To Love, Honor, and Obey in Colonial Mexico: Conflicts over Marriage Choice, 1574-1821

By Patricia Seed | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Changing Attitudes Toward Honor

During the initial hegemonic period of the church over marital questions in Mexico City, parents who objected to matches did not state their reasons. Their rationales are strikingly absent from ecclesiastical records, and instead of them we find descriptions of those motives by the couple themselves, or their friends, relatives, and neighbors. The portrait of parental behavior and intentions as drawn by others is uniformly dreadful. The absence of the parents' point of view in itself tells us something about the implicit assumptions of colonial Spanish society. First, it was readily believed that some parents--the minority who are the focus of our study--would conduct themselves in an immoral and ruthless manner. Second, the values and intentions that these parents embodied were almost wholly lacking in normative support from both society and one of its chief institutions, the Catholic Church. In other words, a significant and dominant social ethos characterized those missing parental rationales as lacking in some of the fundamental moral beliefs of Spanish society. Furthermore, the lingering suspicion is that these very parents themselves perhaps realized that their motives could not withstand the test of public scrutiny.

Although the transition away from this initial hegemonic period is incomplete, it is quite evident. Beginning in the first decade of the eighteenth century the voices of parents appear at first contesting the moral aspersions cast on their conduct by their offspring and proclaiming the morality or nobility of their own ambitions to control marriage choices. These first attempts of parents to justify their

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