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Sex Outside Of Marriage In Sixteenth Century Colonial Latin America

1378 words - 6 pages

Sex Outside of Marriage in Sixteenth Century Colonial Latin America Sexuality was an aspect of life that many religions struggled with in various cultures and religions throughout history and the Catholic Church in sixteenth century Colonial Latin America was no different. The Catholic Church made marriage into a sacrament and it created this sacrament in part to control and regulate when, where, and how sex should take place. The Church decreed that sex should only take place within the institution of marriage and only at certain times and in certain ways. However, after the Spanish conquest of the Americas, there was significant miscegenation between the Native Indian population and European Spaniards. It is quite clear that much of this racial mixing happened outside the institution of marriage, as well as recorded instances of homosexuality. There is ample evidence in both primary and secondary sources about sixteenth century Colonial Latin America that shows that although the Catholic Church sanctioned sex only within the boundaries of marriage, extra-marital sex was a common occurrence within all strata of society in Colonial Latin American during the sixteenth century.The elite in this era in Latin America were (almost without exception) the white, Spanish population and extra-marital sex among this elite class during the sixteenth century was rampant. Thomas A. Abercrombie's translation and analysis of court documents in the 2000 book Colonial Lives: Documents in Latin American History, 1550-1850 provides an excellent example of these instances of extra-marital sex in the 1595 court case in Charcas (modern day Sucre, Bolivia), in which Fernando de Medina confessed to killing his wife Beatriz González immediately after committing the crime. His reason for committing the crime was that he alleged that his wife had cheated on him with another man named Dr. Gerónimo de Tovar, a colleague of Fernando de Medina: "Everyone of my house, and other persons outside of it, have told me… that for over a year [Tovar] has had carnal relations with Beatriz González, my wife…" Medina used a well composed defense, the premise of which was that he had to restore the honor and public reputation he lost after his wife had cheated on him, and the audienca (the highest court in Colonial Latin America) did not punish him for this crime. Clearly, there was a precedent for this defense in these sorts of crimes. Even the punishments for women caught in the act of adultery were relatively mild: "If there is no way to have her appear in court without danger, the parish priest should only admonish her in secret." What this tells us is the following: a man's public reputation was important, something that was (at least in this case) worth killing for and more importantly, adultery (though in theory a very serious crime) was in reality something for which most people were only admonished lightly, a seemingly underwhelming punishment...

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