Family Stories

Mestizo Lady

Today I’m sharing with you another of my wonderful finds on our journey from Nags Head back through West Virginia.  This photo was purchased at an antique shop in Beckley.  It caught my eye immediately, but I came back time and again since it was a bit more costly than most photos I purchased.  Unfortunately there is no name.  But this lady is mestizo.  Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Spain and Latin American for people of mixed heritage or descent.  She is Spanish and Indian.

As you can see, the picture was in a white frame, nothing extraordinary until you look at the back.  There are two pieces of thin wood holding the picture in the frame, and you can see the yellowing newspaper that once covered the back.

There are only small pieces of newspaper left, but the little I can make out says luncheons are 35 cents, on Sundays and holiday, 75 cents.  Frigidaire refrigerators are $107 and up.  The most interesting bit, when I got out my magnifying glass, is that the refrigerators are sold at 1190 P Street.  With the wonders of modern technology – Google Maps! – I find there are 5 cities with streets with such a name and number – Washington, D.C.; Bedford, IN; Lincoln, NE; Wright-Patterson AFB, OH; and Sacramento, CA.

When I first saw this picture I immediately thought of the old west, the gold rush in California, the Spanish and Mexican early settlers in the southwest.  Sacramento fits right in with my theory.  But one of the little shreds of paper that fell off has an important clue – in that tiny piece are the words ‘District of Columbia’.  That tells us that when the photo was put in this frame the newspaper used for backing was from our capital, and most likely, that is where it was framed.  The little nails holding the two pieces of wood in place are very rusty and there are scratches on the back of the frame – the picture has probably been in it for some time.

But who is this lovely lady – where did she live?  Was she born here, or outside the United States?  Did she live in Washington, D.C. – or were her relatives there.  Could she have been part of one of the ambassadors’ households?

Now let us focus on the beautiful woman herself.  Click on the photo and it will open into another window – a larger view.  You can click one more time to see the detail.  She has the lovely high cheek bones of our American Indians.  My paternal grandmother was said to have Indian blood running through her veins – she had those same facial features.  The woman’s accessories are gorgeous.  The cross that is worn around her neck has a fleur-de-lis on it.  Notice the ribbon around her neck, tied into a bow behind her head – and the brooch pinned in the center.  The earrings are quite lovely, as well as the Spanish comb she wears in her hair.  Her dress is black – is she in mourning for a loved one?  There is another piece of jewelry attached at the top of ruffle on the dress – does anyone know what this is?  Based mainly on the large sleeves I would date this photo about 1893 – but that is just a guess.

To know the name of this gorgeous woman – and a little bit about her!  Perhaps one day!  If anyone has any information please let me know!

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