Honor and Marriage
Marriage was the most important ritual event in the course of life, and it was an occasion when it was necessary for the honor of the family to take precedence over all other considerations. The union of two properties, the joining of two households, the creation of a web of affinal alliances, and the perpetuation of a family's symbolic patrimony -- its name and reputation -- were of such importance to the honor-status of the group that marriage was hardly a decision to be made by minors. The norm in New Mexico was for parents to arrange nuptials for their children with little or no consideration for their wishes. Filial piety required the acceptance of any union that parents deemed appropriate or advantageous.
Arranged marriages that furthered familial honor were frequently at odds with the personal desires of the marital partners themselves, especially with the expression of their love. In this chapter we return to the central theme of this book: how marriage structured inequality. In Chapter i we saw how marital gifting and the debts created thereby exposed the subordination of juniors to seniors in Pueblo society. In Chapter z we explored the meaning of mystical marriage in Franciscan clerical culture and observed in the soul's ordered progression toward her lover, Christ, the ideal submission of inferiors to superiors. Here we focus on Spanish New Mexican society in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to discuss the concerns of honor that parents expressed at marriage, the mechanisms they used to control mate selection, and the constant struggles they waged to preclude filial expressions of love.
Love in colonial New Mexico was considered a subversive sentiment, antithetical to the status concerns of a family and to authority relations within the home. Love glorified personal autonomy and portrayed sexual passion as an intrinsic desire of the species -- natural, free, and egalitar-