“Cupid Did Not Arrive with the Miasma”: Marriage in Four Mexican Parishes, 1833
Evidence suggests that emergency marriages during the cholera epidemic brought existing, though unmarried couples, into the Church, and into the historical record. In this way, the epidemic provides us with evidence that otherwise we would not have. The way information was recorded in parochial registrations of marriage varied from one parish to another, but priests often classified brides based on what they judged to be their respectability. “Doncella” implied that the bride was a virgin, while being described as “single” or “free” suggested that she was not.
As cholera began killing thousands of people in Mexico, more non-virgins married. Although priests did not describe the sexual experience of men in similar language, they did record their ages. The substantial increase in the number of older men who married during the epidemic suggests that they had been “living in sin” until their own immanent death, or that of their partner, motivated them to marry quickly. At the same time, the age differences between these men and women provide hints about the prevalence of the ideal of companionate marriage and the traditional pattern of patriarchal marriage (where the groom might be decades older than the bride).
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