Caroline "La Belle" Otero
a Spanish-born dancer, actress and courtesan
Caroline “La Belle” Otero was born Agustina Otero Iglesias in Valga, Pontevedra, Galicia (Spain), on November 4, 1868, to an impoverished family. As a child she moved to Santiago de Compostela, working as a maid. At ten she was raped, which left her sterile, and at fourteen she left home with her boyfriend and dancing partner, Paco, and began working as a singer/dancer in Lisbon.
She reportedly married an Italian nobleman, Count Guglielmo, when she was 14 but apparently divorced soon after. In 1888 she found a sponsor in Barcelona who moved with her to Marseilles in order to promote her dancing career in France. She soon left him and created the character of La Belle Otero, fancying herself an Andalusian gypsy. It was once said of her that her extraordinarily dark black eyes were so captivating that they were “of such intensity that it was impossible not to be detained before them”.
Encountered in the “Lady in Red” adventure, Archibald Barisol became romantically involved with her after learning that she was not responsible for the unusual events that transpired. She stays in touch with Archibald via letters that she writes to him. Occasionally she sends photographs or “cabinet cards” of herself to him, signed and with a romantic verse.
Soon after her dancing in the adventure, she was contacted by the Les Folies Bèrgere productions in Paris for some small parts. Her career as an actress and dancer would seem to be taking off.