Archiving the “Obscene”: Juan Esteban Pérez's Erotic Religious Fantasies and the Mexican Inquisition

Friday, January 6, 2017: 10:30 AM
Mile High Ballroom 1B (Colorado Convention Center)
Zeb Tortorici, New York University
This paper explores the erotic religious fantasies and self-desecrating corporeal acts of one individual, Juan Esteban Pérez, who denounced himself to the Mexican Inquisition in 1690. The original title page of the Inquisition case states simply: “[Puebla de los] Angeles. Year of 1690. Denunciation that Juan Esteban Perez, Spaniard, made against himself, for thinking about the Holiest Virgin, our saint, in obscene acts.” This paper explores how Pérez interpreted religious doctrine and expressed religious in a highly corporeal and erotically charged fashion, leaving behind a written account of his desires and devotions that Inquisitors could only interpret as “obscene.”  I argue that Pérez incorporated Catholic guilt into his eroticized devotional practice, “burning his shameful parts with burning wax so that he would no longer sin,” yet took a particular pleasure in recording, documenting, and recounting the details of his acts to Inquisitors.  Through the very processes of archiving and narrating his desires, Pérez demonstrated the physical pleasures and pains of devout religious desire in late seventeenth-century New Spain.
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