The two Victorias

Victoria Ocampo. 1922. Portrait by Anselmo Miguel Nieto. National museum of fine arts. Photography: Courtesy MNBA.

Portrait of Victoria Pueyrredón. Family photography.

Sonia Decker

Director of CONSULTART/dgb, a consultant with more than thirty years of experience in the local art market.

Degree in Advertising (USAL).

Judicial Expert in Art, and Professor of "Art Market" at the Universities of El Salvador and the Argentine Social Museum.

Member of the founding group of the Tigre Art Museum, being in charge of acquiring the works of its permanent collection.

A painter artist, she has made her last individual exhibitions at the VYP, Arroyo and Librería Menéndez galleries.

By Sonia Decker *

Towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, two Argentine writers were born, united by various circumstances and significantly separated in many aspects. Victoria Ocampo (Buenos Aires, April 7, 1890 – Beccar, January 27, 1979) was undoubtedly the most publicly recognized. Victoria Pueyrredón (Buenos Aires, July 6, 1920 - October 5, 2008) always preferred a low profile. Writing was the passion that united them, although their paths in letters and in their stories were very dissimilar.

Ramona Victoria Epifanía Rufina Ocampo was born into a patrician family that descended from a Galician page of Isabel la Católica, one of the first inhabitants of the island of Santo Domingo. She was also linked with Prilidiano Pueyrredón, a great painter and portraitist of Buenos Aires society, with the poet José Hernández, and with Victoria Aguirre. One of Victoria's great-uncles was Enrique Ocampo who murdered Felicitas Guerrero after discovering her affair with Samuel Sáenz Valiente. His parents were Manuel Ocampo, an engineer specializing in the construction of bridges and roads in the interior of the country, a refined, conservative man and lover of his daughters, and Ramona Máxima Aguirre, nicknamed "la Morena", a beautiful, affectionate and protective woman. who used to solve small and big family problems. Victoria always emphasized her father's sense of honesty and her mother's rigid standards.

Victoria was born at 482 Viamonte Street and was the eldest of six sisters. Angélica, Francisca, Rosa, Clara, who died of diabetes at the age of eleven, and Silvina, an excellent writer and wife of Adolfo Bioy Casares. She herself expressed in her autobiography: “They put us in the same dresses, the same hats and the same shoes. It would have seemed absurd to me that we could live in another way that I was not in the front and they were in the back…. I demanded obedience and offered protection.”

The first language that Victoria learned was French, then English and finally Spanish. In 1896, the Ocampo family travels to Europe where they attend Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. When visiting Paris, she is dazzled by this city of which she feels “a natural daughter”.

After a year they returned to Buenos Aires and she, Victoria, was already beginning to feel attracted to literature. She admired Dickens, Verne, Conan Doyle, Maupassant among others. In 1901 she writes her first articles in French, discovering that her writing means for her "a form of relief".

In 1908, the family moved to Europe again, and Victoria attended the Sorbonne to take classes in classical Greek literature, English literature, and Eastern history, among other subjects, which transformed her into a cultured character who was totally different from the women who socialized with her.

Between 1906 and 1911 he maintained a friendship with the writer Delfina Bunge. Although Victoria disagreed with Delfina's spiritual position, which was profoundly Catholic, both defended women's causes with their own methods. She Victoria confessed that she did not want to get married or have children to dedicate herself solely to art. But despite this revelation, on November 8, 1908, she married Luis Bernardo de Estrada, nicknamed "Mónaco", a member of a traditional Buenos Aires family. In a short time, she realized that her husband demanded an absolute dependence on her and that she intended to have offspring, which caused their immediate separation, which took place definitively in 1922.

During her honeymoon, she meets Julián Martínez, a diplomat fifteen years older than her, cousin of her husband, who totally dazzled her. This relationship caused him serious inconveniences both in his public life and in her private life.

In 1920 she published her first note in the newspaper La Nación, and in 1924, Ortega y Gasset, who had helped her perfect her writing in Spanish, published her first book "From Francesca to Beatrice" in La Revista from the West. The same year Rabindranath Tagore arrives in Argentina. During the boat trip he comes down with a bad flu and Victoria offers to put him up in Villa Ocampo for his recovery. At that time, her country house (today owned by UNESCO) still belonged to her parents who forbade her to receive him in the splendid mansion. Victoria asks to borrow the "Miralrío" lot in San Isidro, where the planned eight days turned into a two-month stay. There they exchanged mutual admiration that at some point suffered the mishaps typical of two strong personalities who, with a certain degree of arrogance, altered the obnubilations that were professed at first.

Hermann Graf Keyserling was another of her great emotional and literary enthusiasms that were born from her reading a publication of hers in La Revista de Occidente. Victoria is wrong again based on her exacerbated personalism that leads her to think that Keyserling could establish an epistolary relationship with her and generate a loving bond between them.

In 1929, after having lunch with her and Ortega y Gasset, Pierre Drieu de la Rochelle confessed to her wife that he had fallen in love with the writer. After a second meeting, they began to see each other frequently and to take walks in Paris. In the early 1930s, Drieu declared himself a fascist and collaborated with Nazism. Learning of the existence of an arrest warrant against him, she commits suicide in 1945.

Victoria inherits three fortunes throughout her life: that of her aunt Vitola, that of her godmother and the proportional part of the estate of her father who died in 1930. The money was invested in the purchase of residences and apartments. But the rental law enacted by the then president Perón, made them stop granting a satisfactory rent and they were unfortunately very undersold.

Text by Victoria Ocampo in number 2 of Sur Magazine.

On January 1, 1931, the first issue of Sur Magazine appeared, with the collaboration of Drieu La Rochelle, Jorge Luis Borges, Walter Gropius and Waldo Frank, who suggested the idea of ​​creating it. The first edition of 4,000 copies quickly sold out and was also distributed in Europe. The first editions were produced by Francisco Colombo's printing house in San Antonio de Areco.

Criticism came quickly as expected. Nationalist groups condemned the collaboration of foreign personalities in the magazine, alleging that Ocampo only wanted to satisfy readers from other countries. This causes her great disappointment.

From 1931 onwards, Sur will appear discontinuously, although his collaborators will continue to be both foreign personalities and Argentine writers of the stature of Jorge Luis Borges or Adolfo Bioy Casares, among many others.

In 1933, Victoria founded the Editorial Sur, in order to help pay for the publication and dissemination of the most relevant literature of the time.

In 1936, while the Spanish Civil War was taking place, she founded the Argentine Women's Union. As Peronism advanced in Argentina, a proposal appeared to reform Law 11,357 so that married women would not enjoy the civil rights granted in 1926. In this way, they would not be able to dispose of their person or their property depending on the entire male gender. The purpose of the UAM was to prevent the promulgation of the law aided by the force and pressure that women of all social classes grouped there were carrying out. Victoria was elected its President, developing and expanding the organization throughout the interior of the country. Finally, the UAM achieved its objective, and the reform project was annulled. In 1938 Ocampo resigned from the presidency upon discovering that the members with Marxist ideologies were using the organization for her own benefit.

Gabriela Mistral and Victoria Ocampo had a peculiar friendship. The Chilean writer was slow to meet her and while she lived in Argentina she stayed at her house in Mar del Plata and in Villa Ocampo. Gabriela once said: “She is not only Creole in her language, but also in her typically Argentine way of seeing things and in the use of certain coarse expressions and swear words that she had learned from “Tata Ocampo”...

In 1938, due to Ocampo's frequent trips, Borges and Sábato took charge of the Redaction Secretariat of Sur Magazine. Borges and Victoria had serious differences in this regard. But she supported him when Perón kicked him out of the Miguel Cané National Library, and financed his first eye surgeries that she suffered as a result of a congenital disease.

In July 1946, President Perón approved the female suffrage law. Victoria Ocampo is outraged at the thought that she would obtain a right through an anti-democratic government. In 1951, her entrance to her house in Villa Ocampo was marked with a cross that marked her as a "dissident oligarch." In May 1953, less than a month after the bombs exploded in the Plaza de Mayo, she was arrested by the police at her home in Mar del Plata. She was transferred to the Buen Pastor prison in San Telmo where she remained confined for 26 days. Gabriela Mistral and Nehru interceded and finally achieved her release.

Her economic problems were increasing but in the meantime she received several important awards: in 1958 she was appointed President of the National Endowment for the Arts, in 1962 France named her Commander of Arts and Letters, in 1965 she was decorated along with Jorge Luis Borges with the Order of Commander of the British Empire, in 1966 she was declared a member of the Academy of Rome and in 1968 Indira Gandhi awarded her an Honoris Causa Doctorate from the University of Visva Barathi at Villa Ocampo.

In 1963, during a trip to Paris, she began to suffer severe pain in her mouth and the following year she was diagnosed with oral cancer and she had to undergo surgery at the Diagnostic Institute. From that moment on, she suffered many health inconveniences of various kinds that brought her very severe and continuous ailments.

Victoria and behind, the collections and souvenirs of Sur.

In November 1970, an article published in the newspaper La Nación reported the cessation of publication of the magazine Sur.

In 1973, the Ocampo sisters rushed to donate their residences in Villa Ocampo and Villa Victoria in Mar del Plata to UNESCO in the face of the new arrival of Peronism to power, its serious economic problems, and the clear intention, especially of Victoria, that both properties were conserved to “be used with a living and creative sense in the production, research, experimentation and development of cultural, literary and artistic activities”. Since then, UNESCO has taken charge of the maintenance of the houses and the Ocampo sisters reached an agreement that allowed them to reside in them until their death.

In 1977, she became the first woman elected to the Academia Argentina de Letras by a vote of her peers.

In the early hours of January 27, she entered a coma and died at the age of 88 in Villa Ocampo.

Victoria Pueyrredón was born in Buenos Aires on July 6, 1920. She also died at the age of 88 in the same city, on October 5, 2008. Her parents were Carlos Alberto Pueyrredón, politician, historian, lawyer and Mayor of the City of Buenos Aires. Aires between 1940 and 1943 during the presidency of Roberto M. Ortiz, and Silvia Saavedra Lamas, sister of the first Argentine to win the Nobel Peace Prize Carlos Saavedra Lamas.

Like Victoria Ocampo, she belonged to a distinguished Argentine patrician family. They had a pretty direct bond as they were second cousins. Her father was a descendant of Juan Martín de Pueyrredón and her mother was the great-granddaughter of Cornelio Saavedra. The plastic artist Prilidiano Pueyrredón, with whom Ocampo was familiar, was also familiar with Victoria Pueyrredón.

Her first years passed quietly in a splendid house on Avenida Las Heras 2525, where an eternal passion for reading awoke in her from a very young age. Everything that fell into her hands led her to stay awake reading until long hours of the night.

Both lived in cultured homes, where French was the first language with which they began to communicate. So much so that the first stories and poems of Victoria Pueyrredón, which she wrote at the young age of sixteen, were translated from French into Spanish to be published in different newspapers and magazines. She edited in French her first book of poems "Sentiments" (1940) and others followed, already in Spanish as "Coplas para ti" (1942) and "Poemas de Soledad" (1966). Others of her storybooks were “I just died” and “Destinos”.

Poemas de soledad. Published by Emecé in 1966.

Victoria had three siblings Silvia, Julio and Inés. She married Marcelo A. White on December 23, 1945 at her father's house on Avenida Las Heras. Unfortunately, her marriage lasted only a few years since her husband died on September 22, 1959 at the age of 46, leaving behind three small children, Dolores, Marcelo and Victoria.

Her life was not easy for her. She began to work in very disparate activities such as driving her own car taking and bringing ladies to move them to different places. In 1955 she worked at the Jorge Antonio Foundation, she was secretary to the Haitian Ambassador in Argentina, French translator and secretary of the Argentine Women's Union (UMA), founded by Victoria Ocampo in 1936.

Despite being widowed at the age of 39, she never rebuilt her emotional life, devoting herself completely to her family, her neighbor, her work and literature, her great passion. He always kept an absolute low profile not because of false modesty but because of a consistent attitude of life that his children have inherited. Culture was breathed in his house and the roots of his ancestors who are part of Argentine history were always honored.

Victoria Pueyrredón was a writer, exquisite poet, short story writer, essayist, lecturer, founder and director of the literary book-magazine “Letras de Buenos Aires” (1980-2001) and of the Ediciones Letras de Buenos Aires (1982), where they were published by Editorial Lumen numerous books by Argentine writers. The fundamental condition was that they be writers from anywhere in the country and that their texts had never been published in any publishing house.

She collaborated in La Nación, La Prensa and other newspapers. For ten years she was a correspondent for the Montevideo newspaper El País and was in charge of the interviews for the Sunday edition. She edited many of them in the book “Mis reportajes” that brings together insightful conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, Luis F. Leloir, Leopoldo Marechal, Manuel Mujica Láinez, Victoria Ocampo, Haroldo Conti and Pablo Neruda, with whom she was very close friends. She used to frequently visit him and his wife Matilde in Isla Negra. Together with Neruda, she prefaced the book "J.M.C, the wretched hussar" (1973).

She was a delegate of the Argentine Republic before the congress of the International Pen Club in Jerusalem (1974) and in Rio de Janeiro (1975).

In 1987 she received the Alicia Moreau de Justo award for her "valuable contribution and in recognition of her attitude to life". In 1995 she received the Order of Knights of Saint Martin of Tours, in the category of the Saint Martin of Tours award for her merit.

In 1998, she headed the "Renaissance" list for the SADE authorities elections, as a candidate for president. She will receive the Belt of Honor from SADE. She obtained the Pen Club Silver Pen and was a jury member of the Konex Awards.

In 1999 she received an award for her poem "Soledad" along with 150 writers selected from 75,000, in the Poetry in the Subway contest organized by the newspaper La Nación and Metrovías.

Victoria Pueyrredon dies of cancer avoiding any type of treatment surrounded by the affection of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

So far, two women, two lives that approach and move away at the same time. Ocampo the owner of thousands of lines written about her temperament, her personality, her work, her way of writing, and at the same time the recipient of criticism and praise received while she lived and after having physically disappeared. She was a great one without a doubt. Argentine literature owes its opening to the world in difficult times for our country. She defended the position of women in all possible areas, even with her own life experiences. She was rebellious but consistent, self-centered and generous, overwhelming and sensitive. She did not have time to consolidate a stable relationship. Or maybe she didn't want it and she preferred to hover in the spirits of different men. She loved nature and urban life in big cities. She knew how to describe in detail each corner where she lived mixing words in French or English, narrating without interruptions as if her life was leaving her in each paragraph. Her omnipresent individuality always appears in the first person.

Nothing better to get to know her than to rescue some of her phrases published in her supplement that the newspaper La Prensa dedicated to her in April 1979, one year after her death. There are no better testimonies than those of those who shared her life with her...

Borges said: “Victoria, a hedonic reader, she only read and reread what interested her. I suspect that earnest consecutive reading was as foreign to her habits as it is now to mine. Victoria has died and I know that this relationship, which was never intimate, has been and is essential for me. I can almost write that our quiet and true friendship begins today. “

Angel Battistessa said goodbye expressing: “she is like a great lighthouse that goes out”….

Alicia Jurado, her great friend, said that “hers was a generosity that consisted of giving without being asked, but earning the hatred of those she did not esteem literary or in some other aspect because at that point she was demanding and inflexible. She is courageous like few others and yet shy, narcissistic on the surface and deep down capable of deep and authentic humility. It was not easy for her to make herself understood by those who knew little of her, but all of us who were close to her loved her ”.

Ernesto Sábato, referring to the Sur Magazine, stated: “It is true that some excellent writers never published in Sur as a consequence of mutual antipathies with the Director… Sur maintained an absolute broadness of criteria and no one can affirm that it was an elite magazine in the sense pejorative of the term. It was to the extent that all superior culture is a minority… Sur was a high platform for all superior forms of culture “….

Frank, open people like Victoria Ocampo are usually a paradox. It shows its interiority up to a certain limit. The deepest part such as pain or tenderness, in his case, remain in the shadows. We only have to discover them in those windows that leave us their written words.

Victoria Pueyrredón was the absolute owner of her inner world and she transmitted it with transparency and sensitivity through her stories and especially her poems. Nothing is hidden in the lines of it. There is no mystery. In her role as a journalist she was loquacious and she hinted at her refined cultural training in each question asked of the interviewee. Her stories are realistic and entertaining with a good dose of suspense. Her poems bring us closer to the purest nostalgia of the lost loved one. But without exaggeration, with the simplicity with which the greats express themselves.

She did not want notoriety nor did she pretend to stand out in its midst. She was firm but silent, a lover of beauty and of the fundamental things in life. Her story was reserved for her family and those who knew her and shared her rich legacy with her.

I had the privilege of knowing her from afar when she was very young. I could never get close because of that halo of mystery that her name contained and perhaps because of my own shyness. She belonged to that lineage of women who, along with the other Victoria, no longer exist. Neither times nor circumstances allow it. Today life happens on the other hand, technology, virtuality, social networks, immediacy. Victoria Pueyrredón was mythical and profoundly human. She also lived for her neighbor. And she knew how to define like no one else the meaning of her existence and that of the profound and permanent loss of her loved one in her poem Soledad de ella:

“It is tired of life and fed up / of phrases, gestures and everything; / is to evoke a face, feature by feature, / remembering a moment, somehow…/ Feeling that what hurts no one matters, / laughing, and being tired of laughing, / moaning in a very low voice, being alone, / wanting entertaining oneself and doing nothing… / It is carrying a love in the memory, / reliving it in bitter distance, / spending long hours in front of a dead person, / and feeling that the day never ends… / Watching the long hours arrive with terror, / and feel the silence of a void, fear the fall of the afternoon, / close your eyes… and tremble with cold…

* Special for Hilario. Arts Letters Crafts

August 2022

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