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December 03 , 2007

The Insurgent Chief


Although the town of San Miguel de Tucuman is not very ancient, and its construction dates scarcely two centuries back, nevertheless—thanks, perhaps, to the calm and studious population which inhabit it—it has a certain middle age odour which is profusely exhaled from the old cloisters of its convents, and from the thick and gloomy walls of its churches. The grass in the low quarters of the town freely grows in the nearly always deserted streets; and here and there some wretched old house crumbling with age, leaning over the river which washes its foundations, incomprehensible miracle of equilibrium—presents to the curious look of the artistic traveller the most picturesque effects. The Callejón de las Cruces, especially—a narrow and tortuous street, lined with low and sombre houses—which at one end abuts on the river, and at the other on the street de las Mercaderes, is, without doubt, one of the most singularly picturesque in the town. At the period of our history, and perhaps at the present time, the greater part of the right side of the Callejón de las Cruces was occupied by a high and large house, of a cold and sombre aspect, whose thick walls, and the iron bars with which its windows wore furnished, made it resemble a prison. However, it was nothing of the sort. This house was a kind of nunnery, such as are often met with even, now in Belgian and Dutch Flanders, so long possessed by the Spaniards, and which served for a retreat for women of all classes of society, who, without having positively taken vows, wished to live sheltered from the storms of the world, and to devote the remainder of their lives to exercises of piety, and works of benevolence. As the reader has seen, by the description which we gave of the place when it came under notice, this house was thoroughly appropriated to its uses, and there continually reigned around it a peacefulness and a calm which made it rather resemble a vast necropolis than a partially religious community of women. Every sound died without an echo on the threshold of the door of this gloomy house; sounds of joy, as well as cries of anger—the uproars offêtes, as well as the rumblings on insurrection—nothing could galvanise it, or rouse it from its majestic and sombre indifference.
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