Colonial Society

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Oct, 25, 2012
Colonial Society
-When examining society it is easier to find information on the elite and this neglects the other classes and in
earlier times documents included the race of the person and this made things easier (later on this doesn’t happen)
Factors that Determined Social Status:
Limpieza de Sangre (Purity of Blood):
-Started in Spain and at the beginning it has a religious meaning where to have pure Spanish blood meant that you
up to three generations ago no one had been in trouble with the Inquisition in your family
-For a while Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived together peacefully and this would mean that truly no Spanish
person had “pure” blood but this changed when the crown wanted to unify the people and they incorporated the
idea of purity of blood to suppress minority groups (in colonies this did not hold because society was too different)
-In the beginning it meant just being a Christian Spaniard so natives and Africans were not included
-In the Americas it was used to elevate the Spanish minority and to give them higher standing in society
-By the 1800’s the natives were claiming this as well only in relation to pure native blood
-To have an African ancestor was especially bad and there was no way it would be accepted in main colonies
-There were paintings meant to classify the different mixes of races and there were 28 combinations and these
were highly biased because as you moved down the social ladder people were sometimes shown fighting, etc
-People could marry up or down on the social scale and with so many combinations it was hard to tell people apart
-The fact people were identified by race in documents this denotes certain responsibilities or benefits (Spaniards
were exempt from paying taxes, natives could not join the army, etc)
-To get certain positions you had to list your family and their accomplishments and actual qualifications were not
as important up to as late as the 18th century and this led to nobles holding positions they had no idea how to run
(ex: people that couldn’t sail were captains of ships) but people would only listen to them if they had titles
-Hidalgo means son of somebody and this title meant that you were not a nobody and was like a minor noble title
-In Americas it was not good but you could still have a life within certain limitations (not life ending as in Europe)
-There were high rates of illegitimacy and many important historical figures were illegitimate children
-Where there were native populations they had to pay to be married by the church so many times they would just
get married by their own traditions and live together and have children that the Spanish saw as illegitimate
-If you had illegitimate children you could leave them at a convent (sometimes people would go back for them), or
you could go and say you wanted to adopt and just adopt your own child, and sometimes the fathers of children
would take them and care for them
-The children were only really treated badly if the parents were too closely related or if it was the child of a
religious official who was supposed to be celibate
-An example is if you worked for the Inquisition you had certain benefits, or if you were in a religious brotherhood
-Some institutions had their own jails for members and they would be treated better than in outside prisons
-Priests and religious officials were exempt from taxes and some institutions had their own courts like the army
and these helped determine where you belonged in society
-Certain towns had special privileges if they did something exceptional for the crown like Tlaxcala who were allied
to the Spaniards against the Aztecs and the king said they no longer had to pay taxes
Women and Society:
-If you were married the wealthier you were the more input the family would have because it was a matter of
finances and enhancing the standing of the family so parents often chose their children’s partners but according to
the church the person had to want to marry and they could not be forced
-Dowries were a necessity and if the family had mostly girls this was expensive because they needed impressive
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