Mujeres de mal vivir: Gender, religion, and the politics of power in colonial Guatemala, 1650-1750

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/282504
Title:
Mujeres de mal vivir: Gender, religion, and the politics of power in colonial Guatemala, 1650-1750
Author:
Few, Martha Blair, 1964-
Issue Date:
1997
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
This dissertation analyzes the gender and ethnic dimensions of cultural authority and power within the process of colonial rule in Guatemala. To do so, I focus on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century accounts of the lives and practices of female healers, midwives, sorcerers, and clandestine cult leaders in the capital, Santiago de Guatemala. Colonial authorities often called these women mujeres de mal vivir, "women who live evil lives." Community members from all sectors of colonial society consulted women who practiced sexual witchcraft, magical healing, and popular religious rituals in multi-ethnic urban communities such as Santiago. These women were asked to intervene in a wide variety of conflicts in everyday life, in sexual and familial relations, disputes between neighbors, petty theft, instances of abusive colonial officials, employers, and husbands, and in cases of bewildering and often bizarre illnesses. Women's power in urban communities was maintained through reputation, informal material bases of power, social ties between inhabitants of the capital and surrounding indigenous towns, and public displays of healing, violence, and devotional acts. Women possessed authority in everyday life through their knowledge of the body and the natural world, which drew on Spanish, African, and Mayan religious and supernatural beliefs. I base my analysis on Inquisition cases prosecuted in Santiago de Guatemala from 1650 to 1750, supplemented with civil and ecclesiastical correspondence, city council records, and other sources. The examination of women's practices of healing, sorcery, sexual witchcraft and popular devotional acts revealed opportunities for women's partial cultural and symbolic autonomy in everyday life in Santiago de Guatemala. Women reinforced their power through public displays and informal social ties to friends, family, and neighbors, ties that often crossed ethnic, class, and urban and rural divisions of colonial society. On the one hand, women's alternative practices revealed the crucial, but often overlooked, gender dynamics of power within the broader framework of ethnic and cultural resistance to colonial rule. On the other hand, however, women's cultural resistance also became opportunities for the reinscription of colonial hegemony through institutions such as the Inquisition, and for encompassing urban communities within the Spanish colonial state.
Type:
text; Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic)
Keywords:
History, Latin American.; Political Science, General.
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; History
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Gosner, Kevin M.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoen_USen_US
dc.titleMujeres de mal vivir: Gender, religion, and the politics of power in colonial Guatemala, 1650-1750en_US
dc.creatorFew, Martha Blair, 1964-en_US
dc.contributor.authorFew, Martha Blair, 1964-en_US
dc.date.issued1997en_US
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractThis dissertation analyzes the gender and ethnic dimensions of cultural authority and power within the process of colonial rule in Guatemala. To do so, I focus on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century accounts of the lives and practices of female healers, midwives, sorcerers, and clandestine cult leaders in the capital, Santiago de Guatemala. Colonial authorities often called these women mujeres de mal vivir, "women who live evil lives." Community members from all sectors of colonial society consulted women who practiced sexual witchcraft, magical healing, and popular religious rituals in multi-ethnic urban communities such as Santiago. These women were asked to intervene in a wide variety of conflicts in everyday life, in sexual and familial relations, disputes between neighbors, petty theft, instances of abusive colonial officials, employers, and husbands, and in cases of bewildering and often bizarre illnesses. Women's power in urban communities was maintained through reputation, informal material bases of power, social ties between inhabitants of the capital and surrounding indigenous towns, and public displays of healing, violence, and devotional acts. Women possessed authority in everyday life through their knowledge of the body and the natural world, which drew on Spanish, African, and Mayan religious and supernatural beliefs. I base my analysis on Inquisition cases prosecuted in Santiago de Guatemala from 1650 to 1750, supplemented with civil and ecclesiastical correspondence, city council records, and other sources. The examination of women's practices of healing, sorcery, sexual witchcraft and popular devotional acts revealed opportunities for women's partial cultural and symbolic autonomy in everyday life in Santiago de Guatemala. Women reinforced their power through public displays and informal social ties to friends, family, and neighbors, ties that often crossed ethnic, class, and urban and rural divisions of colonial society. On the one hand, women's alternative practices revealed the crucial, but often overlooked, gender dynamics of power within the broader framework of ethnic and cultural resistance to colonial rule. On the other hand, however, women's cultural resistance also became opportunities for the reinscription of colonial hegemony through institutions such as the Inquisition, and for encompassing urban communities within the Spanish colonial state.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeDissertation-Reproduction (electronic)en_US
dc.subjectHistory, Latin American.en_US
dc.subjectPolitical Science, General.en_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineHistoryen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorGosner, Kevin M.en_US
dc.identifier.proquest9814392en_US
dc.identifier.bibrecord.b37742140en_US
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