Just Lather, That's All

by Hernando Téllez

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What is the setting of "Just Lather, That's All" by Hernando Tellez?

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The setting of Hernando Tellez's "Just Lather, That's All" is a barbershop in an unspecified small village in Colombia, during a turbulent period of civil war known as La Violencia (1948-1958). The conflict between the liberal rebels and the conservative government is personified in the characters of the barber (a liberal rebel) and his customer (a conservative military member).

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The setting in this story is a barbershop located in a small village in Colombia.  The name of the town is never mentioned in the story.  More broadly, though it is never explicitly stated, the story is most likely set during a period of civil war in Colombia, known as La Violencia, that plagued the country for ten years between 1948 and 1958.  At least 200,000 lives were estimated lost during this time.  Most historians regard the assassination of a liberal presidential candidate in 1948 to have been the start of the conflict, which pitched liberal revolutionaries against the ruling conservative government.  In “Just Lather, That’s All,” the barber at the heart of the story is one of these liberal rebels, while his customer is a member of the conservative military.  Here we see the two sides in this civil war pitched against each other in a non-military setting – but we soon learn that there was no such thing as a non-military setting during La Violencia.

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Telez tells his story from some of his own experiences with the civil unrest that lasted through most of the early 1900's in Columbia.  This is where the setting is in the Story "Just Lather, That's All."  More specifically, the story takes place solely in a barbershop somewhere in Columbia.  The protagonist is the barber who is about to give a shave to the antagonist, who is a known killer and leader of the group fighting in their town. This is the single scene in the story and is most likely in that same time period.

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