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

By Patricia Seed | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Interest and Patriarchy

From the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries attitudes toward two basic human appetites were challenged in colonial Mexico. Whereas in the seventeenth century marrying for love, as an expression of personal will, was widely esteemed, in the eighteenth century parents began to argue successfully against the legitimacy of such a motive for marriage. And whereas in the seventeenth century the calculated pursuit of money and status--interest--was generally frowned upon as a reason for preventing marriage, in the eighteenth century some parents began to question the idea that interest was a malicious or unjust consideration. What was occurring was a shift in cultural attitudes toward the motives involved in the decision to marry. In seventeenth-century prenuptial conflicts parents were seen as prisoners in the grip of uncontrollable greed; in the eighteenth, parents began to argue that children were victims of passion, of lust masquerading as love. Behind this shift lay not only an increasing skepticism about love as an elevated sentiment, but also a greater respect for the motive of self-interest in the form of self-aggrandizement and gain. Increasingly, "interest" was regarded not as a demeaning passion but as a sensible motivation for everyone. The change was directly related to the increasing involvement of New Spain's merchants, miners, and bureaucrats in a world market, which aroused in them attitudes toward money and interest that were new to Hispanic culture.

As a result of these parallel shifts in the cultural evaluation of love and interest, two changes occurred in the prenuptial conflicts. In the

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