Alliance, Kinship, and Gender in the Conquest of the River Plate Basin: Indian Women in Asunción and São Paulo during the 16th Century

Monday, January 6, 2020: 9:20 AM
Gramercy (Sheraton New York)
Elisa Frühauf Garcia, Universidade Federal Fluminense
Relationships with Tupi-Guarani women were fundamental for the conquest and establishment of a colonial society by the Iberians in the River Plate basin during the sixteenth century. It was through these relationships that Spanish and Portuguese men became entangled in native social dynamics, turning to their favor aspects which linked the practice of polygyny in order to access a series of political and economic goods. When they were interested in engaging in friendly relations, the Tupi-Guarani chiefs offered women of their group to the new arrivals. Access to a certain number of women was an element inherent to the political power of leaders. By offering them to potential allies, the chiefs demonstrated their generosity, establishing networks of reciprocity essential to the functioning of native societies. The conquerors inserted themselves into the networks of kinship relations of their wives and began to render services of an economic and political nature to their fathers-in-law. Some of them were important Indians chiefs who had supported the Iberians. Focusing on São Paulo and Asunción, two early settlements which worked as hubs for the occupation of the region, this paper seeks to analyze how Indian women were essential for the functioning of the kinship relationships which sustain those societies, as well as for the social projection of Iberians who became local leaders.
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