Home Life 1907-1937

During Josefina Oliver’s engagement with her cousin Pepe Salas Oliver, she sends him many postcards with her illuminated self-portraits and a short loving text or hidden message, making up a successful ensemble.

This group belongs to the series of postcards with her photos, most of them illuminated (coloured) and stuck on cardboards, which are also designed by her. She produces many of these little works, which she decides to gift her acquaintances and her friends abroad to whom she sends letters.

Along those years, many pen friends appear due to the international fever produced by the fashion of the little cardboards, original and appealing in their motifs as well as cheaper than letters.

In July 1907, Josefina and her father move to a new house at 1451, Pueyrredón St.

There she marries her cousin Pepe Salas Oliver:

‘Thursday 12th – (December) (…) at twenty to nine I hadn’t had my hair done or get dressed yet and guests started to come. Mercedes dressed me. They didn’t do my hair well because we ran out of time. (…) At 9 1/4 we went with the bridal party towards the room where Monsignor Vilanova Sanz blessed our wedding. (…) We went to the dining room where we had champagne. (…) Soon after that I changed clothes and at 10 1/2 we left.’ Diary 4, p.244 b

Pepe will be an atypical husband, devoted to Josefina and her interests, which he shares and supports. He was much affectionate with his nephews, and later with his children; a lover of birds and plants; ‘friend of his friends’ and not interested in making money at all.

By March 1908, Josefina takes some pictures where Pepe and her appear cross-dressed. It is the last day of carnival, however, the idea of dressing up ‘with exchanged clothes’ is repeated several times with her nieces and later on with her children.

In the 1909 spring the couple waits for their first child.

Together with Pedro Oliver, they plan to live in Mallorca, and in the 1910 summer Josefina takes lots of pictures as a souvenir of Buenos Aires and Chacra Santa Ana.

The discomforts before the birthing labour begin on May 8th. However, she is finally operated on the 12th and the child dies during the surgery. Josefina, who is always accompanied and aided by Pepe, remains weak and downcast.

In spite of their sadness, they still uphold the idea of travelling because Pedro Oliver and Pepe Salas, both Majorcan, have been absent for 40 and 16 years respectively and wish to go back to their island. They embark in July towards Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and they settle down in the city centre.

In 1911 and 1912, their two daughters, Isabel and Juanita, are born.

Josefina and Pepe lead an active social life within the closed Majorcan bourgeoisie.

Due to their marriage and mostly because of their settlement in Mallorca Josefina takes very few photographs.

After months with health problems, by the end of 1913, Pedro Oliver dies at the age of 63 years old. A setback for his girls who adore him, for the loving care they received in their motherless infancy and adolescence.

They both decide to return Argentina with their families in February 1914.

Pepe and Josefina live six months in Rosario, Santa Fe, at Genaro and Catalina’s. With a new pregnancy, they decide to rent a house in Adrogué, province of Buenos Aires.

There they reproduce the environment of the farm in San Vicente: plants, vegetable garden, open air.

In April 1915 Pedro Salas Oliver is born.

The following year Catalina and Genaro move from Rosario to Buenos Aires, to 1451 Pueyrredón St. During those years both sisters support each other, leading a life dedicated to their children´s upbringing, schollarship, communions and sports.

Towards September 1921, Josefina has problems in her left eye, which end up in retinal detachment and the risk of being blind due to a turbid right eye.

Below the oculist’s surgery there is a printing house so Josefina decides to bind the beginnings of her Personal Diary in a single volume.

Vital and creative, Josefina surpasses pain in an exemplary way.

‘Out of my first seven notebooks I made this little volume’ Notes 1, p.003

On May 1922 , Josefina and Pepe with their children take a boat to Europe to live definitively in Mallorca. They settle down in Palma and rent a house in the city centre, at 5 Beata Catalina St, ‘a 400-year-old house’.

They live the non-hectic life of ‘The Isle of Calm’, surrounded by relatives and friends, where they attend countless religious services, popular celebrations and go through wonderful tourist circuits. Photographs along these years are scarce; home life, the distance from Buenos Aires, a city that stimulates her creativity, and the loss of her left eye, discourage Josefina. However, in June 1925, she comments:

‘…This morning an expert in cameras came and we asked him a Raffle-like box so as to put the Goezts lens from my old camera.-’ Diary 6 p.522

In this way Pepe begins taking photographs of their children and apart from copying them, he enlarges many of Josefina’s glass plates from the beginning of the century.

She devotes herself to illuminate (colour) all that material, which will be very important in the last notebooks she writes during the last ten years of her life.

During that time they send their daughters to a school in Montpellier, France for a year while Pedrito continues his studies in Madrid. Together, they go over some cities in France and Italy and visit Barcelona regularly.

Isabel, her eldest daughter graduated from a school in Palma, gets engaged with Manuel Balaguer, doctor, to whom she marries in 1934.

By the end of that year Pepe, Josefina and Juanita travel to Buenos Aires. In September 1935, her first grandson is born, Manuel Balaguer Salas.

They come back in May 1936 and in July the Spanish Civil War begins. After months of horror, Pepe and Josefina decide to go back with Pedro, their Argentinian son, to prevent him from being recruited for the Spanish army. They take the Augustus steamboat to Argentina in January 1937. Josefina and Pepe will never go back to Spain.