not expect this visitor to one day become his new son-in-law. When Gumesindo and Francisca asked permission to marry, Canicoba flatly refused for several reasons. Arroyo was too old for Francisca, and he did not have the means to support a family. But Mr. Canicoba saved his most passionate argument for another reason: Gumesindo Arroyo was simply too ugly. The worried father had powerful cultural and legal traditions to strengthen his case. First,he was the patriarch of the family,and Hispanic culture gave patriarchs extensive control over their wives and children, at least in theory. Furthermore, Francisca was a minor and thus needed her father’s permission to marry. Canicoba bolstered his opposition by citing a colonial marriage law issued in 1776 by the king of Spain, a law later extended to Buenos Aires and other New World holdings. The Pragmática sanción para evitar el abuso de contraer matrimonies desiguales (hereafter known as the Pragmatic on Marriage) gave parents the right to block their children’s marriages to “unequal” partners. Although Buenos Aires broke from Spain in 1810, a host of colonial laws, including the Pragmatic on Marriage, remained in place until the late nineteenth century. Fortunately for Francisca and Gumesindo, the pragmatic also allowed children the right to challenge parental opposition in court. If children took parents to court, the resulting suit was known as a disenso, from the Spanish root word “to dissent.” In such a case, a civil judge would hear the stories of both sides and their witnesses and rule in a manner that, in his eyes, would benefit the family and the state. BOB — University of Nebraska Press / Page 2 / / Case of the Ugly Suitor / Jeffrey M. Shumway 2 introduction 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 [2], (2) Lines: 16 to 25 ——— 0.0pt PgVar ——— Normal Page PgEnds: TEX [2], (2) If the judge found the parents’ opposition justified (“rational” in legal terms), then the parents won. If the parents’ arguments were deemed “irrational,” the court gave the children permission to wed against their parents’ wishes. When Canicoba withheld his permission, his daughter Francisca felt she was faced with two choices: obey her father and sacri fice her personal happiness or take her father to court in hopes that a judge would grant her permission to marry the man she loved.1 Gumesindo and Francisca’s case, which will be revisited periodically in later chapters, provides a useful introduction to the subjects of this book. On one level this is a collection of real stories about the everyday family life of men and women, parents and children, and lovers and friends in Buenos Aires and its surrounding towns during the late colonial and early national period (1776–1870). This time period brackets the year Buenos Aires became the capital of a newly organized royal territory, the viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (1776), and the adoption of a new civil code (1870), which finally gave the new nation of Argentina its own set of civil laws. Many of the great women and men of nineteenth-century Argentina appear in the following pages: General José de San Martín, Bernardino Rivadavia, Juan Manuel de Rosas, Camila O’Gorman, Domingo F. Sarmiento, Dalmacio Vélez Sarsfield, and others. Mariquita Sánchez, for example, one of the most famous women of nineteenth-century Argentina, struggled mightily with her parents...


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