Herein is a social history of one remote corner of Spain's colonial American empire, the Kingdom of New Mexico, between 1500 and 1846. Using marriage as a window into intimate social relations, this study examines the Spanish conquest of America and its impact on one group of indigenous peoples, the Pueblo Indians. The European defeat of America's Indians has been told many times before. What dominates the written record are the visions of the victors. We have numerous panegyrics to their daring, to their strength, and to their valor. We have learned apologias of the conquest by the clergy and intelligentsia, as well as chronicles of its blackest moments, the stuff from which legends were spun. Rarely have we been privy to the vision of the vanquished. Many historians since 1492 have been content to leave in blindness those "savages" the conquistadores said lived in the darkness of idolatry. And even in the pages of those who have tried to rescue noble savages from oblivion, Indians have proven all too listless.
This book, then, is profoundly a project in point of view. It gives vision to the blind, and gives voice to the mute and silent. The conquest of America was not a monologue, but a dialogue between cultures, each of which had many voices that often spoke in unison, but just as often were diverse and divisive. The power dynamics of the conquest clearly favored the Spanish in the contest of cultures that began in 1492 and continues to this day. Each side of that discourse was hard-pressed to prove its superiority. As such, the historical process that unfolds here is a story of contestation, of mediation and negotiation between cultures and between social groups. This is not a history of Spanish men or of Indian men, or of their battles, triumphs, and defeats. It is a history of the complex web of interactions between men and women, young and old, rich and poor,