Jane E. Mangan. Transatlantic Obligations: Creating the Bonds of Family in Conquest-Era Peru and Spain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 272 pp. $29.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-19-976858-5.
Reviewed by Ana María Presta (Universidad de Buenos Aires - CONICET)
Published on H-Diplo (October, 2016)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach
Transatlantic Obligations is an ambitious and readable account of Spanish emigration and its consequences in the conquest period. The book tells its story via the examination of the sexual and emotional practices of both men and women of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds living in sixteenth-century Lima and Arequipa, the capital of the viceroyalty of Peru and a southern intermediate spot. Family, kin, marriage, concubinage, sentiments, and especially parenthood are put under the microscope by Jean E. Mangan in an attempt to establish how paternity and its obligations were acknowledged, ignored, demonstrated, withdrawn, negotiated, or economically manifested.
Among the many changes brought about by the Spanish colonization of the New World, family, an enduring cultural creation founded on the notion of Catholic marriage promulgated at Trent in 1563, became an institution through which new social actors and their emerging practices were understood. Mangan focuses on the first century of Spanish domination, when different populations and cultures collided and negotiated the conquest of territories and bodies through power, political, sexual, and sentimental alliances, while forging new social hierarchies as well as new identities. The author has collected and used a wide range of sources to penetrate the intimate relations and feelings of those exercised parental rights.
The book is divided into six chapters. In the first, “Matchmaking,” Mangan introduces the mixed unions and the colonization of family trees that resulted when elite Indian women and Spanish conquistadors engaged in consensual relationships that did not result in marriage. Indian women of high status who never married their Spanish partners gave birth to famous mestizos of the first generation. Family, blood, status, culture, legacy, and acknowledgment characterized the well-known examples of Gómez Suárez de Figueroa (Garcilaso de la Vega Inca), doña Francisca Pizarro, and Doña Francisca’s cousin of the same name. Other cases, like the marriage of conquistador Francisco de Ampuero to doña Inés Huaylas Yupanqui (Quispe Sisa, before baptism), show how leading conquistadors continued to exercise peninsular seignorial rights on their men, the conquered land, and its assets. Doña Inés was a former lover of the marquis Francisco Pizarro, who gave her to one of his men, Ampuero, at the same time bequeathing on him a significant patrimony as a reward for his services during the conquest. Mangan argues that while the Crown favored and promoted marriages between Spaniards to indigenous peoples, consensual relations between conquistadors and women descendant from the Incas hardly crystallized in marriage. It would have been productive for Mangan to reflect on how peninsular prejudices on race and religion may have affected personal and intimate relations in the Spanish colonies. During the century of discoveries, racial, cultural, and religious intolerance crystallized in the inevitable quest of limpieza de sangre (clean blood), a concept that identified those who did not possess any trace of Moorish or Jewish blood, peoples with whom Spaniards had maintained centuries of convivencia (living together) without integration. This cultural background could open new avenues to interpret the relationship with the new “others” stressed by the right of conquest that resulted in the access to land, labor, and bodies.
Chapter 2, “Removal,” focuses on mestizo children and their fathers’ attitudes and rights toward them. Mestizo children were initially a novelty; as their numbers increased, they became a problem to Spanish colonial rule. Conquistadors and encomenderos (holders of an encomienda, indigenous grantees), most of whom arrived in Peru with their sons who had been born in Mexico or Nicaragua, demonstrated affection and a sense of paternal responsibility to their offspring. The scions’ illegitimacy affected their rights to inherit, enjoy offices, and succeed their fathers in encomiendas. Some mestizos born around 1530, living apparently at ease at their fathers’ homes, were well aware of their lack of rights and planned a failed revolt in 1567. If successful, it would have challenged the very post-Incaic alliances by shaking families, parenthood, adaptation, and negotiation among their Indian and Spanish relatives. Plotters were sent to Spain to be judged and to live apart from their homeland. This fact adds other reasons for mestizos to have traveled and resettled in their fathers’ country. Events like the failed mestizo revolt introduced conflict and tensions in what seems to have been a harmonious convivencia between mestizos and their bicultural colonial families. On the other hand, it is true that some fathers provided legitimacy for their mestizos by giving them access to their assets; however, some decisions on the matter remained solely in the hands of high-ranking officers, like viceroys, who sometimes succeeded in gaining control over these heirs and their patrimony.
Vida maridable (a marital duty that was much more than living together) was a sine qua non to Catholic marriage. Yet male immigrants traveled to Peru without their spouses and children, who remained for years in the metropole, trying to survive abandonment as they pressured authorities to bring their husbands back to accomplish their duties as heads of the family. Chapter 3, “Marriage,” relates to vida maridable and its regulations in a transatlantic context. Emigrants maintained contact with their peninsular families, sending financial aid, letters, and requests to join them in the colony. Others took advantage of emigration to use transatlantic distance to get out of undesirable marriages and obligations in Spain, while maintaining new relationships that often resulted in adultery and bigamy. Mangan analyzes several decrees on vida maridable with plenty of examples. They show how marital obligations were delayed, contested, and mediated by colonial officers who could jail husbands or oblige wives to make the long and perilous journey to Peru to reunite with their husbands.
Transatlantic voyages and family reunions are the subject of chapter 4, “Journey.” For a variety of bureaucratic, financial, and practical reasons individuals and families traveled to Peru. After one or more months’ voyage, those going to live as a family, single women looking for marriage opportunities, merchants, and all sorts of individuals searching for a better fate embarked and arrived in Peru, no doubt with enormous expectations. The author gives examples of mestizos traveling frequently to live with their fathers’ families in the mid-sixteenth century. By the end of the sixteenth century, the Crown limited the necessary licenses requested by mestizos to travel from Peru and Mexico to the metropole. On the other hand, the sons of conquistadors, like the Pizarro mestizo children, were encouraged to resettle in Spain to discourage potential political unrest in the colonies led by disaffected scions of conquistadors. Family networks were an important factor in migration and settlement in Peru. Yet migratory enterprises were also guaranteed by fictitious or symbolic kinship. Fellow countrymen born in the same region, señorío (manor), or village considered themselves brothers and sisters, forging bonds of partnership, clientelism, and nepotism by keeping a common agency sustained by a strong sense of hierarchy and belonging. Mangan breaks new ground in her discussion of female migration and the quest of honor. Historians have typically described the pursuit of honor by men, but here Mangan describes how honor, which is at once a virtue and a status that denotes class, with all its attendant pretentions and prejudices, was sought by women. The loss—or absence—of honor put the social standing of the individual as well as the family in jeopardy.
The purpose of “adaptation” (chapter 5) is to link the experience of migration with mestizaje in order to detect the ways families adapted to this new era. Mangan navigates around the notions of mestizaje, mestizos, and a kind of mestizo colonial family that allow the perception of bicultural family networks built through horizontal ties. This chapter also reveals how indigenous couples legitimized their unions through the use of Catholic baptism and marriage. Baptism did not necessarily mean conversion nor did Catholic marriage prevent polygamy. The long road to adaptation had to be completed through divorce requests; litigations on vida maridable; and judicial presentations on absenteeism, mistreatments, and adultery. All these crimes reveal the myriad ways in which indigenous actors used Spanish laws to get rid of undesirable spouses, separate, request divorce, and change partners, showing cultural adaptation and traces of previous practices. Mestizaje and illegitimacy were common among the conquistadors and their crew who arrived in Peru with children born out of wedlock. Some conquistadors and encomenderos procreated children with several Indian women while others had theirs during long lasting relationships with their indigenous partners. Again, fellow countrymen (paisanos) provided dowries to mestizas whose fathers died during the Civil Wars (1538-54) or without leaving a testament to safeguard or help to face their future. Some conclusions reached in this chapter need to be revisited. Spanish and indigenous men and women had children before marriage. Virility and warlike attitudes were highly appreciated among hidalgos whose values were extended to the whole society. Children born out of wedlock were commonplace in Spain. Mestizos incorporated in elite families and mestizo families occupied different steps in the complex social colonial hierarchy according to class and calidad (social standing or rank).
Chapter 6, “Legacy,” is perhaps the most controversial fragment of this research. A considerable amount of data, mainly wills, reveals the many strategies and options parents used to favor their natural and illegitimate descendants. Regardless the affection and fondness for an illegitimate child, the quest of inheritance was included in laws and codes that favored legitimate descendants over natural and illegitimate offspring. Yet appropriate Spanish laws and codes are not mentioned in this research. The Fuero Real (1255) only considered heirs the legitimate descendants, excluding the possibility of granting the natural sons more of the fifth of the free disposal. But, if no legitimate children existed, the naturals could become heirs. The example of encomendero Nicolás de Almazán clarifies the matter; knowing that “children [illegitimate] were excluded from inheritance according to divine law and the laws of these Kingdoms” and that his bequest could be contested, Almazán made arrangements with his legitimate heirs to protect his illegitimate daughter (pp. 163-164). Close to death, when dictating their testaments, responsible fathers would decide to remediar their natural offspring. In this case, remediar means to provide financial aid to solve the difficulties an illegitimate child could face along life, whether in marriage or in making a living. The Leyes de Toro (1505) confirmed the Fuero Real. When a father died without leaving a will (ab intestato), the legitimate heirs (the living wife, their children, and grandchildren) received all the assets. Natural children only could claim a sixth share (la sesma parte) of their parent’s patrimony if they died ab intestato. Laws favored legitimate heirs (parents, siblings) in Spain when a relative died in the colonies. Major shares reverted to the legitimate relatives in Spain while the natural children—included those acknowledged—received minor shares.
Mangan has made a great effort to reveal the transatlantic bonds maintained between immigrants and their peninsular families, while excavating in the foundations of colonial family. However, her analysis would have been strengthened and some of the conclusions would have been different if the author had attended to the prolific literature on colonial family history, concubinage, mestizaje, mestizos as passeurs or cultural mediators, inheritance, and family networks produced by American, Latin American, and European scholars who are going to be surprised to learn that “the dynamic family structure of an emerging colonial society remained unexamined” (p. 174).
. Berta Ares Queija, “Mancebas de españoles, madres de mestizos: Imágenes de la mujer indígena en el Perú colonial temprano,” in Las mujeres en la construcción de las sociedades iberoamericanas, ed. Pilar Gonzalbo Aizpuru and Berta Ares Queija (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas-El Colegio de México, 2004), 15-39; Berta Ares Queija, “Relaciones sexuales y afectivas en tiempos de conquista: La Española (1492-1516),” in Cristóbal Colón, 1506-2006: Historia y Leyenda, ed. Consuelo Varela (Palos de la Frontera, Huelva: Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, Ayuntamiento de Palos de la Frontera, CSIC-EEHA, 2006), 237-256; Berta Ares Queija, “El Inca Garcilaso y sus ‘parientes’ mestizos,” in Humanismo, mestizaje y escritura en los Comentarios Reales, ed. Carmen de Mora (Madrid: Vervuert Iberoamericana, 2010), 15-29; and Berta Ares Queija and Serge Gruzinski, eds., Entre dos mundos: Fronteras Culturales y Agentes Mediadores (Seville: Escuela de Esudios Hispano-Americanos, 1997).
. A clue on the matter could be found on page 110: “Men and women had to prove they were cristianos viejos (Old Christians), using documents of testimonies from their birthplace, since the Crown prohibited men and women form passing to the Indies if they had any Jewish or Muslim ancestry.”
. Aurelio Miró Quesada, “Ideas y proceso del mestizaje en el Perú,” Revista Histórica 28 (1965): 9-23.
. Ana María Presta, “Orígenes de los linajes de La Plata (Audiencia de Charcas), 1540-1640: Extremadura y América en clave mestiza,” Revista de Estudios Extremeños 61 (2005): 591-604; and Ares Queija, “El Inca Garcilaso,” 23-26.
. Ana María Presta, Encomienda, familia y negocios en Charcas colonial: Los encomenderos de La Plata, 1550-1600 (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos-Banco Central de la Reserva del Perú, 2000), 179-180; Ana María Presta, “Acerca de las primeras ‘doñas’ mestizas de Charcas colonial, 1540-1590,” in Las mujeres en la construcción de las sociedades iberoamericanas, 41-62; and Ana María Presta, “Entre la vara y los indios: La sociedad de Charcas frente a parejas imposibles (1560-1580),” Allpanchis 71 (2008): 113-139.
. Presta, Encomienda, 20, 30, 34, esp. chap. 3; and Presta, “Orígenes de los linajes,” 592, 596-599.
. Presta, Encomienda, 101, 110, 111, 121.
. Ibid., 61, 67; and Presta, “Orígenes de los linajes,” 596-598.
. Presta, Encomienda, 73-74; and Presta, “Orígenes de los linajes,” 599-600.
. Adopting Nancy van Deussen’s translation of remediar for another matter, in this context Mangan translates the action as “to reform,” interpreting a father’s moral responsibility owed to an illegitimate daughter instead of an economic legacy (p. 151).
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Ana María Presta. Review of Mangan, Jane E., Transatlantic Obligations: Creating the Bonds of Family in Conquest-Era Peru and Spain.
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