On March 1, 1781, some of Santiago’s most distinguished residents entered
the Cathedral to witness the baptism of a newborn girl, who was anointed
not only with holy water but also a long string of Christian names: Francisca
Xaviera Eudocia Rudecinda Carmen de los Dolores. She was the daughter of
Lieutenant Col o nel of the Cavalry Señor don Ignacio de la Carrera Cuevas
and doña Francisca de Paula Verdugo y Valdivieso, who would later rejoice
at their first child to survive into adulthood. Her grandfathers were Field
Master don Ignacio de la Carrera Ureta and Señor Doctor don Juan Verdugo,
royal counselor and judge of the Royal Audiencia of Santiago.1 Were one to
trace Javiera (henceforth the modern spelling of her name will be used) only
through the ecclesiastical rec ords of Santiago, the outlines would emerge of
a life typical for an elite woman during the period of “traditional Chile” (a
term used for the eigh teenth to the mid- nineteenth centuries). The parish
rec ords reveal her marriage at age fifteen to an eligible young man from the
cream of Santiago society, Manuel José de la Lastra, followed by the baptisms
of their two children Manuel and Dolores. A sad, but not all that unusual,
widowhood at age seventeen was followed within two years by a second mar-
riage to a recently arrived royal official of noble Spanish descent, Pedro Díaz
de Valdés, and five more baptisms over the ensuing de cade. Widowed again
at the more respectable age of forty- five, Javiera retired from the bustle of
Santiago to tend the gardens at her family estate, where she delighted in
visits from children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews along with more
formal receptions for senators and government officials. At the ripe old age
of eighty- one, having survived most of her own children, she was buried in
the Franciscan monastery. Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, one of Chile’s ris-
ing statesmen and historians, eulogized her virtues. Having perused Javiera
Carrera’s correspondence, he pronounced, “She wrote only of consolation,
introduction
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