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BOB — University of Nebraska Press / Page 8 / / 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] [8], (1) Lines: 0 to 17 ——— 0.0pt PgVar ——— Normal Page PgEnds: TEX [8], (1) 1. Buenos Aires Settings in Time and Place As Francisca and Gumesindo made their way to court on 4 March 1842, the sights, sounds, and smells of a bustling city enveloped them.1 Let us enter the city with them. The whistles and calls of street vendors surely caught Gumesindo and Francisca’s attention: caramels,pastries,and alfajores for the sweet tooth, or seasoned olives or Spanish torta for something more nourishing. The streets,mostly unpaved,were dusty when dry and turned into mud holes with rain. Closer to the river, the singing and laughter of women doing laundry could be heard. These were the lavanderas (laundresses), many of them Afro-Argentine, who spread out along the miles of riverbank next to the city. They would wash their clothes in a basin dug in the river bottom, then spread them out to dry. These women worked for hours in all kinds of weather, sustained by periodic breaks to drink the bitter tea known as mate, prepared with little fires kindled alongside their washbasins . Laundresses were known for their laughter and general festive nature. “Like the laughter of a laundry girl” became a refrain referring to a loud raucous.2 The presence and importance of the laundresses in the scenery of Buenos Aires was such that they captured the eye of many a painter of the port city.3 The noise of children was also in the air. Although children were not supposed to be out alone, the reality of porteño streets was different, especially for poor children. Many worked for their parents or guardians running errands, buying groceries, and even doing heavy manual labor (although this was officially frowned on). In their free time children played a variety of games. Young boys learned to ride horses by “borrowing ” mounts tethered outside of buildings. The horses of doctors making house calls seemed to provide a ready opportunity for riding. The famous writer, Lucio Mansilla, recalled that everyone he knew had “taken their first equestrian lessons on a doctor’s horse.” Young girls BOB — University of Nebraska Press / Page 9 / / Case of the Ugly Suitor / Jeffrey M. Shumway settings in time and place 9 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 [9], (2) Lines: 17 to 23 ——— 0.0pt PgVar ——— Normal Page PgEnds: TEX [9], (2) played with dolls made of leather and cloth, danced and sang together, played jump rope and dress-up. By the age of ten,however,girls and boys began training for their future positions in society according to their social class.4 Well-dressed women, perhaps on their way to church or to some literary gathering, caught the eye of many a passerby. Young porteño men were known to loiter outside churches to admire the ladies as they went by. One Englishman admitted that while the women of Great Britain deserved praise, porteño women (porteñas) were as beautiful as could be imagined. 5 Another foreigner was sure that anyone who beheld a porteña could not help but admire her. He commented further on their “exquisite” and elegant faces and was careful not to omit the mesmerizing dark eyes and voluptuous curls.6 Porteñas frequently wore flowers and combs to adorn those curls. In the 1830s,combs known as peinetones had become so large and ornate that, in the words of one critic, they were “an exaggeration so exaggerated that they exceeded the limits of exaggeration.”7 A male artist’s satirical depiction of women in the street showed men scurrying to stay out of the way of the peinetones. One man cries that he has lost an eye while others witness the destruction of a brick wall by a strolling woman.8 People on the street were mostly of Spanish descent, but Afro-Argentines were also a major presence. Afro-Argentines were involved in all types of...


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