Sunbonnet Sue plucks the harp in Paraguay!

So, my friends, ta da!!!   This is my first original Sunbonnet Sue pattern, and I think she turned out quite cute!   Today, Sunny Sue represents Paraguay, often referred to as “an island surrounded by land”, wearing a well-known version of folkloric dress.   The skirt has two deep ruffles marked by tiny vintage rickrack (my mom gave it to me!) and her hair is full of broderie perse flowers, which I think are fun and funky!   Broderie perse means “Persian embroidery” but it’s really a style of applique embroidery.  In essence, I cut a flower out of one fabric and appliqued that flower to another fabric.   This was a popular style of applique in the late 17th century, but it crops up throughout quilting history.   Chintz fabrics were originally used for the applique itself, because chintz usually has clearly defined elements which could be cut out and applied.  In my broderie perse, I used a tiny backstitch to hold the applique in place.  As I said, I think it turned out amazingly well.  Yes, my modesty knows no barriers.

The Paraguayan harp is a cultural icon.  Much of Paraguay’s traditional music is written for the harp, but the Paraguayan harp is more than just a musical instrument for Paraguayans.  It represents Paraguayan pride in their country and in their people.   Paraguayans are mostly bilingual, speaking Spanish and Guarani, an indigenous language, and they share a rich historical memory and folk traditions.   One of the most successful Paraguayan harpists is Felix Perez Cardozo, who became well-known on stages throughout the world in the 1930’s and 1940’s.   There was a resurgence of popularity in the 1980’s  with Paraguayan folk-music ensembles, and Paraguay has ensured that music schools, conservatories, and private teachers continue to provide instruction and promote the harp.   Before coming to Paraguay, if I thought about it, I think I considered harps to be a fairly rare and unusual instrument, so it took a bit to understand it in its iconic format.

Paraguay is a lovely and remote country filled with wonderful Paraguayan people who speak a version of Spanish that I like to call “Spanarani” (Spanish-Guarani).   On many occasions whilst conversing with my Paraguayan acquaintances, I had to say to my native Spanish-speaking husband, “Umm, what did they say?” to which he would reply, “I have absolutely no idea.”   So, it basically turned my Spanish into mush (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!   It is not because my Spanish stank to start with.).   So…you might want to learn a few Guarani phrases before heading to Paraguay.  Just saying.

One of the most famous Paraguayans, Eliza Lynch, is, well, not technically Paraguayan.   Eliza Lynch was born in Ireland, but after the potato famine, around age 10, she moved with her family to Paris.  There she met a French officer and lived with abroad for a period of time.  For health reasons, at around age 18, she returned to live with her mother, eventually coming to befriend Princess Mathilde Bonaparte.   Described as possessing an attractive figure and face as well as long golden hair, she soon set herself up as a courtesan to the wealthy elite.  Soon after, she met Francisco Solano Lopez, the son of the president of Paraguay, at that time one of the wealthiest nations in South America.   Eliza and Francisco began a relationship in Paris that would take them all the way back to Paraguay.

Although they never married, Eliza bore Francisco six children.   When Francisco’s father died in 1862, he left his son as his successor to the presidency.   Eliza Lynch, although never formally Mrs. Lopez, became the most powerful woman in the country.   At the time, Lopez’ political enemies considered her the woman behind the presidency, and blamed Francisco’s ambitions on her (although she denied this), including his greatest folly, the War of the Triple Alliance.

One of the decisive battles of Triple Alliance was the Battle of Cerro Cora.  During the war, Eliza followed her husband, along with other camp followers, as they journeyed from battlefield to battlefield.  The Battle of Cerro Cora ended up essentially a rout, and Francisco was killed by Brazilian forces.   After killing Francisco, the soldiers headed toward the civilians where they found Eliza Lynch and her oldest son, age 15 and a colonel already.   When told to surrender by the Brazilian soldiers, the son replied:  “A Paraguayan colonel never surrenders.”  He was shot to death in front of his mother.   Before Eliza Lynch allowed herself to be taken prisoner, she buried her lover and her son with her bare hands.   She was then banished from Paraguay, and returned to Europe with the rest of her children.   After 5 years, she traveled back under the promise that she could settle there, but arriving in Paraguay she was once again banished.   Eliza Lynch died in poverty in Paris in 1886.   More than one hundred years later, in an ironic twist of fate, Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner had her exhumed and her body buried in the national cemetery, having declared Eliza Lynch a heroine of the Paraguayan people.  It is commonly believed that Eliza Lynch encouraged Francisco to start the War of the Triple Alliance which was both bloody and ultimately futile.  In the aftermath, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil divided up much of Paraguay’s land, leaving it much more impoverished than they had found it.   But still, historians can find good words to say about Eliza Lynch — that she taught Paraguayan society about European customs and for her dedication to her lover, Francisco, even though it eventually cost her everything.

I hope that I’ve inspired you to quilt, to embroider, to applique, to wear flowers in your hair, to be a loyal and helpful lover, and to fight to the bitter end if it’s something that means a lot to you.  I leave you with a photo of the model for Sunbonnet Sue in Paraguay.  Enjoy!

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