Richard Henry Dana sailed on the brig Pilgrim from Boston to California 1834-36. He had little good to say about the Californios. He considered them “idle, thriftless” people. He noted that their country abounded in grapes, from which they could make fresh wine, yet purchased “bad wine made in Boston.” Their country abounded with cowhides, yet they bought shoes from Boston made from their own cows.
He was very critical of Californio women. He had plenty of time to see both sexes as he rowed them from shore to ship and back again. He saw no excuse for the “fondness for dress” among the women and considered excess in buying the “ruin of them.”
He contrasted their substandard living quarters with their mania for dress. They lived in two room dirt-floor houses but fancied satin shoes, silk gowns, gold earrings and necklaces. The women would spend “whole days” aboard ship “examining the fine clothes and ornaments.” Spanish West Time-Life, 176
His Puritan scruples aside, did his experience reveal anything new in women’s clothes-shopping? Change the domiciles from whitewashed clay bricks to two-story suburban homes; and hard-packed dirt to soft carpets or hardwood floors…and what’s different? Haven’t ladies to this day, and as far in the past as shopping was an option, been clothes-horses? Don’t they continue to fuel the garment industry with a need for new dresses and skirts and blouses, etc.—all the refinements that distinguish women from men? Would any husband regret his wife the privilege of browsing in the mall; of purchasing; and of returning in leisure what she bought in haste?
More importantly, in a significant way the Spanish ladies offer a parable of the Christian life. Right now we’re all weakened sinners inside fallen bodies. Since we have no choice, we accept our present limitations and shortcomings. But we don’t consider them our permanent destiny. By Jesus Christ’s grace we’ll one day possess the inner wealth symbolized by the fine clothes, jewelry and shoes craved by Spanish ladies. And on that day, and ever-after, our present house of dirt will be dismantled and in its place a glorified spiritual abode will emerge, forever energized by the Holy Spirit of God.