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Premarital sex, consensual relations, bigamy, polygamy, births out of wedlock, and clandestine affairs between clergy and laity were common components of everyday society in colonial Latin America. Private Passions and Public Sins focuses on the frequency and significance of illegitimacy and extramarital relationships in Lima, Peru, during the seventeenth century. Lima was Maria Mannarelli's selection for this study because it was the administrative, commercial, and religious center of the Viceroyalty of Peru and was home to numerous ethnic and social groups.
Chapter one deals with the Iberian family and extramarital relations in fifteenth-century Spain. Chapter two reconstructs the unequal numbers of men and women in Lima's population throughout the century. Chapter three shows the reactions of civil and church authorities and ordinary citizens to extramarital relationships. Chapter four explores adultery and chapter five follows with illegitimacy and its significance in Lima's society.
The relationship between illegitimacy and women is the focus of chapter six, with a view of colonial women and the emphasis on control of sexuality. The problem of child abandonment resulting from extramarital relationships is discussed in chapter seven.
Posted January 22, 2009
Spanish conquest and rule of Peru could not undo the natural sexual attraction between men and women or sweep aside the reasons for sexual relations ranging from love to expediency and calculation. Mannarelli covers the range of sexual relationships from marriage and adultery to concubine or mistress to examine the role these had in maintaining the class and ruling structure instituted by the Spanish. In some cases, the various types of sexual relationships could change the social status of either the man or the woman or work to make for instances of the melding of Spanish and native Peruvian society. An important factor in the effects of a sexual relationship was the handling of offspring. Children could be raised by man and woman no matter what their relationship they could be taken into the family of one or the other they could be sent to live with relatives or they could be abandoned, in which case many were cared for by the Catholic Church in its hospitals. The society adapted to the large numbers of illegitimate children in ways to maintain the social structure while also face reality. 'Illegitimacy formed a particular kind of hierarchal system...[with] a wide spectrum of discriminatory behavior and attitudes against those born out of wedlock.' Nonetheless, '[i]llegitimacy did not always prevent men and women from ascending socially or aspiring to a place in the dominant sectors of urban colonial society.' As with the variety of sexual relationships between adult men and women, Mannarelli treats the variety of ways illegitimate children were assimilated or recognized in the colonial society, especially the large numbers among Lima's 'subordinate ethnic groups.' Mannarelli is an associate professor of history at a Lima university. In this scholarly work, she takes up a largely ignored or peripheral subject to find out how sexual relations and offspring affected the urban society of the time and figured into the future of Spanish colonial rule and shaped Peru's history after contact with the Europeans.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.