It’s no secret that I like original art. That includes visual art, jewelry, furniture, and music. Not long ago I saw a post on Facebook with an image of a pendant. The seller has an art shop in Newberry, South Carolina. As soon as I saw the pendant, I knew my daughter Rebecca would love it, so I bought it as an early Christmas gift. It just looked like her. I correctly predicted she’d be thrilled with the pendant. What I didn’t know is that we had bumped into a mystery.
The pendant was described as a vintage Brazilian coin. The inscription reads:
“Colegio Manuel Belgrano
Hermanos Maristas Belgrano”
Rebecca was over the moon as soon as she saw the pendant. Naturally, we were curious, and we wanted to know more about the coin.
Initial results included lots of information about Manuel Belgrano, and the surprise here is that Belgrano is an important figure in the history of Argentina. The second surprise is that the coin is probably a medal, and appears to be Argentinian instead of Brazilian.
Those were neat quirks. The neatest quirk of all, though, is the fact Rebecca and the long dead Belgrano have much in common. The hero who created Argentina’s flag in 1812, among many other accomplishments, was also an economist and writer.
Rebecca spends much of her leisure time reading about economics and she spends lots of time writing too. The difference is that much of what Belgrano wanted to study was forbidden:
“At age 20 he sent a letter to Pope Pius VI requesting him to read the “forbidden” books, which were books that spoke of an open and liberal economy. The Pope granted him that “license” or faculty to read, throughout his life, those books of condemned authors and heretics, guarding that they did not pass into the hands of others and except for astrological forecasts, which contain superstitions and those that ex professed try to obscene matters.”
That quote is translated by a search engine—the last words in the translation are flawed. The original verb “tratar” does mean “try”, but if it’s followed by “de” it means about. As in books that are about “obscene matters.” I admit using the translator to double check my Spanish, but I always weigh my translation against the robotic search engine.
The quote comes from a recent interview with a descendant of Belgrano.
It became obvious that the rebel in my house has a lot in common with the rebel whose name is on her new pendant.
I’m not sure if the pendant was a centennial commemorative medal, but it looks that way. This would date it in the early 1900s. In our searches we did find a medal that is identical to the one I bought, but only on one side. We haven’t been able to find one that is identical on both sides.
Manuel Belgrano is still celebrated as an Argentine liberator. Adding an even more intriguing aspect to this little tale is the fact some of Rebecca’s distant ancestors hailed from Spain, and if Spain hadn’t colonized Argentina, the country where the remarkable Inca Empire once thrived might be quite different in makeup than it is today.
We’re still trying to learn more about the pendant. On the art gallery’s website, the pendant is categorized as part of an offering from “Saint Sampson.” I was able to track that name down to a shop in Charleston, but it seems to be closed and the URL to the website is dead.
Rebecca wore the pendant last night when she performed at Whiskey Jax—Baymeadows. Today we spent a little time trying to learn more about it, but it’s obvious she’s tickled with the style of the pendant and with the little mysteries surrounding it.
(Kay B. Day/November 21, 2019)
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