Rosalia and the other side of things
About the book:
This is a story about the history of Argentina, and it prompts us to rethink the configuration of our identity. This book deals with a topic that is usually neglected: the presence and contribution of Afro-descendants in Argentina. It is a moving tale that focuses on a day in the life of an enslaved girl in the years prior to the independence of the Spanish colonies in the Americas, in a book that is universal, despite the specific historical details. The book also reflects on slavery and Afro-descendants in Argentina, and it is unique because it deals with a subject that is rarely discussed in children's books: enslaved children and the memory of the African heritage in the Americas.
Moreover, the research behind this work provides documentary support that can be appreciated in its careful-drafted and lovely illustrations. The beautiful illustrations in vibrant colors recover images from archaeological and historical records of the province of Santa Fe, Argentina: ceramics found in the small town of Arroyo Leyes; references to period clothing according to social class; children's games from colonial times; the coexistence of groups of enslaved Africans and native populations, etc.
This historical-anthropological reconstruction nourishes a sensitive and child-friendly story, in which a day in the life of Rosalia, an enslaved girl, is told in a poetic prose, without low blows. The text addresses the readers and, through evocative images, introduces them to a world that is distant from today’s reality but has many things in common with it. A book that invites us to think, feel and reflect.
My name is Rosalia and I am an expert in finding shelter. When I hide, I discover new things.
I look at the other side of the tablecloths from under the table and see the intersecting colors of the flowers, which, on the front, seem embroidered in a single tone. I follow the pattern of loose threads and discover the knots at the end of the seams.
I live in Mrs. Salustiana's house. When she scolds me for forgetting something on the table or for chipping some piece of crockery, I know where to go so she won't find me, at least for a while. I run to the meeting point where the artisans gather and climb a tree. From up there, I smell the smoke coming from the wood-fired oven and see how it rises silently amongst the branches, drawing figures of snakes that seem to chase toads.
I am covered in the smell of snails and clay, of wood and grass, and my eyes close, little by little, until the church bells toll loudly, and I get scared, slip, and remember that I have to go back to Mrs. Salustiana's because I have things to do, a lot of things.
And also, because I know what could happen to me if I'm late. Just like it happened to my mom. She lives nearby. Just a few steps away from the house where I live. A few years ago, Mr. Francisco and Mrs. Clara bought my mom to be the help for their family.
(...) Mom braids my hair and tells me stories of the Congo. That's where she lived before we were brought here. She was brought by boat, on a slave ship, and me, inside her belly.
In her stories she mixes Kimbundu and Spanish words, and I imagine, just as if I were seeing them, the giant animals she tells me about. Their fangs are so long that they could pierce the thatched roof of the room where I sleep, and their bodies are so big that they would not fit in the whole room, even if we opened all the doors and windows.
The night is filled with colorful birds. I taste strange fruits that I have never tasted, and I try my best to climb a tree that is so high it touches the sky. I climb its branches, and the dirt roads I walk on every day turn into waterfalls. How different the world looks from above!
Before leaving, my mom always touches my head softly and kisses me goodbye. In the empty street, her footsteps are like a drum that gradually fades away. Badum-badum, badum-badum they go. Softer and softer, lighter and lighter. Badum-badum, badum-badum until I close my eyes and fall asleep.
Translated by Ornella Piris Mannucci / Cecilia Della Croce