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Thomas Keenes

As always, a fantastic piece of research and translation - thankyou. I have a couple of observations and thoughts:

* china
According to Benzecry Sabá’s ‘The Quest for the Embrace: the History of Tango Dance 1800-1983’, “troops [in the 1870s] … called the local girls “chinas” bacause they resembled young Asian women” (p45). It might also have been borrowed from the Quechua language (which is spoken in parts of Northern Argentina), in which china means girl or female.

* The Cross and the Dagger
A possible alternative interpretation could be that the lancers are not Argentine cavalrymen, they are the Mapuche (the hurricane in the previous line might allude to them), and rather than regimental symbols, the cross and the dagger refer metaphorically to the Argentines (as Christian soldiers), or even literally as objects of booty. Take a look at ‘La vuelta del malón’ (The Return of the Raiders, 1892) by Ángel Della Valle (1852-1903), showing lance-bearing Mapuche making off with religious relics (and a woman captive).


Very interesting ideas Thomas Keenes! I'm sure there's a lot more to the story of these women who followed the soldiers, and even followed them into battle and fought at their sides. They are also called fortineras (fort women) or cuarteleras (barracks women). There's a book in Spanish about them, by Vera Pichel, called Las Fortineras. Maybe I'll get a copy someday. For now, there's an interesting web page that tells their story in brief (Spanish):


Wikipedia also has an article on fortineras, which I didn't review before writing this post.


I like your interpretation of the line about the lancers. You might well be right! Many mysteries...

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