Summary Of Colonial Latin American Honor

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The major ordering mechanism of colonial Latin American society was the honor code system. Honor itself was comprised of virtue and status – virtue was an inherent quality, while status was earned. How much virtue an individual had was known at birth, through a combination of their class, gender, and race. Virtue, then, set certain limitations on someone’s potential status. Status could be earned in different ways depending on an individual’s class, gender, and race, although the most accessible way was through the church. In Faces of Honor, Lyman Johnson and Sonya Lipsett-Rivera compiled various case studies examining how the honor codes shaped society among different races, classes, and genders. The trials of Dr. Gonzalez shows how class…show more content…
Maria Negra was a black slave woman, whose only claim to honor was that she had been baptized and married within the church. (Boyer, 161) The combination of being black, a slave, and a woman meant that she did not have any virtue by birth, but she earned status within her community by completing Christian rites of passage. Her title of Christian wife gained her rights within her community. She implored the magistrate to investigate abuses against her husband by his master; the magistrate came to investigate but the master said he was punishing her husband for running away, so the magistrate ended the investigation. (Boyer, 161) Maria was able to leverage her status so that the magistrate would look into potential abuses against her husband. Unfortunately, her (and her husband’s) lack of virtue meant that magistrate was predispositioned to believe her husband’s owner over her. However, because Maria felt that she could use what little status she had in her favor plays a major role in why the system successfully perpetuated itself for so long. The concept of status as a subcategory of honor created the illusion of mobility. Those born without virtue were able to gain status during their lives, so they were encouraged to participate in the system rather than undermine…show more content…
Status created the illusion of social mobility while virtue limited an individual’s prospects and perpetuated the status quo. This symbiotic relationship between status and virtue was also impacted by the class, gender, or race of an individual. The case studies of Dr. Gonzalez, Anna Margarida, and Maria Negra showcase how these three things respectively shape how someone living in colonial Latin America interacted with the honor codes. Dr. Gonzalez used his class to manipulate the system to his benefit, Anna Margarida exemplified how women were affected by the honor codes and had agency within them, and Maria Negra’s case reflects the trickiness of race relations within colonial society. Each were able to use either their virtue or status in order to make the system (at least somewhat) work for them, which in turn explains how the system successfully perpetuated

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