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Colonial Latin American


Review
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Conquering Discourses
of "Sexual Conquest": Of
Women, Language, and
Mestizaje
Karen Vieira Powers
Published online: 01 Jul 2010.

To cite this article: Karen Vieira Powers (2002) Conquering Discourses of "Sexual
Conquest": Of Women, Language, and Mestizaje, Colonial Latin American Review,
11:1, 7-32, DOI: 10.1080/10609160220133655
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Colonial Latin American Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2002

Conquering Discourses of Sexual Conquest: Of


Women, Language, and Mestizaje*
Karen Vieira Powers

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Northern Arizona University

An oft-repeated quip among past historians that still resonates in the present is
that the Spanish Conquest was primarily a conquest of indigenous women.
Although a glib allusion to the alleged importance of mestizaje in Spains ability
to rule over its enormous American empire, it is also a prime example of the
gendered discourse of a historiograph y that continues to glorify male sexual
domination and ascribes to women the constricted role of passive sexual objects.
Often embedded in this discourse is an implicit assumption of indigenous female
caprice, or even betrayal. Indeed, the discourse of sexual conquest is paralleled
by the deeply entrenched paradigm of woman as always already whore/traitor.
In response to this historical construct of male bravado and female treachery,
indigenistas, early feminists, and todays indigenous activists have also
conquered and colonized women by creating a totalizing discourse of rape and
victimhood that is equally disempowering. While the latter interpretation is
supported by considerable empirical evidence (yes, Spanish men raped thousands of indigenous women), it is also part of a discourse that derives from the
use of strategic essentialism. Owing to the imbalance of power, so glaringly
evident, between indigenous women and armed Spanish soldiers, the deployment
of this methodologica l device was imperative for initiating any kind of discursive shift, however incomplete. It created a position from which to deconstruct
the traitor/whore paradigm and to carve out a space for the formation of a
competing discourse of indigenous womens rape and victimhood. Nevertheless,
in this case, strategic essentialism eventually resulted in yet another truncating
paradigmindigenous woman as always already victim. While a satisfying
alternative for some, for historians it represents both progress and paralysis.
Admittedly less damning than the traitor/whore paradigm, it is still a representation that obstructs a richer, more elastic analysis of womens historical
experiences. Worse still, while it offers a much-needed alternative, it does not
replace the discourse of sexual conquest, nor does it remove indigenous women
from the center of that discourse as the main subjects/objects. Whether enticed
participants or raped victims, they remain sexually conquered, the only
difference being the presence or absence of violence.
Indeed, Latin Americanist discourses of sexual conquest seem to have escaped
interdisciplinar y feminist and postmodern efforts to eradicate writing that
conquers. Although still deeply embedded in Latin American historiography ,
writing that conquers has been paralleled by a powerful, competing discourse
1060-916 4 print/1466 1802 online/02/010007-2 6 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd on behalf of CLAR
DOI: 10.1080/1060916022013365 5

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KAREN VIEIRA POWERS

of subaltern agency for the last 30 years. This discourse may suffer at times from
the deployment of heroic language (the term conquest itself, is an example),
but it still serves to contest a hegemonic elite discourse that may be in the
process of being revitalized.1 In this sense, the Latin American genre of subaltern
agency is a critique of writing that conquers that precedes current postmodern
concerns. 2
Until recently, however, this competing discourse has not been suf ciently
extended to writing that conquers women. With some ne exceptions, such as
Indian Women of Early Mexico (Schroeder et al. 1997), the language of male
ownership, of male conquest, of female betrayal, and of womens promiscuity
(especially that of Indian and racially mixed women) is still prevalent. And it has
cut not only across the colonial divide, but also across national, ethnic, gender,
and temporal boundaries. That is, in the past it was produced by male colonizers
as well as by colonized men, and in the present it is perpetuated by international
scholars, both men and women, from different racial, ethnic and cultural
backgrounds.
The discourse of sexual conquest takes on various forms, which derive from
different local historicities , as it travels from the tongues and pens of the Spanish
chroniclers to those of todays authors. I do not intend to thoroughly historicize
this discourse, but rather to underscore its continued use in the present and to
decipher at least part of its genealogy within a colonial Latin American,
historiographica l context. Because Spain and Portugal were, perhaps, the most
patriarchal regions of Europe in the sixteenth century, discourses of sexual
conquest of course permeate the Spanish chronicles and of cial documentation
of the Iberian invasion and colonization of the Americas.
In northern Mexico, for example, a Franciscan friar who accompanied Onates
expedition to the Pueblos in 1598 reported that he had heard the Spanish soldiers
shout let us go to the pueblos to fornicate with Indian women. Only with
lascivious treatment are Indian women conquered (cited in Gutierrez 1991, 51).
In the North Andes, even Cieza de Leon, thought to be the least romantic and
most impartial Spanish chronicler, reported in mid sixteenth century that some
of the Indian women near Cuenca were beautiful, not a little lascivious, and
fond of Spaniards (1984, 208). In the nineteenth century, William Prescott, a
noted North American historian, wrote conquest histories of both Mexico and
Peru which, while thoroughly male-centric interpretation s that revolve around
the swashbuckling , military triumphs of the Spaniards, are not especially unkind
to women. For Prescott, women barely exist, but when he does bring them on
the scene, he usually writes about them with the utmost Victorian propriety.
Even so, the discourse of sexual conquest still presides in his work, as we can
see in his description of Dona Marina (or Malintzin): Cortes won by her
[Marinas] charms, made her his mistress. Marina made herself mistress of
the Castilian [language] [which] she learned the more readily as it was to her the
language of love (1843, 163).
Twentieth-century examples abound of how the discourse of sexual conquest
has been maintained over the centuries and across national boundaries. In his
Race Mixture in the History of Latin America, Magnus Morner concludes at-out
that the Spanish conquest of the Americas was a conquest of women (1967,
8

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CONQUERING DISCOURSES OF SEXUAL CONQUEST

22). Also in 1967, R. C. Padden states, Biologically speaking, it was neither


microbe nor sword nor mailed st that conquered Mexico. It was the membrus
febrilis the Spaniards commonly left more pregnancies in their camps than
they did casualties on the eld of battle (1967, 229 31). In addressing this same
quote, Stephanie Wood charges, ttingly, that Padden shielded the Spaniards
from the epithet of rapists by asserting that they were just emulating the
behavior of the indigenous lords and that the conquest was amorous. Wood
notes that he exonerated the Spanish soldier further, by alleging that the
[indigenous woman] sought that exquisite pain as avidly as he (1998, 9,
25 26).
In 1983, Luis Mart n would conquer Indian and casta (racially mixed and
African) women by claiming that Spanish men, once there was a substantive
supply of Spanish women in colonial Peru, felt bored with them, while the
Indian and the exotic mestiza and mulatta appeared to them as much more
desirable sexual partners (153). Third-world feminist critics would place this
quote squarely within the realm of a discourse that colonizes the female other
through sexualization and exoticization. In 1995, Esteva-Fabregat further embellished the discourse of sexual conquest by emphasizing and totalizing the alleged
mutual attraction of Spanish men and Indian women as the critical factor in
mestizaje:
From the moment of their landing in the Antilles, the Spanish felt attracted to
Indian women; all reports of the period lapse into recognizing the great sexual
satisfaction that the Spanish enjoyed with [them]. Indian women did not resist
them and offered themselves freely and with pleasure to their demands.
(112 13)

And in 1991, Ramon Gutierrez publishe d his award-winning, yet highly controversial book, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away, which has been
soundly criticized by Pueblo intellectuals who characterize it as a sexualization
of Pueblo women that not only recolonizes them, but grossly misrepresents
Pueblo culture (3 94).
The discourse of womens betrayal has also been dominant in Latin American
historiograph y and has stood the test of time. Lopez de Gomara cited a very
early example of an indigenous male discourse of female betrayal, when he
described an incident that occurred during the invasion of Quito, circa 1534. The
Inca leader Ruminahui was reported to have said to the women of his entourage,
Rejoice, because the Christians are coming, with whom you can enjoy yourselves. When some of them laughed he allegedly cut their throats (1946, 23).3
In 1615, the indigenous chronicler Guaman Poma de Ayala portrayed Indian
women as accomplices of the Spaniards in the ruination of Peru.
Todas son: embusteras, golosas, ladrones, desobedientes, y en especial,
grandes putas pre eren vivir como concubinas de los espanolesy en
ocasiones con negros y mulatosque casarse con un indio comun. (1980,
800/855 [869], cited in Osorio 1990, 310)

A recent rendition of Guaman Pomas brash critique is presented in 1995 by


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KAREN VIEIRA POWERS

Esteva-Fabregat who writes of Indian women who form unions with Spanish
men:

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[I]n many cases Indian women preferred those [men] who triumphed [in
battle] and with whom, on the basis of vicarious identi cation, they also
obtained, aside from purely sexual satisfaction, the symbolic reward of joining
with the victor. (159)

Embedded in the discourse of female betrayal is the woman as always already


whore paradigm that was woven throughout colonial Spanish and indigenous
male discourse, and is still prevalent in contemporary writing that conquers.
Perhaps no native American woman has been as implicated in this particular
discourse as much as the widely maligned Malintzin, Cortes interpreter. From
nationalist Mexican rhetoric to twentieth-century Chicana feminist works, Malintzin, or Dona Marina, has consistentl y been dragged through the mud of sexual
promiscuity, treachery, treason and dupery.4 Happily, Frances Karttunen has
recently deconstructed these representations by using Nahuatl language sources
to reconstruct Malintzins lived experiences and offers us a much richer
interpretation than any that I have read to date (1997, 29).
Finally, Richard Trexlers book Sex and Conquest: Gendered Violence,
Political Order, and the European Conquest of the Americas (1995) turns our
attention away from the sexual violence suffered by indigenous women and
toward that of equally abused menEuropean, Native American and otherwise.
His main subjects of investigatio n are male rape, homosexual passives, and the
berdache (transvestize d men raised as women in some Native American cultures
to serve other, more powerful men in all things, including sex). Trexlers most
important insight is that the sexual abuse of men was merely another form of
using sexuality and gender to establish hierarchy, but among same-sex groups.
Even outside their dominant position vis-a`-vis women, some European and
Native American men sought to dominate other men through sexual penetration,
thereby creating a male hierarchy by turning less powerful men into women. If,
as Trexler states, male rape (or to be turned into a woman) was the ultimate
punishment and humiliation for a man, then it is clear that this practice and the
discursive formations that grew out of it were deeply embedded in misogynist
ideologies. Hence, the underlying principles of Trexlers analysis about men are
intimately tied to the gender discourses of power relations that began, rst and
foremost, with the subordinatio n and even abhorrence of women, regardless of
race or class, by the men of the period.
Irrespective of Trexlers important contribution , I cannot help but point out
that his selection of a book title that universalize s sexual conquest, but is
overwhelmingly about the experiences of men, is, in my opinion, a form of
academic colonization. If Trexler really meant his statement that he did not
intend to downplay the sexual violence done to past women (6 7), he would
probably have named his book less appropriatively ; perhaps Male Sex and
Conquest would have been a good starting point. Despite his disclaimer, the title
implies the subsumptio n of women under the sexually abusive experiences of
men in a historical episode marked by nearly unparalleled sexual violence
against women.
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Masculinist and Feminist Language in Current Histories


Above, I have discussed salient examples of the discourse of sexual conquest,
but now I would like to problematize its less overt usage by many scholars who
are otherwise quite conscientiou s about how they represent the subjects of their
works. Common use of masculinist discourse in recent Latin American scholarship, even among feminist historians (myself included), continues to be a serious
obstacle to bringing women (all women, not just subaltern women) into history.
For example, the use of seemingly innocuous terms, like gift, mistress,
concubine and harem, is representative of the pervasive and longstandin g
imposition of Western gender constructions onto sixteenth-century , native American cultures. Certainly, these are words that do not convey what these arrangements meant to indigenous women (and men).
In the pre-Hispanic and early colonial periods, indigenous societies of the
Americas often formed political alliances through conjugal or secondary unions
made between women of particular ethnic groups with men of other ethnic
groupsarrangements that U.S., European, and Latin American scholars have
often labeled gifts of women or exchanges of women. These unions had a
political purpose of which the indigenous gifts (read: women) must have been
aware. And maybe they did not see themselves as mere pawns or commercial
objects, but as agents in important interethnic political strategies. Likewise,
so-called harems of indigenous women were, to both Mesoamerican and
Andean peoples (men and women alike), part of a well-organized, ne-tuned
political system that used polygyny as its axis.5 Recently, there has been very
good work done in both the Mesoamerican and Andean areas on this precise
topic, but even many of these authors are still describing women with masculinist terms like gift, mistress, and harem, in spite of the lascivious connotations of these words and the truncating effect they have on the interpretation of
womens lived experiences.
Mistress, in its sexual context, is currently de ned as a woman who has
sexual intercourse with a man and who is sometimes supported by him for a
period of time without being married; concubine is similarly de ned as a
woman who cohabits with a man without being legally married to him.6 My
critique of these terms does not imply that women living in these contexts did
not exist; of course, they did. Rather, it is based on how these words imply male
ownership and perpetuate a discourse of sexual conquest in current historical
writing. First, Latin Americanists often use the terms mistress and concubine
in a universalizin g way to describe any woman who was involved in an
extramarital relationship . This denies these women agency in their own sexual
choices and totalizes them, thereby obfuscating the wider range of their roles,
behaviors, activities, and lived experiences. Second, since few scholars, if any,
deploy a semantic counterpart for men who engage in extramarital relationships,
the use of mistress and concubine is overtly sexist, not to mention degrading
to a substantial population of women, both historically and in the present.
Harem was conceptualized by Spanish chroniclers of the colonial period as
living in the Islamic fashiona phrase that, if we consider the adversarial
relationship between Spaniards and Moors of the time, was sure to have had a
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KAREN VIEIRA POWERS

racist and misogynist bent to it. Use of the term by more recent writers
undoubtedl y has been reinforced by the colonial gender construction s created
later in imperial British writing about India and the Middle Eastan orientalist
discourse that has been soundly critiqued by many cultural critics.7 Even so, use
of the words mistress and harem in the Latin American bibliograph y of the
last 30 years is so rampant that citing examples would be unfair to the authors
selected; let it suf ce to say that I recently punctuated a manuscript with the term
mistress before realizing how inappropriate it was.
Although it is dif cult to force ourselves out of long-term usage and to see
beyond the gender constructions of our own cultures and generations, is it really
that dif cult? It is noteworthy that so many of the contributor s to Lavrins
Sexuality and Marriage in Colonial Latin America (1989) and to Schroeder,
Wood and Hasketts Indian Women of Early Mexico (1997) were quite adept at
avoiding the discourse of sexual conquest and seemed to have had little trouble
constructing a gender-sensitive lexicon with which to describe women in
extramarital relationships.
In order to uncover the interior, cultural and gendered meanings of the
experiences of women whose social construction is both culturally and temporally differentiated from that of the contemporary West, many scholars must
step outside established categories of knowledge. To accomplish this effectively,
it is rst necessary to pay more serious attention to the language we use to
describe women. At the same time, however, it is imperative to make strategic
use of appropriate feminist theory and some of its terminology to deconstruct
and reinterpret womens experience, in order to dismantle longstandin g and
current, male-centric discursive frames that have been superimposed onto colonized women in the Americas, the sexist and racist historical contents of which
have become naturalized over time.
The discourse still used today in Latin American history has a particular
epistemologica l genealogy that can be traced back to the Spaniards arrival. And
it is not only marked by overt usage of masculinist terminology, such as that
described earlier, but continues to engage in major sins of omission that serve
to maintain androcentric histories. As has been a persistent feminist critique, it
is not only what we say about women and how we say it, but what we do not
say.8 Of course, these omissions permeated sixteenth-centur y discourse, both in
Iberia and in its colonies, owing to European gender constructions of the time.
But what is our excuse for omitting women now?
A poignant exampleand there are in nite other early examplesof
silencing women in the past is a quote by Juan de Zumarraga, the rst
archbishop of Mexico, who described mestizos, sometime in the 1530s, as
orphaned boys, sons of Spanish men and Indian women who wandered through
the countryside , ignorant of the law and Christianity and reduced to eating raw
meat (Documentos ineditos del siglo XVI para la historia de Mexico 1914,
152 53, cited in Cope 1994, 15). How are we to interpret this quote? Were
non-elite mestizas invisible to the archbishop? Or, was there a real historical
difference between the treatment and experiences of sixteenth-century , non-elite
male and female mestizo children; were girls better cared for by their Spanish
relatives (actually there is some evidence to the contrary). Or did the bishop
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CONQUERING DISCOURSES OF SEXUAL CONQUEST

think that the Spanish conquistadors were so virile that they made only boy
babies? Then Zumarraga attributed the plight of these boys to their Spanish
fathers who must have died in the conquest and conservation of this land before
they could be rewarded by the crown. This leaves me wondering, where were
these boys Indian mothers? Did they die in epidemics or as casualties of war?
Did they give birth, and leave their boy babies in a eld somewhere? Were they
forcibly separated from their mestizo sons by Spanish fathers, who later died,
leaving these boys abandoned? Or are the boys mothers also invisible to the
archbishop? I believe that the last interpretation is probably the correct one.
I realize that Zumarraga and other Spanish chroniclers and of cials were the
product of an Iberian patriarchal society, and that my analysis may seem
anachronistic. But I dwell on this quote because its sixteenth-century , male-centric ideologica l content still resonates in contemporary, twenty- rst-century
writing about the period and site under investigation . Here lies the epistemological origins of todays largely masculinist, Latin American discourse.
We are doing writing that conquers and especially writing that conquers
women. By staying stuck in a discursive eld that, through the use of overtly
sexist language, continues to construct women in a less than respectable way,
and that, through sins of omission, under the guise of gender-neutral scholarship,
still excludes womens real experiences from the historical record, we continue
to produce histories that perpetuate and enhance masculinist historical interpretations. Watching our language is an essential part of the process by which
methodologica l innovation s can be created that may revolutioniz e the historical
interpretation of womens (and mens) experiences. It is also imperative for the
deconstructio n of some of the time-honored doctrines of Latin American
historiography a subject that will be developed later.
Another critical dilemma for historians writing about women is how to avoid
the anachronistic imposition of twentieth-century, Western feminist concepts
onto culturally and temporally speci c gender histories and still render feminist
interpretation s whose language has the intellectua l force to deconstruct
Conquest historiography .9 This is a historiograph y that, while claiming to be
gender neutral, is often based on a more subtle heroic discourseone that still
uses terms of male glori cation and female subordination /denigration to describe
sixteenth-centur y historical contexts. At other times, its writers claim to be using
gender-neutral or gender-blind methodologies , because they do not use overtly
sexist terms in their works; nevertheless, their scholarship is still primarily about
men.
Terms like mistress, whore and conquest itself are not likely to have a
place in a feminist understandin g of the military and sexual engagement that
occurred between Spaniards and Indians. I suggest that there are two levels of
language use that need to be considered here: one that respects the cultural and
temporal speci city of gender histories, and one that at the same time has the
power to unpack and transform the supposedly gender-neutral language that we
use to interpret history for a contemporary, twenty- rst-century readership.
Perhaps this will require the use of some feminist language (as opposed to the
masculinist language that now predominates)even if we have to resort to a
form of strategic anachronization . Note that what some scholars term feminist
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KAREN VIEIRA POWERS

jargon these days is really a counter-masculinist language that if used


consistentl y by like-minded historians could become as commonplace as the
masculinist language we now use.
Since about 1980 or so, there have been works that have attempted to endow
Spanish and Indian women of the early colonial period with a more representative range of behaviors, actions, and motives.10 There is an urgent need to
develop more of these works in varied thematic and geographic areas, to
promote works on both African and racially mixed women, and to synthesize
local studies into an alternative narrative (and yes, I do mean narrative) that
reaches the textbooks that we assign to our undergraduate students.11
After careful review of all textbooks and related classroom materials (collections of essays and document readers) on colonial Latin American history
published from 1980 to the present, I found that not one devotes more than 25
pages to womens experiences, in spite of the recent production of a considerable
corpus of new primary research.12 Even the latest edition of Burkholder and
Johnson s Colonial Latin America (2001), while an improvement on the quality
of textbook inclusion of women and using of some of the new bibliography, still
relegates womens historical experiences to fewer than 20 pages. The most
curious remarks about women are, perhaps, those of McAllisters textbook,
which contains one paragraph on women in the Americas, followed by a
paragraph on the role of horses that begins with the sentence, Neither can the
animals of the Conquest be overlooked (1984, 97 98). Lastly, Susan Socolows
recent book, The Women of Colonial Latin America (2000), is an excellent
overview of womens history that will make a ne addition to our bookshelves
and class assignments. Despite this welcome contribution , however, we are still
nowhere near a gender-integrated narrative.
The prevalence of gender-neutral works and the under-synthesize d state of
gendered studies in colonial Latin American history have allowed for the
perpetuation of many historiographica l premises that would no doubt be considerably altered if gender and its intersection with race and class were introduced
as principal categories of analysis. Although there are many historical themes
with which we could test this hypothesis , I will choose to discuss women and
gender with regard to two related themesmestizaje and the race-based social
hierarchyperhaps the most formative racial and cultural processes of the
regions history.13 By examining the existing literature, and more importantly the
void in it, I will speculate about how a gendered analysis of mestizaje could
challenge long-held historiographica l assumptions and may even turn fundamental constructs on their headsconstructs as pervasive as the race-based social
hierarchy.
Gender and Mestizaje
In the Plaza of the Three Cultures in Mexico City hangs a plaque that states, In
1521, Cuauhtemoc surrendered to Hernan Cortes; it was neither a victory nor a
defeat, but the birth of the mestizo people who are the Mexico of today. While
the overt message is about the result of a military battle between two male
protagonists , the implicit and more important message is about the racial and
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CONQUERING DISCOURSES OF SEXUAL CONQUEST

cultural product of relationships between men and women. Once again, womens
role is obfuscated, even in an historical setting in which it was so obviously
essential.
The catalytic nature of interracial sexual unions and womens part in their
proliferation is illuminated if examined in the broader context of Spanish
imperial organization as it has been constructed by Latin Americanist historians
until now. In the New World, the colonizers attempted to reconstruct an
accentuated version of the corporate society of their homeland and to superimpose it upon a multiracial, colonial situation. By the mid sixteenth century,
Spaniards, Indians, and Africans were incorporated into a race-based social
hierarchya legal caste system conceived in Iberian organicism, informed by its
intersection with pre-existing, indigenous sociopolitica l organization, and exacerbated by the relations of European colonialism .
The conquest of one race by another placed the conquerors race on top and
that of the conquered on the bottom, giving the former the natural right to
collect tribute and labor services from the latter. This division was further
manifested by the spatial and political segregation of the two main groups
(Spaniards and Indians) into two separate republics based on race: the Republic
of the Spaniards and the Republic of the Indians. It was a construct intended to
facilitate colonial exploitation and to preserve cultural and racial purity. In the
rst half of the sixteenth century, however, the shortage of Spanish women in
the New World precluded, in part, the maintenance of this division. The
consequent intensi cation of interracial sexual unions led to accelerated mestizaje, eventually turning the dual republics concept on its head and throwing the
original three-tiered caste system into disarray. In addition, as the myriad
interracial progeny of these unions increased in number, they represented a
growing challenge to the colonial order.
The work of most Latin Americanists is premised on the historiographica l
conceptualizatio n of colonial Spanish America as a pluriracial, hierarchical
society in which each estate was strictly differentiated from the others (Saignes
and Bouysse-Cassagn e 1992, 37). However, in most areas of Latin America, this
did not bar linkages between and mobility across estates through sexual unions,
wealth, and social posturing. Nor did it always bar movement inside the
micro-hierarchies of each estate, as witnessed recently by Ann Twinams work
on the frequency of illegitimacy among elites and its attendant themes of gender,
honor, sexuality, and passing (1999). Yet, in spite of her careful documentation (as well as that provided by many other authors) of the constant movement
both within and across castes and the subsequent blurring of both racial lines and
gradations of social status, we continue to totalize Latin American colonial
society as a race-based social hierarchya legal caste system. Perhaps, if we
were to conduct on-the-ground analyses of the people doing the moving, this
construct might turn out to be somewhat diluted, devoid of class and gender
substance. 14
The uidity of the colonial order was obviously not intended by the policy
makers of the Spanish state; it was created, in spite of them, by the actions of
the crowns subjects, both colonists and colonized. And it can be best explained
by uncovering the difference between prescribed and actual behaviors, between
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KAREN VIEIRA POWERS

de jure and de facto social systems. The elasticity of the social hierarchy owed
to the breach between ascriptive racial categories, with their attendant privileges/
restrictions, on the one hand, and how these categories actually continued to link
up sexually (biologically ) and socially through real on-the-ground liaisons.
These were sexual relationship s that developed across race and class and had a
multiplicit y of originsinitial rape and pregnancy, mutual opportunism , male
and female seduction, and yes, even genuine love.
Perhaps one of the reasons for scant historical production on the role of
women in mestizaje is that the persistence of masculinist and gender-neutral
language has blinded us to the gendered nature of the process and, in general,
has obscured the signi cance of women in the cultural and sociopolitica l
evolution of Latin American societies. Another may be that a gendered interpretation of racial mixing and transculturatio n requires a deeper analysis than
theoretical tools have permitted until now. Feminist historians, in our own and
other elds, have been struggling against both the real neglect of women in
history and additive womens histories, by unmasking gender-neutral methodologies and history-as-usua l categories of analysis to discover the real signi cance
of gender in history (Nair 1994, 82 100). If more Latin Americanists were to
follow their lead, it is not only probable but certain that a new historiograph y
would arise in which gender would be seen clearly as structuring the process of
mestizaje; after all, what other theme in Latin American history is more about
women and men?
In 1980, June Nash lamented,
[T]he creative role of Indian women and their mestizo offspring in producing
a mestizo culture that brought together traits from the preconquest society and
from Europe has been largely ignored. Undoubtedly, this lack of recognition
is in uenced by an androcentric perspective which equates womens productivity with biological reproduction. A priority in ethnohistorical research should
be that of discovering the full contribution women made in the Americas and
elsewhere. (145)

How far have early colonial Latin Americanists gone in taking up Nashs
banner?
We are starting to see some wonderful works on mestizaje, but historical
production on the role of women in that process is only just beginning. Although
these works emanate from Mesoamerica and the Andes, I will limit my
discussion to the state of scholarship in Andean studies. In 1992, Tomoeda and
Millones produced a whole volume entitled Quinientos anos de mestizaj e en los
Andes which included the research of ten Peruvian and international scholars.
While their works were full of intriguing new insights, never once did they
broach the subject of the role of women in this most important formative
process. Salomons Indian Women of Early Colonial Quito touches on
mestizaje, but only tangentially (1988). And while Alejandra Osorio, in her
seminal article Seduccion y conquista , treats Indian womens choices of sexual
partners and hence comes closest to nding womens agency, she did not intend
her work to link women to the wider process of mestizaje (1990).
In Peru, the current research of Mar a Emma Mannarelli (1993), Mar a
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Rostworowski de Diez Canseco (1989), Nancy van Deusen (1990), Kathryn


Burns (1999) and Karen Graubart (2000) is devoted, at least in part, to studying
indigenous women and mestizas in Lima, Cuzco, and colonial Peru in general.
In Bolivia, Ana Mar a Presta (2000b) focuses on the rst mestizas of the city of
La Plata in the Audiencia of Charcas, while Luis Miguel Glave (1989) has
studied urban female migration and the beginnings of mestizaje in the city of La
Paz. Also in La Paz, Rossana Barragan, the gifted Bolivian historian, has written
what is perhaps the most sophisticate d analysis of gender and mestizaje to date.
In her essay Entre polleras, nanacas y lliqllas: los mestizos y cholas en la
conformacion de una tercera republica she historicizes the emblematic clothing that cholas (mestizas) chose (and still choose) to wear in order to differentiate themselves from other groups as cholas of the city of La Paz (1997). In
Ecuador, Kim Gaudermans dissertation (1998) on seventeenth-centur y women
in the Audiencia of Quito examines the impact of gender, social status and race
on indigenous womens legal capacity and social identity. I also have a project
underway on the role of women in rural mestizaje in the sixteenth-centur y
Audiencia of Quito. Hopefully these works will go far in providing some of the
links we need to produce gendered studies of mestizaje.
What follows are some of the themes that are being developed in current
Andean research on Indian and casta women, especially those who formed
interracial unions with Spanish men. Probably the topic that has received the
most attention lately concerns the highly con icted lives that many of these
women led. For decades now, there has been a growing bibliograph y on male
caciques struggles to straddle the colonial divide; how they were forced to live
in two worlds and to appease both the Spanish regime and their own people. Yet,
until recently, historians have been strangely quiet about the equally or even
more tenuous position of colonized women, both Indian and mestiza, who also
lived their lives between two worldsthough more intimate worlds than that of
the cacical dilemma. They straddled, painfully, the indigenous world of their
families and cultural loyalties on the one hand, and the Spanish world of their
colonial oppressors, male partners and mestizo children on the other. World
straddling most likely occurred more often among women in urban settings,
and probably with more frequency among elite women, although I am sure
we could uncover many cases in the countryside too, if we tried. Some of
the works mentioned above have begun to approach examinations of the
intersection of gender, race, and class in order to trace the colonial status
formation of Indian and mestiza women. None has yet done a deep or extensive
analysis of this intersection, but they have made a good beginning. For example,
Andeanists have not yet produced scholarshipat the level of Ann Stolers in
Southeast Asia (1991)that would establish and historicize the multiplicit y of
ways that gender, race and class functioned as of cial lines of demarcation,
however porous, to construct and maintain a colonial hierarchy in the Viceroyalty of Peru.
Five of the ten scholars mentioned above have uncovered and analyzed the
painful predicaments of indigenous women, both commoners and noblewomen,
both married and unmarried, who were brutally separated from their mestizo
childrenoften at tender agesby Spanish partners who perceived them as
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incapable of providing their progeny with a proper Spanish upbringing . Glaves


work, in contrast, focuses on the migration of common Indian women to the city
of La Paz, where they worked as domestic servants. Because their services often
included forced sex with the men of the household, Glave portrays them as the
mothers of the rst mestizos and honors their pre-eminent role in the process of
mestizaje. The latter analysis seems a bit convoluted, however, because their role
can hardly be described as proactive.
Living with the enemy is another theme of con ict that is examined by
some of these authors, especially Mannarelli. Perhaps the most heartwrenching
of her examples is that of Cushi Carhuay Coya and Dona Beatriz Clara
Coyathe sister and niece of Tupac Amaru, the rebel Inca. After the annihilation of Vilcabamba in 1572, Toledo forced them to marry Spaniards. The niece,
Beatriz Clara, was married to Mart n Garc a de Loyola, her uncles captor, as
though she were a war trophy (1990, 235). Rostworowski also broaches this
topic in her biography of Francisca Pizarro, the mestiza daughter of the leader
of the Spanish invasion of Peru. She points out that both Quispe Sisa, the
daughter of Atahualpa, and Angelina Yupanqui, his intended principal wife,
were sequentially taken to live with Francisco Pizarro for his sexual grati cation.
She wonders out loud about what kinds of feelings must have surged in these
women and especially whether they resented Pizarro for killing Atahualpa, their
father and husband to-be, respectively.
She also reveals that Inca women took differentiated positions about their
loyalties during this period (just as indigenous men did). At the siege of Lima
in 1536, Contarhuacho, Atahualpas secondary wife and Quispe Sisas mother,
brought 1,000 troops from her curacazgo to aid the Spaniards. So, she supported
Pizarro, the man who had killed her husband but was also the father of her
grandchildren. On the other hand, at the Inca retreat from Cuzco in 1537, one
of Manco Incas lovers was burned to death without making a sound, rather than
divulge his whereabouts (1989, 26 27).
In general, the Spanish invaders of Peru deceitfully took elite Inca women
from their families under the guise of marriage, but then made them their
concubines. Karen Graubart broached this subject recently in her analysis of the
discourses of chroniclers in the 1550s, such as Juan de Betanzos. Apparently,
these writers promoted a type of elite, political mestizaje that celebrated an
idealized union of Spanish and Andean elites (2000, 220). The reality, however,
was concubinage and extortion of Inca property through temporary (and occasionally longstanding ) liaisons with the daughters of high-ranking Incas. Cieza
de Leon (1550 1554), noting this disparity, condemned the Spanish
conquistadors for transforming Inca noblewomen into whores ([1550 1554]
1989, 139 40, cited in Graubart 2000, 223).
During the Toledan period, however, the hopeful discourse of political
mestizaje and unity yielded to one of historical Inca tyranny and the need to
impose an authoritarian Spanish state apparatus over the former Inca empire. At
the turn of the seventeenth century, Guaman Poma uses the sexuality of
indigenous women as a vehicle for expressing the very serious problems of
colonial Peru and the need for reform. Graubarts sad description of this
discursive shift is worth quoting: Andean women, whose poverty was emi18

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CONQUERING DISCOURSES OF SEXUAL CONQUEST

nently visible on the city streets as well as in the countryside, were reduced to
a symbol of all that was wrong with Peru (2000, 230).
The lived experiences of the rst mestizas is also a topic that is beginning
to receive considerable attention. Besides the vast wealth and high status that
some mestizas achieved in the rst half of the sixteenth century (Presta 2000b;
Rostworowski 1989), other less advantageous but somewhat more consequential
matters are also under investigation . Van Deusen and Burns have studied casas
de recogimiento and convents in Lima and Cuzco, respectively. These were
religious-educationa l institution s that functioned as forms of social control by
collecting stray girls (especially mestizas), and later by receiving girls whose
fathers or guardians found it convenient and productive to institutionaliz e them.
The education that women received in these institution s was intended to secure
their adherence to the gender construction s of Spanish patriarchy and to
guarantee the Spanish acculturation of mestiza women. Educating mestizas to be
Spaniards was intended to expand the marriage market for Spanish men at a time
when there was a severe shortage of Spanish women in the Americas.
Assigning the status of honorary whites to culturally Spanish mestizas
would increase the number of eligible partners for a growing population of
Spanish men. This sociocultural con ation was to assist in the reproduction of
a Spanish colonial society that sought to maintain itself amidst a sea of
indigenous cultures, and at a time when gender imbalances and mortality rates
were unfavorable to survival, let alone cultural and political hegemony (van
Deusen 1990; 2001; Burns 1999, chapter 1; Kuznesof 1995).
The second half of the sixteenth century, however, saw an increase in the
number of Spanish women and, concurrently, a downward shift in the meaning
and status of mestizo. This sea change in the societal position of mestizos
affected Indian womens choices of sexual partners, and mestiza womens status
and treatment (van Deusen 2001). In relation to these hierarchical changes,
Mannarelli claims that as the sixteenth century wore on, lower-status Indian and
casta women more often than not were left in a situation where the fathers of
their illegitimate children were absent and did not recognize their offspring. This
led to the formation of matricentral families, where children born out of wedlock
lived with their casta and Indian mothers; the latter enjoyed the autonomy of
being heads of household where female authority reigned. They did not suffer
the dispossessio n of their children and some could still live honorably within
urban plebeian society (1995, 141).
From Mannarellis work especially, I was able to glean a rather surprising
direction for future researchthe need to do deeper work on men in order to
produce better gendered histories. As Mannarelli takes us through a lengthy
discussion of why Spanish men rarely married Indian women, she is able to
produce a much richer interpretation of this historical question by bringing into
play several governing issues. The absence of marriage to Indian women owed
to Iberian gender constructions , male concepts of honor, Christian Islamic
relations, the meaning of marriage in Iberian society (wealth consolidation) , the
illegitimacy of many of the Spanish invadersall of which help her to break out
of the truncating binary paradigms of Indian woman as victim and European
man as perpetrator (1990, 229 31).
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Ironically, perhaps a more elastic history of mestiza and Indian women in


these interracial sexual unions also requires a richer historical interpretation of
their Spanish male partners. Until we esh out the sexual, emotional, and
practical motives and the interior meanings of these relationship s to both the
women and men involved, we will continue to end up with the deeply
entrenched story of the victimized and humiliated Indian/casta woman who,
because she is of an inferior racial status, is used and then abandoned by her
Spanish conqueror when better options (Spanish women) present themselves. Providing broader and deeper portrayals of Spanish men and Indian
women (or putting esh back on the objects) necessitates asking many new
questions. 15 What are the cultural, status, and gender meanings of marriage,
extramarital relationships , interracial progeny, and illegitimacy to these men?
James Lockhart broached this subject as far back as 1972, but to my knowledge
his important insights were not taken up again in the Andes until Mannarelli
used his work 20 years later in her article Sexualidad y desigualdades genericas
en el Peru del siglo XVI (1990). It is through the study of the sources on the
conquistadors that Lockhart was able to uncover the women with whom they
had liaisons and the latters stories. One of the ways that we can enhance our
interpretation of Spanish men in interracial sexual unions is by following
Lockharts lead and bringing into play deeper social and cultural studies of them
that may lead us to the women with whom they shared important parts of their
lives.
Many scholars think that the conquerors have been overstudied, but our
interpretation s of them, too, have suffered from a historiograph y premised on
male sexual conquest and other acts of bravado. By constricting interpretation s
of these men and their attitudes toward their sexual partners, we are, perhaps
unknowingly , truncating and demeaning the historical experiences of Indian and
casta women as well. Similarly, what are the cultural, status, and gender
meanings of sexual unions to these women; many scholars have laid the
ethnohistorica l groundwork to answer some of these questions, especially those
dealing with culturally speci c attitudes toward gender and sexuality among
particular ethnic groups. It appears that there has been a considerable lag
between our historical production on colonized women and the language we use
to describe them and their relationship s with Spanish men.
Because we still invest too much in the varied yet recurring paradigms of
Spanish man as always already sexual conqueror and Indian/casta woman as
always already mistress/concubine, we are often left with a stilted, Hollywood
rendering of colonial interracial unions that continues to cast both men and
women in restricted, unidimensiona l roles. This has an especially negative effect
on interpretation s of colonized partners, because it leaves them as tainted, loose
and lost women whom we are still forcing to shoulder the shaming Western
onus of extramarital, interracial relationships .
If there has been little research on the role of women in urban mestizaje,
historical production on their role in the countryside is practically non-existent.
Nevertheless, tidbits can be gleaned from general works on race mixture and
transculturation and from the work of those who have primarily focused on
urban mestizaje. For example, Burns points out that in the vicinity of colonial
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Cuzco many rural mestizos were so acculturated to indigenous norms that they
were called mestizos en habito de indio and needed Quechua Spanish interpreters (1993, 94). Scholars have alluded to these Andeanized mestizos for a
long time, but little research has been conducted about them, let alone about the
women among them.
Saignes and Bouysse-Cassagn e report that in 1626 the bishop of Cuzco
pointed out the enormous growth of the mestizo sector in the Indian towns of his
district and said that the mestizos were iguales en todo con los indios, whom
they exploit mercilessly (1992, 30). A possible interpretation is that these
mestizos were culturally Indianat least super ciallybut exploited those
darker in skin tone and, I imagine, poorer than they were. This may imply the
early existence of strati cation inside Indian pueblos, based partly on racial
status.
Rural mestizaje may also have been an important catalyst in a transculturativ e
process that produced new sociocultural and political formations inside indigenous
communities. Historiographica l assumptions have generally been that mestizos
migrated to Indian towns to make a living, due to the scarcity of opportunitie s for
them in urban centersa scarcity often based on their racial status. My assessment of the empirical data available for the Audiencia of Quito, however, is that
many, if not most, were born in the Indian towns. As the products of Spanish and
Andean women and men, they may have had regular or even irregular contact with
their Spanish parents, perhaps making them agents of cultural hybridizatio n and
socioeconomic differentiation in their communities.16 Certainly if we were to
conduct a gendered analysis of this kind of rural mestizaje, especially womens
choices of sexual partners, we would nd Indian and mestiza womens agency in
this admittedly speculative cultural transformation.
Lockhart concludes that many mestizo children were never recognized by
their Spanish fathers and grew up as Indians with their mothers, thereby being
absorbed into indigenous society. He also claims that at all levels mestiza girls
received more lavish care than mestizo boys and probably a higher percentage
of them were absorbed into Spanish Peruvian society at a time when gender
imbalance in the Spanish population required them (1968, 169). I do not doubt
this interpretation for the fairly urban setting and the early years about which he
is writing. In my recent research on rural mestizaje in the North Andes, however,
I found that mestizo sons tended either to be brought up by their Spanish fathers,
or to leave the Indian towns at the age of tributary status to avoid being
registered on the census roles. Mestiza daughters almost always stayed by the
sides of their Indian mothers in the pueblos (Powers 1995). These women
probably married Indian men or mestizo men who were culturally Indian, and
contributed to the reproduction of Andean society, especially in the sixteenth
century, when warfare and epidemic diseases were causing high mortality, low
birth rates, and gender imbalances in the Indian Republic.
Gender and the Transformation of Latin American Historiography: The
Case of Mestizaje
Studying mestizaje as a gendered process and elucidating the role of women
could revolutioniz e longstandin g historiographica l concepts of Latin American
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KAREN VIEIRA POWERS

history, such as the colonial construct known as the race-based social hierarchy. To do this, however, scholars may need to decenter the core areas
(central Mexico and the southern Andes) and study the so-called margins of
empire. This is because in the periphery, variations and deviations of long-held
historiographica l assumptions often appear in high relief, while studies of the
center may provide only glimpses of difference. Research in the periphery may
provide scholars of the center with alternative models with which to compare,
contrast, con rm and revise their own ndings. In addition, while more urban
studies of mestizaje are in order, an expansion of research on rural mestizaje is
especially pressing. Some of the historiographica l tenets that may be likely
candidates for deconstruction , if more Latin Americanists pursue this project, are
discussed below.
First, most assuredly, the notion of Spanish colonization as a sexual conquest
of women would be proven an absurdity. Through careful empirical studies of
womens choice of and acquiescence to particular sexual partners, bipolar
interpretation s of Spanish Indian relationship s as the result of either rape on the
one hand or complicity on the other are likely to break down. Rather, it is by
locating the interstices between rape and complicitymutual consent, opportunism, and even genuine lovethat we are likely to nd where womens
empowerment resides. Similarly, it is through a feminist lens that the lived
experiences and measured decisions of women will be revealed, rather than
through a Spanish male discourse of sexual conquest or an indigenous male
discourse of female betrayal. By examining the gamut of womens experiences
regarding the origins and inner workings of interracial sexual unions, researchers
are likely to uncover womens agency in both the formation and subversion of
the race-based social hierarchy, both of which were the result of choices made
by women and men.
Second, it is thought that, when given the opportunity , women had a tendency
to form whitening sexual unions in order to improve their economic position
and to exempt their children from the state-imposed obligation s of Indian status
or the stigma of African or mixed-race categories. Of course, there were women
who seized these opportunities . After reviewing the literature, however, I
discovered that this is a historiographica l premise based on very little empirical
evidence, nor has there been much quantitativ e control over the data. Scholars
who have carried out such studies have usually written about colonial power
centers and/or about later periods.17 We have been generalizing a model derived
from a few studies and applying it to all of Spanish America.18 By accepting,
uncritically, a historiographica l premise based on scant research, historians (even
feminist historians ) have produced wide-ranging works that assume a priori that
women married whiter, or formed whitening extramarital unions. Unknowingly, we have made our own contribution s to the formation of poorly supported
metanarratives that serve only to silence the past.
If scholars were to complete more detailed studies that examine womens
choices of partners, especially outside of colonial power centers, we might nd
that the woman as social climber paradigm is more than a little awed, if not
categorically untrue. My research on the North Andes, still considered a
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backwater of empire, bears out that there were many more interracial marriages
(not just unions)Spanish indigenous, Spanish mestizo, and mestizo indigenousthan the established historiograph y of mestizaje claims. People did not
only marry whiter when wealth and prestige were involved. And women did not
always choose white partners over dark partners.
Third, it has always been widely accepted that the overwhelming majority of
interracial unions were between Spanish men and Indian women and that the
opposite (Spanish women with Indian men) was practically non-existent . In the
Audiencia of Quito, however, mestizaje was not unidirectiona l nor gender xed.
An examination of both testaments and lawsuits in the Corregimientos of
Riobamba and Latacunga reveal that lighter women (Spanish and mestiza; elite
and non-elite) both married and formed extramarital unions with Indian men and
mestizo men on a fairly regular basis.19 Class was evidently a more important
form of status than race in the North Andean record. In the town of Yaruqu es
(Corregimiento of Riobamba), for example, Dona Isabel Carrillo, a wealthy
Spanish woman, formed an extramarital union with a powerful local cacique
(Don Juan Duchisela) in the late sixteenth century, and then married him, but not
before having six illegitimate children with him. There is substantial evidence
that these reverse interracial unions took place in Riobamba, and elsewhere in
the Audiencia of Quito, throughout the entire colonial period, and were frequently a method of consolidatin g wealth and power (or of surviving ) for
Spanish, mestizo, and Indian families alike (Powers 1998, 183 213). Jurado
Noboa, in his hotly contested book Sancho Hacho, claims that the entire
Ecuadorean oligarchy had become mesticized by the late seventeenth century
(n.d.).20
What do these alternative data suggest in relation to mestizaje and the
race-based social hierarchy? What are the implications for Spanish and mestizo
attitudes toward race and speci cally toward Indians? Did women (across race
and class) express different attitudes toward race than men? Did they exhibit
varied attitudes toward class? What do these data imply about the difference
between prescribed and actual behaviors and the consequences of that difference
for historical interpretation and general Latin American historiography ? Do these
deviant stories cast aspersions on the canon that all mestizos aspired to be white
and to detach themselves from their indigenous heritage? What do they imply
about the role that local contingent conditions may have played in the social
order? In this case, the Audiencia of Quito was populated by less wealthy and
lower status Spaniards than parts of Peru and Bolivia, where the power centers
of the Viceroyalty of Peru were located. How might this have promoted
variations or alterations of the race-based social hierarchy? Were whites more
willing to marry Indians or mestizos, and mestizos to marry Indians for material
well-being or even for love? Perhaps, given local circumstances, there was not
as much choice in the matter.
In the rst half of the sixteenth century, most Spanish men in Quito did not
have the resources to attract women from Spain; conversely, after 1590 there
was a surplus of Spanish women and a shortage of convents in which they could
enroll to avoid marrying down. Perhaps these historical contingencies created
a social environment in which mixed-race marriages initially produced a mesti23

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KAREN VIEIRA POWERS

cized elite that whitened as time wore on. Thomas Calvo, in his empirical study
of Guadalajara, found a similar situation, but for a later period. By the
seventeenth century, there was a surplus of Spanish women and a shortage of
convents, which produced circumstances leading to frequent intermarriage between white elite women and mestizo artisans (1992).
Historians and scholars of cognate elds need to pay greater attention to
the unique intersections of gender, race, and class within the context of regional
and local histories. Many scholars of early colonial Latin America have written
excellent works that study one category of analysis discretely (race, class, or
gender) or that study the intersection of two of these categoriesgender and
race, class and race, gender and class.21 Aside from the proliferation of
demographic studies from which family and other social histories can be
extrapolated, few scholars have looked at gender, race, and class in the
aggregate and at how their complex intersections produced mutating sociocultural and political meanings in the Spanish colonial system. In the Andes, Irene
Silverblatt does a ne job of examining this intersection, using indigenous
women as the center of her study, but does not look at Spanish and racially
mixed women, nor did she intend for her work to be about them (1987). By not
examining this intersection more deeply and broadly, I suspect that we are
missing a large piece of what we need to know in order to understand colonial
hierarchies in general.
Within the realm of colonial studies, Ann Stolers stunning work on Southeast
Asia both reveals and deciphers this intersection, but ignores the difference
between prescribed and actual behaviors (1991). This distinctio n is often critical
for uncovering the lived experiences of women, and not including it leaves her
study practically devoid of womens agency. By examining largely secondary
sources and a few published primary sourcesand assuming that they re ect
historical realityshe misses the often enormous gap between de jure and de
facto sociocultural and political formations in colonial societies that can often be
culled from analysis of local records. Perhaps the various ideological and
sociopolitica l con gurations of gender, race and class that the British constructed
to facilitate colonial domination did not operate quite as smoothly as Stoler
implies.
Indeed, anthropologist s and literary critics have led the way in the analysis of
the intersection of gender, race, and class. And though they have produced many
ne interdisciplinar y works, when it comes to historicizin g and contextualizin g
that intersection, these authors are often wanting, and at times even produce
mistaken historical interpretations.22 Nevertheless, their undaunted attempts to
theorize the complexities of the intersection of gender, race, and class as
inseparable categories of historical analysis must be applauded.
The conversation that appeared in this very journal in 1995 between Elizabeth
Kuznesof and Stuart Schwartz, while an excellent catalyst for debate, completely
missed this inseparablility . Kuznesofs conclusion that gender drove race in the
rst six generations of Spanish colonization , and Schwartzs reply that gender
would never be as useful a unit of analysis as class or other forms of social status
ended up generating misguided discussion s in the eld about which unit of
analysis to privilege in any given study (Colonial Latin American Review, 4 (1):
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168, 187). In informal discussions , I have even heard such phrases as gender
trumps race or class trumps gender about particular works. I would like to put
forward the idea that there is no contest; gender, race, and class cannot be
disengaged, one from the other. No single category has ever stood alone in Latin
Americas colonial history; they are part of the same cloth.23
Studying the intersection of gender, race, and class and how that intersection
engages with cultural, regional, temporal and other historical contingencies is
what will probably bear the most fruit.24 This type of research may force us to
rethink some of the premises of long-held assumptions about women and men,
with regard to whatever historiographica l tenet we choose to test. Indeed, it also
provides an opportunity to interrogate (and hopefully sustain) feminist claims
that gender analysis has the power to fundamentally transform existing historical
paradigms. Can it force a critical re-examination of the premises and standards
of previous scholarly work? Does a new history of women imply a new
history (Scott 1999)? Surely, for Latin America, studying the intersection of all
three units of analysis is a very challenging methodology that shall have the
power to change existing historical constructs.
The race-based social hierarchy is what is in question here. Though this article
has already treated the failure of imperial policy to segregate Spaniards and
Indians into the Spanish Republic (in cities) and the Indian Republic (in the
countryside), it is also evident in recent works that decrees dictating racially
segregated neighborhood s inside cities were also subverted. That people of all
racial categories lived and worked together in urban areas is an idea that is
prevalent in the works of Cope for Mexico City (1994), Stavig for Cuzco (1999),
Mannarelli for Lima (1993), and Minchom (19940 and Gauderman for Quito
(1998).
In recent Latin American historical writing, Douglas Copes work on Mexico
City (although mostly on the late seventeenth century) completely transforms
some of our long-accepted historiographica l conceptions about the colonial,
race-based social hierarchy. By introducing race and class into his analysis of
that hierarchy, he comes to the conclusion that plebeian society (the Indians and
castas of the city) did not much abide by that of cial hierarchy. In fact he claims
that racial prejudice and discriminatio n rarely occurred among the plebe;
marriages and sexual unions among urban Indians and castas tended to be based
more on human relationships , local community networks, and economic pragmatism than on race. His ndings y in the face of the longstanding assumption
among Latin Americanists that the majority of people in the colonies tried to
marry up, that is, whiter. By examining marriage records of Indians and castas
in a few plebeian parishes, he nds that there was more downward than upward
mobility (1994). What would the race-based social hierarchy, one of the most
rmly establishe d constructs of Latin American historiography , look like if we
were to include a deeper gender analysis of Copes theme? Did male and female
Indians and castas, for example, have different marriage patterns than their male
counterparts and what might these patterns have meant to women and to men?
Did race and interracial unions mean something different to women and to men,
both within and across racial groups? Cope gives marriage statistics on women,
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but does not pursue the analysis further by exploring a gendered interpretation
of those statistics.
In conclusion, gendering our empirical studies of mestizaje and bringing them
out to the margins of empire may shake the very foundations of the colonial
social order, as we have constructed it. It could lead to a revisionist Latin
American historiograph y of the race-based social hierarchy which would include
the actions, perceptions and values of all colonial subjects. It could also
revolutioniz e our thinking on many other important historical themes, such as
land transfer from Indian to Spanish hands (my ndings include reverse
appropriations, owing to interracial marriages between Spanish and Andean men
and women), and the formation of regional power structures.
Seeing womenwhite, Indian, African and racially mixedmay not only
lead to a history of inclusion and one that takes more seriously the intersection
of gender, race, and class as important units of historical analysis, but also be
critical to revising the fundamental historiographica l concepts that we use as
basic points of departure for our work and that we teach to our students.
Watching our language and avoiding gender-neutral methodologie s may go a
long way toward freeing women (and historiographica l trends) from an androcentric, discursive (and, therefore, interpretive ) straitjacket. There has been much
progress at breaking free, due to the pioneering works of scholars like Asuncion
Lavrin, Ann Twinam, Susan Socolow, Irene Silverblatt and countless others
(including scores of Latin American scholars) who dared to tread in uncertain
(and at times, dangerous) waters. It is by standing on their shoulders that we
have revised, criticized, complemented, supplemented and multiplied studies of
gender in Latin America. Nevertheless, by freeing ourselves from the constraints
of language, a whole panoply of new categories of analysis may suddenly appear
on the horizon. They are already evident in the explosion of Ph.D. dissertation s
in progress and the topics their writers have chosen to study. As Ann Twinam
stated at a recent meeting of the Rocky Mountain Council on Latin American
Studies, we have climbed onto the trampoline and are about to spring upward.25
Notes
* I would like to acknowledge Professor Nancy van Deusen for her careful reading and thorough
critique of the manuscript, as well as Professors Susan Deeds and Susan Kellogg. This article
was funded by an intramural grant from Northern Arizona University.
1
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word conquest has meant acquisition by
force of arms or subjugation as far back as the eleventh century. From at least the fteenth
century on, it has also meant the winning of a persons favor or affections by art.
Interestingly, military victories are no longer referred to as conquests today, but convincing
women to have sex still is.
2
Of course, it does not precede Foucault et al., but rather the current postmodern preoccupation
with difference and representation.
3
Of course, Spanish chronicles are suspect sources for this kind of data, but we also have
indigenous male sources with equally un attering portrayals of Indian women.
4
Works on the historiographical treatment of La Malinche include: Cypess (1991); Franco (1989;
1999, 66 82); Todorov (1984); Karttunen (1994, 1 23; 1997, 291 312); Alarcon (1983);
Moraga (1998).

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5
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7
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10

11

12

13

14
15

16

These arrangements were not unlike the quasi-incestuous marriages of European monarchs,
though we never refer to European queens as gifts or exchanges.
The Oxford English Dictionary rst lists more proper and even powerful de nitions of
mistress. However, it also de nes this word, from the fthteenth century to the present, as
meaning a woman who illicitly occupies the place of a wife. The word concubine is
described as a woman who cohabits with a man without being his wifea kept mistress.
See Said (1979); Grewal (1996).
This is also a current postmodern concernsee Truillots work Silencing the Past (1995), for
example. But if we were to do an epistemological genealogy of this critique, we would nd it
has many of its origins in earlier feminist theory.
Concern over the anachronization of feminist concepts has been brought out most ably in the
works of several Mesoamericanist ethnohistorians. See Schroeder et al. (1997); Gosner and
Kanter (1995). Also, Irene Silverblatts Moon, Sun and Witches (1987, chapter 10) is perhaps
a good example of anachronizationthe imposition of twentieth-century, feminist separatism
onto a sixteenth-century, Andean context.
An early example for indigenous and casta women is Burkett (1977; 1978). More recent
examples are: Cline (1986); Schroeder et al. (1997); Gosner and Kanter (1995); Kellogg (1995);
Mannarelli (1990, 225 48); Osorio (1990, 293 324); Silverblatt (1987); van Deusen (2001);
Presta (2000b); Zulawski (1995, chapter 6); Clendinnen (1982, 427 42); Nash (1980); Salomon
(1988, 325 41). Works on colonial Spanish women include: Lavrin (1989; 1984; 1978); Mart n
(1983); Seed (1988); Iwasaki Cauti (1993); Socolow (2000); and Lopez Beltran (1996), among
others. There are also countless works, not mentioned above, by Latin American scholars,
especially Mexicans, that would be dif cult to enumerate here. Good examples would be Pilar
Gonzalbo Aizpuru and Cecilia Rabell Romero (1996), Elsa Malvido (1992), Marcela Tostado
Gutierrez (1991), and Ana Mar a Atondo Rodr guez (1992).
Lately, historical narratives have come under much-deserved criticism, with which I agree, in
principle. Yet, I still believe that a gender-integrated narrative of Latin American history is
imperative for classroom use. Feminist historians are hindering progress by continuing to avoid
this challenge, because it leaves masculinist textbooks as the only ones available.
Bakewell (1997); Brown (2000); Burkholder and Johnson (2001); Keen (1996); Lockhart and
Schwartz (1983); McAllister (1984). There are also collections of essays that are sometimes
assigned alongside textbooks that are somewhat better in their coverage of women. Sweet and
Nashs Struggle and Survival in Colonial America (1981) devotes six out of 21 chapters to
women in Latin America, though these are biographical essays that attempt little interpretation.
Hanke and Rauschs Latin American History: The Colonial Experience, Sources and Interpretations (1993) provides 43 selections from specialists in a variety of elds; four concern
women, one of which is an excerpt from Magnus Morners book, called The Conquest of
Women. Finally Bethels The Cambridge History of Latin America contains a more complete
essay on women by Asuncion Lavrin called Women in Spanish American Colonial Society,
but the Cambridge series is a cut above the average undergraduate assignment (1984, 321 55).
Even recent document readers are inconsistent in their selections on womens experiences. Mills
and Taylor (1999) is quite wanting, while Boyer and Spurling (2000) presents a substantial
number of documents that include women.
I consider the race-based social hierarchy (as well as mestizaje) to be a process, rather than a
concept. This shift in thinking is based on compelling recent scholarship that has rejected the
rei cation of the legal caste system and has instead historicized its uidity. Richard Boyer
(1995), Elizabeth Kuznesof (1995), Douglas Cope (1994), and Rossana Barragan (1997) are ne
examples.
Cope (1994) has already proven its classist content for some parishes of Mexico City.
The phrase putting esh back on the objects is taken from Norma Alarcons Chicanas
Feminist Literature: A Re-vision of Malintzin/or Malintzin: Putting Flesh Back on the Object
(1983).
Espejo-Ponce Hunt and Restall found that there were interracial unions and commercial
alliances between Indian women and Spanish men in colonial Maya towns (1997, 231 52).
Both my research in Riobamba and that of Jurado Noboa in Latacunga point to an early
development of this type of alliance, resulting in a mesticized elite and socioracial strati cation
in Indian towns in provincial Quito as early as the late sixteenth century; Jurado Noboa (n.d.).

27

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19

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22

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24

25

Copes statistical work on racial domination in Mexico City gives evidence to the contrary, but
needs to be enhanced by subsequent scholarship based on deeper gender analysis (1994, 79 82).
Personal communication with Bert Barickman (University of Arizona) reveals that even for
nineteenth-century Brazil, where Whitening Theory was an ideological imperative, no
empirical studies of womens choices of partners were ever actually carried out.
ANQ Cacicazgos, 8, 24, 26, 32, 52, 38, 75, for example, are all eighteenth-century lawsuits in
Quito over chie y legitimacy that contain considerable evidence of mestizaje within indigenous
elite lineages in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Fernando Jurado Noboa is not a professional historian. He is a lawyer who has taken a special
interest in genealogy and whose book is quite controversial among Ecuadors contemporary
elite.
Some examples are: McCaa (1996); Chance (1978); Israel (1975); Seed (1988) and Socolow
(1989). Seed and Socolow examine marriage choices of the upper echelons of Mexican and
Argentine colonial societies. Cahill explores racial and ethnic categories in the Viceroyalty of
Peru (1994).
A good example would be Anne McClintocks Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality
in the Colonial Contest (1995). The latter is a fascinating analysis of the intersection of gender,
race and class in various colonial regions, but is not well grounded historically.
Susan Socolow also makes this point in her recent book The Women of Colonial Latin America
(2000).
Scott (1999, 29 30) states that many feminist historians consider the simultaneous analysis of
gender, race and class to be crucial to the writing of a new history [] and to the scholarly
understanding that inequalities of power are organized along at least three axes.
Personal communication with Ann Twinam at the Rocky Mountain Council on Latin American
Studies Meeting, March 2000.

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