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

By Patricia Seed | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Marriage and family relations with respect to marriage in Spanish colonial Mexico had a distinctive character and an unusual evolution. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the cultural values relating to patriarchal control over marriage that were embodied in the ideas and practices of the institutions of social control differed, often dramatically, from those of other European societies. Further, although between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the underlying assumptions about parental control of marriage changed greatly in both Western Europe and colonial Mexico, the direction of the changes was very different; in European societies the bonds of patriarchal control over marriage loosened, just as they were tightening in Mexican society. The dominant ideological position of sixteenth-century Hispanic institutions about the parental role in marriage choice emphasized paternalism, "to guide children toward the good," as one writer expressed it, and discouraged parents from taking an authoritarian role. Institutional ideology on the same subject in the eighteenth century encouraged the exercise of authoritarian control especially by fathers--that is, classic patriarchal control over marriage choices.

The contrast between Mexican and "traditional" European society arises from several critical differences: the nature of arranged marriages, attitudes toward motives of interest, the requirement for parental consent to marry, the relationship between capitalism, individualism, and patriarchal control of marriage choices, and the decline of honor. In this Conclusion, we will review the major find-

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