Review of Gendered Crossings in the Denver Post 3/20/2016
Gendered Crossings: Women and Migration in the Spanish Empire
By Allyson M. Poska (University of New Mexico)
From the academic title, you might think this is a book for scholars. Not so. “Gendered Crossings” is an absorbing story about women who were recruited to colonize Patagonia in the 1770s.
Spain wanted young families and fecund women who would populate the new world. The volunteers — nearly 2,000 in all — were shipped to Patagonia, where they found inadequate water and soil so bad that they couldn’t grow crops. Most of them left Patagonia for land near Buenos Aires. Life was hard even there as promised supplies lagged, and the settlers had to contend with Indians and disease.
Virtually all of them stayed, however, and became part of colonial society. While most remained peasants, a few became wealthy enough to purchase slaves.
This heavily researched book gives details about the women who made the crossing, about the roles they played and their family and sex lives. Although promiscuity was hardly unknown among the Spanish, most young girls were married off as young as 13 for their protection from sexual predators. Their husbands generally were 10 years older.
Author Allyson M. Poska’s figures about the deaths of children, wives and husbands tell better than any narrative of how heartbreaking life in the new world could be.
From the University of Mary Washington Magazine
Giving the SSEMW plenary in San Juan, Puerto Rico 2013
Giving the plenary at the Qualicum Graduate History Conference Parksville, British Columbia, January 2014