Grandpa Kewl

Book Review – Sexuality & Marriage in Colonial Latin America


Well, if I needed another book to provide additional evidence of the terrible treatment of women over the centuries, this fit the bill. BTW – Colonial Latin America covers the time period well after the “conquest” and stops well before the liberation movements in the 1800’s….so about 200 years or so.


A couple of facts I was not aware of that I noted:

  • It was not until the Council of Trent in 1563 that the Catholic Church actually had a formalized methodology to the wedding ceremony that required a witness and a priest.
  • The Catholic Church was the first religious institution to require that the couple give their consent to the union…think about that…This was reaffirmed at the same Council and remained a firm principal. Before that, and continuing in certain parts of the world today (Islam) a girl had no say in whom she was married to…or at what age, just past puberty being the favorite.
  • And this I sorta already knew: The Catholic Church took the political stance that a King was no longer to be decided upon by the good graces of the people but was chosen by God…meaning the enshrinement of hereditary rule…so long as the Churce gave its blessing of course.

The book is s series of articles/essays written by various persons and not the product of a single author. Only one of the articles wades seriously into political rhetoric which was surprising, and welcome as the balance are factual. That’s the real strength of the book…the works are based upon an examination of actual documents that remain available and the statistics that can be derived from them. Granted that the numbers are smaller than one might want in a perfect world but they are very helpful and enlightening.

The overall consensus of the research is sorta as one would expect for this time period: Women had few rights and were often/regularly poorly treated. Abuse and abandonment  were common and the women had few resources. While all of that was what I would have expected for the time period, it was a bit surprising to find that there were exceptions and that the exceptions applied to all income levels.

The Catholic Church did recognize and permit divorce for abuse and abandonment. A much more lenient policy than I expected and more lenient until just recent times. If a woman had the fortitude to stand up for herself, and the patience to go thru a laborious process, there was redemption of sorts…altho it was not common and not easy.

And, romantic love existed, and existed more than one might have imagined. I had not expected that.

As a final note, there are some interesting NSFW (Not Safe for Work) illustrations which I had not expected.

A defense against a Spaniard intent on rape:

IMG_0001b And an official caught in the act…picture deliberately modified for general viewing:


All-in-All a quite decent read.

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