Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Violent Delights, Violent Ends: Sex, Race & Honor in Colonial Cartagena De Indias

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Violent Delights, Violent Ends: Sex, Race & Honor in Colonial Cartagena De Indias

Article excerpt

LATIN AMERICAN Violent Delights, Violent Ends: Sex, Race & Honor in Colonial Cartagena de Indias. By Nicole von Germeten. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 2013. Pp. xii, 304. $29.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-8263-5395-5.)

This monograph explores provocative case studies that analyze how Cartagena's residents negotiated issues surrounding gender, sexuality, and politics in the Spanish Indies from 1600 to 1800. Eleven chapters provide compelling vignettes: protagonists debate a dubious virginity; women practice love magic; witches fly to night beach orgies; elite males duel and kill defending their honor, married women engage in prostitution; almost everyone flees from the Inquisition. Such narratives provide enticing introductions for undergraduates as well as historical grist for specialists.

Yet, the ensuing analysis does raise the ever-persistent question concerning the methodology of selection. As the author notes, since "local archives do not survive in Cartagena" (p. 188), the cases derive from Inquisition documents from the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Madrid, from appeals to the Council of the Indies located in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, and from the Criminal section of the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Bogotá. So why these particular choices and not others? Lacking guidance as to authorial options-was the choice topical, the most dramatic, the most colorful-what was available, what was left out-the absence of any stated rationale as to choice problematizes generalizations. For example, if, as suggested, the concept of matrimonial love seems rare in these stories, how much might authorial selection have influenced any conclusion?

Where the author's thick analysis of these case stories yields historical gold is less in broad generalizations than in explication of processes. Embedded throughout these very different stories are consistencies: underlying patterns providing oblique but telling insight into how things worked. For example, whether dealing with duels, witches, or inquisitors, the author explores how the testimony of those involved revealed mutually-held conceptualizations about the difference between the public and private spheres, gendered definitions concerning the salience of honor, dynamics surrounding constructions of public reputation, and tactics to secure reputable witnesses for favorable outcomes. …

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