Soap-sud Army

Beach – Washerwomen

Having now disposed of our [Passengers] I am about to give you my opinion of all the uncos at Buenos Ayres, and in doing so I shall not observe any particular order, but whenever the humour seizes me, jump from grave to gay, from lively to severe.

Along way in front of Buenos Ayres, then is a beach which when the tide is out is very shallow & prevents the approach of boats to some distance from the shore. This circumstance, as I have already mentioned, obliges you to go on shore in a  huge lumbering cart, if you do not wish to have your feet & legs wet. For some way along this beach but considerably more elevated, is the Alameda, or public walk. Here many people congregate of a Sunday, and enjoy a tolerable promenade between an avenue of trees, & if they are tired, can rest themselves on seats provided at the public expense.

As soon as you have landed, you are naturally induced to examine more closely what had attracted your attention on coming on Shore, viz. what along the whole beach you saw so much of a white colour & so many black women. You will at the first glance obtain the explanation of the puzzle – for there are an innumerable host of washer-women, busily employed in their occupation, some thrashing away & others spreading their clothes out to be dried. This is indeed a most novel sight to the stranger, who will also observe no small amusement in watching the manoeuvres of the soap-sud army of black Amazons. From morning till night the beach is one scene of bustle & activity & indeed the clothes so washed are very well done & very white. I cannot say that tho’ I have often passed by these washerwomen that I have heard much gable – on the contrary, I was struck with astonishment that so many hundreds of women could have congregated together, & yet made so little noise, a circumstance very much to the credit of the B. Ayrean black ladies. But often after a calm a storm arises, so when the heavens threaten rain & then a scene of indescribable hubbub ensues. The noise, the screaming – the eager & impatient cries to make haste – the ­­­­bundling together the various articles & gathering them under their arms, then trudging off to gain the shelter of their houses close by is most laughable, & well worth leaving your lodgings to see.

Suppose now you have sufficiently examined the objects which present themselves to your view at the place of landing, you wish to see the Town. You have already ascertained that the Town is very long from seeing it extend along the beach, but you cannot yet tell how far it extends back. From the beach then you have to go up a pretty steep but short street, when you will reach the level of the City, & at various times you will take a stroll to different parts, & be able to say how the view impresses you. The Town of B. Ayres is almost entirely composed of streets, four of which form a square. Hence they are all at right angles to each other & you will find but little difficulty in traversing any part & finding your way back, if you only know the bearings by Compass.

Read on …