Custom, Possession, and Domicile: Native and Black Vecindad (Urban Citizenship) in the Colonial Spanish Settlements of the Northern Andes

Friday, January 7, 2022: 3:30 PM
Preservation Hall, Studio 9 (New Orleans Marriott)
Max Deardorff, University of Florida
In the Spanish metropole, municipal councils granted vecindad (urban citizenship) to all male, head-of-household petitioners, extending to them rights to exercise a set of “privileges and liberties” that were acknowledged by the municipality. In theory, the same universal male householder citizenship was operative in Spain’s colonial settlements. Yet in practice, colonial citizenship was often limited by ethnicity. Conducting a close reading of Spanish jurisprudence, municipal archival records, and a 1620 census, this paper catalogs the steep barriers faced by non-Spaniards who aspired to citizenship in the Spanish colonial settlement of Tunja (Colombia) and other settlements like it. One complication for the study of this issue is that, as was the case in a great number of colonial townships, the city council had ceased to be the primary arbiter of local citizenship. This presentation examines alternate bureaucratic and community-based affirmations that arose to fill the void, acknowledging and confirming individuals’ privileges and liberties. Through a range of parallel pathways non-Spanish subjects – such as acculturated natives (indios ladinos) and Afro-descendant individuals (negros and mulatos) – did sometimes achieve vecindad. To demonstrate how such conferral of citizenship behaved in practice, I connect records acknowledging vecindad to jurisprudential concepts such as custom, domicile, and possession.
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