Negotiating Work and Love As a Foreigner in Sixteenth-Century La Mancha

Friday, January 4, 2013: 3:10 PM
Evergreen Room (Sheraton New Orleans)
Edward J. Behrend-Martinez, Appalachian State University
In 1579 Spain was still enjoying a booming economy, unrivalled hegemony in Europe, demographic growth, and, of course, a sharp rise in tons of bullion arriving from the New World year after year.  This vigorous economy even attracted immigrants to rural La Mancha from many corners of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the globe.  This paper explores the interesting life of one Geronimo Mulato, a man born around 1544 in Malacca, part of what is today Malaysia.  He was enslaved by the Portuguese, taken to Lisbon, and then sold.  He was sold and resold until he ended up a slave in a household in Belmonte, in La Mancha.  We know about him because at the age of 35, in 1579, the Cuencan based Tribunal of the Inquisition arrested Geronimo for making heretical sexual statements – one expects they were jokes that revealed his casual attitude toward fornication – to several young women in the household in which he served.  Even though as a slave, Geronimo’s status and situation was not the same as other foreign men working in La Mancha, he faced much the same xenophobic and skeptical attitudes other foreign men experienced, especially when they threatened to become involved with Spanish women.  Not only did Geronimo’s libertine or open sexuality threaten local honor, mores, and religious purity, his and other foreign men’s marginality kept local hostels, taverns, and brothels in business; these were institutions many local clerics condemned.  What makes Geronimo’s case particularly interesting is that it reveals how the expansion of the Iberian Empires not only projected their people, power, and culture, but how Iberians faced becoming transformed themselves by the very peoples and cultures they were working to dominate.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation