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Patagonia Bookshelf

Ostrich Tales — an Anthology
Observations of Darwin's rhea in southern Patagonia

"The Gold Diggings of Cape Horn", John R. Spears,
New York 1895
John Spears was commissioned by the New York Sun newspaper to report on Patagonia. His articles were serialized in the paper, subsequently being published in book form. His evaluation of the curio stores in Punta Arenas is rather disparaging: in his view, the "Indian-made" articles are not authentic unless produced in the traditional homelands — not in the city.

[emphasis added]

The business feature of the town that interests travellers most is that of the dealer in Indian-made goods and curiosities. Indians from the pampas and from the southern islands come to Punta Arenas to sell skins, furs, feathers, baskets, arrow-heads — what not. The dealers find sale for more stuff, in fact, than the Indians bring, so they have some goods made to order in the town. The goods are all sold as genuine Indian-made things, and in a way so they are. There are squaws in town who make a living doing work of this kind. I saw one of them deliver an armful of rugs made of guanaco skins to one of the dealers. She was dressed in a tailor-made suit of good material; she had gold jewelry a plenty, and her hair was banged across her forehead. The dealer said she was a half-breed Tehuelche, and I did not doubt it, but when one buys Indian-made relics he does not suppose that the Indian wore a tailor-made suit and bangs. I asked Luis Zanibelli, who was formerly a Maiden Lane jeweller in New York, and is now in the relic business there, how to tell goods made in the wilds from those made by half-breed squaws with bangs.

"That's easy," he replied. "Smell of the goods. The genuine Indian goods from the pampas or the islands always smell bad."

[end of extract]