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Spanish Colonial Women and the Law - Complaints, Lawsuits, and Criminal Behavior (English Edition): Documents from the Spanish Colonial Archives of New Mexico, 1697-1749

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Women in early 18th century Spanish Colonial New Mexico had rights and privileges under Spanish law that were not enjoyed by other women in North America until the late 19th and early 20th century. Women were considered separate entities under the law and valuable members of Spanish society. As such, they could own property, inherit in their own name, and act as court wit Women in early 18th century Spanish Colonial New Mexico had rights and privileges under Spanish law that were not enjoyed by other women in North America until the late 19th and early 20th century. Women were considered separate entities under the law and valuable members of Spanish society. As such, they could own property, inherit in their own name, and act as court witnesses. In particular they could make accusations and denunciations to the local alcalde mayor and governor, which they frequently did. The documents in this book show that Spanish Colonial women were aware of their rights and took advantage of them to assert themselves in the struggling communities of the New Mexican frontier. In the documents, the women are shown making complaints of theft, physical and verbal abuse by their husbands or other women, and of non-payment of dowries or other inheritance. Other documents are included showing men accusing women of misrepresenting property ownership and dowry payments and of adultery and slander. Spain was a legalistic society and both women and men used the courts to settle even minor matters. Because the court proceedings were written down by a scribe and stored in the archives, many documents still exist. From these, thirty-one have been selected allowing us to hear the words of some outspoken Spanish women and the sometimes angry men, speaking their minds in court about their spouses, lovers of their spouses, children, and relatives, as well as their land, livestock and expected inheritance. The documents translated into English in this book are a small number of the existing documents held in Santa Fe at the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, at the Bancroft Library at University of California, the Archivo General de la Nacion in Mexico City, and elsewhere. A synopsis, editor's notes, maps, and biographical notes are provided. The material can be considered a companion, in part, to Ralph Emerson Twitchell's 1914 two volumes, The Spanish Archives of New Mexico, available in new editions from Sunstone Press. Sunstone Press has also published a Spanish/English edition both in both hardcover and softcover.


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Women in early 18th century Spanish Colonial New Mexico had rights and privileges under Spanish law that were not enjoyed by other women in North America until the late 19th and early 20th century. Women were considered separate entities under the law and valuable members of Spanish society. As such, they could own property, inherit in their own name, and act as court wit Women in early 18th century Spanish Colonial New Mexico had rights and privileges under Spanish law that were not enjoyed by other women in North America until the late 19th and early 20th century. Women were considered separate entities under the law and valuable members of Spanish society. As such, they could own property, inherit in their own name, and act as court witnesses. In particular they could make accusations and denunciations to the local alcalde mayor and governor, which they frequently did. The documents in this book show that Spanish Colonial women were aware of their rights and took advantage of them to assert themselves in the struggling communities of the New Mexican frontier. In the documents, the women are shown making complaints of theft, physical and verbal abuse by their husbands or other women, and of non-payment of dowries or other inheritance. Other documents are included showing men accusing women of misrepresenting property ownership and dowry payments and of adultery and slander. Spain was a legalistic society and both women and men used the courts to settle even minor matters. Because the court proceedings were written down by a scribe and stored in the archives, many documents still exist. From these, thirty-one have been selected allowing us to hear the words of some outspoken Spanish women and the sometimes angry men, speaking their minds in court about their spouses, lovers of their spouses, children, and relatives, as well as their land, livestock and expected inheritance. The documents translated into English in this book are a small number of the existing documents held in Santa Fe at the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, at the Bancroft Library at University of California, the Archivo General de la Nacion in Mexico City, and elsewhere. A synopsis, editor's notes, maps, and biographical notes are provided. The material can be considered a companion, in part, to Ralph Emerson Twitchell's 1914 two volumes, The Spanish Archives of New Mexico, available in new editions from Sunstone Press. Sunstone Press has also published a Spanish/English edition both in both hardcover and softcover.

20 review for Spanish Colonial Women and the Law - Complaints, Lawsuits, and Criminal Behavior (English Edition): Documents from the Spanish Colonial Archives of New Mexico, 1697-1749

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jose Esquibel

    For anyone who is intrigued by the history of New Mexico, especially those who have an interest in cultural history and those with deep ancestral roots in the region, there is a gold mine of insights and information presented in ‘Spanish Colonial Women and the Law: Complaints, Lawsuits, and Criminal Behavior, Documents from the Spanish Colonial Archives of New Mexico, 1697 – 1749’ by Linda Tigges, editor, and J. Richard Salazar, transcriber and translator (Santa Fe: Sunstone Press, 2016). ‘Spanis For anyone who is intrigued by the history of New Mexico, especially those who have an interest in cultural history and those with deep ancestral roots in the region, there is a gold mine of insights and information presented in ‘Spanish Colonial Women and the Law: Complaints, Lawsuits, and Criminal Behavior, Documents from the Spanish Colonial Archives of New Mexico, 1697 – 1749’ by Linda Tigges, editor, and J. Richard Salazar, transcriber and translator (Santa Fe: Sunstone Press, 2016). ‘Spanish Colonial Women and the Law’ is a rare collection of translated and transcribed records from the second series of the Spanish Archives of New Mexico. The book begins with a well-presented account of women and the law in eighteenth-century Spanish society with specific examples drawn from primary documents of New Mexico. This section offers invaluable background for understanding the legal rights accorded to women and highlights an array of social issues that woman faced in eighteenth-century New Mexico. This is followed by thirty-one transcribed and translated documents that bring to the forefront insights into the lives of New Mexico’s citizens of the past, both women and the men with whom they interacted. The selected records reveal details about the experiences of eighteenth-century women of New Mexico as daughters, wives, mothers, friends, neighbors, rivals and competitors, advocates, property owners, crime victims, and as citizens of the Spanish royal government with legal rights independent of the men in their lives. The records presented in ‘Spanish Colonial Women and the Law’ are important source for studying social interactions and social customs of eighteenth-century New Mexico citizens. Since many of the people mentioned in the archival documents are ancestors of people living today who have deep family roots in New Mexico, the records are also an excellent source for documenting family history and genealogy. Tigges and Salazar make the extra effort to identify the people mentioned in the documents, including a description of familial relationships where that information is available. This information is found in the notes following each document. ‘Spanish Colonial Women and the Law’ is a welcome and important contribution to understanding New Mexico’s eighteenth-century history and culture through historical records pertaining to the actions and activities of people of New Mexico’s past who shaped the future development of Nuevomejicano culture.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gerald McFarland

    Linda Tigges has given us a splendid book on Spanish colonial women in early eighteenth-century New Mexico. In a strong historical introduction, Tigges details the ways in which Spanish colonial women had many more legal rights—to sue, to testify in court cases, and to own and inherit property—than did English colonial women of the same period. Spanish colonial women were well aware of their rights and took full advantage of them to bring complaints against abusive husbands, to claim inheritance Linda Tigges has given us a splendid book on Spanish colonial women in early eighteenth-century New Mexico. In a strong historical introduction, Tigges details the ways in which Spanish colonial women had many more legal rights—to sue, to testify in court cases, and to own and inherit property—than did English colonial women of the same period. Spanish colonial women were well aware of their rights and took full advantage of them to bring complaints against abusive husbands, to claim inheritances and defend their property, and to sue persons who had slandered them. For the main section of her book Tigges has chosen thirty-one cases from documents in the Spanish Archives of New Mexico in Santa Fe and other depositories to illustrate the major types of cases involving Spanish women. These documents provide vivid stories about the daily lives of New Mexico residents: battered women seeking protection from their husbands, disputes over inheritances, male servants fighting over a woman, and the case of a wife who fled town with her lover and was forced to return to her husband. In one particularly choice account, Ana Maria Romero was accused of slandering another woman by calling her a whore, for which Ana was gagged and stripped naked and forced to ride around the Santa Fe plaza in mid-winter. Each of the thirty-one cases includes an introductory summary, individual testimony by participants, and well-wrought footnotes that not only document Tigges’s great skill as a researcher but are good reading in their own right. All documents are in both English and Spanish, the English versions skillfully translated by Tigges’s collaborator, Richard Salazar. The book provides an invaluable picture of early eighteenth-century New Mexican society, all the more so in that one can hear in it the actual voices of ordinary New Mexican men and women: Juana Martin complaining against her husband’s long-term affair with a mulatta woman; Juan de Leon charging that a solider had seduced his daughter, impregnated her, and then abandoned her; an orphaned girl, Catalina de Villapando, asking for help to collect her inheritance of two cows. It’s perfectly possible to read only a few selected cases and benefit from that, but the material is so fascinating that many readers will find themselves drawn into all of the stories.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sierra Sweeney

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jane

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Duncan

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hosita

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lizette Robinson

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roseann Ruvolo

  10. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Gonzalez

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sally Cervantez

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pat Esquibel

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura Clark

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Phillips

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Rogers

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gena

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jim Gallegos

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

  20. 5 out of 5

    June Stange

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