Company, Kinship, and Authority: Competing Claims about Marriage in Colonial Mexico
These cases illustrate a different kind of negotiation of patriarchal authority and the marriage contract than those related to violent conflict. They point to tension between marital bonds and those of biological kinship and a willingness to use religious and judicial authorities to pursue competing claims; men overwhelmingly expressed the need for their wives’ company, and failing that, their self-evident right to demand that their wives be cloistered rather than live in inappropriate “liberty.” Women expressed anger and despair at being forced to leave their hometown, family, and community, and presented their proposals to live apart from their husbands as reasonable and legitimate. This paper explores these competing claims about the marital relationship in relation to other family connections, freedom of movement, location, and the limits of patriarchal authority.
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