Fatal Love
Spousal Killers, Law, and Punishment in the Late Colonial Spanish Atlantic
Victor M. Uribe-Uran


Contents and Abstracts
chapter abstract

Addresses historiographical and theoretical issues, discussing the literatures on domestic violence, crime, in particular homicide, and legal history. It proposes that this study bridges the worlds of social and legal history and contributes to historiographical debates concerning the reasons behind the alleged gap between law and reality, the doctrinal roots regarding leniency towards Indians, the extent to which women remained restricted to the domestic sphere, and the functioning of masculine honor. Finally, it describes the study's sources, methodology and time period, highlighting their significance.

1 Access to Justice: Domestic Violence, Laws and Procedures
chapter abstract

Looks at canon or ecclesiastical and civil laws pertaining to marriage and marriage-related crimes in Spain and those in the colonies, and examines judicial procedures concerning the trial of public crimes. The chapter establishes that access to justice and knowledge of legal procedures was widespread and central to the legitimation of the monarchy.

2 Innocent Infants? Indians and Domestic Violence in Colonial Mexico.
chapter abstract

Focuses on 87 cases of spousal murder taking place in late colonial Mexico. In addition to shedding light on the circumstances and motives of the crimes, the discussion centers on the ethnic dimensions of the murders in question, a majority of which were committed by members of the indigenous community.

3 The King's Forgiveness: Earthly Intercessions and Legal Culture
chapter abstract

Looks at excuses murderers could use to reduce their sentences, in particular those derived from drinking and other mitigating factors. It examines also the favorable treatment granted to Indians, and the extensive use of royal pardons. The chapter argues that forgiveness was essential to the image and legitimacy of the Spanish monarchy and strategic to its hegemonic control over society.

4 Honor and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Spain
chapter abstract

Focuses on over 65 murders committed by Spanish wives and husbands, detailing their characteristics. Given the saliency of murders committed by unfaithful wives, this chapter explores the culture of honor and the extent to which it could be considered central to explaining the events under consideration. It demonstrates that most incidents resulting from extramarital affairs involved women who killed their husbands, not the other way around. This suggests that the honor codes were upended.

5 God's Forgiveness: Heavenly Intercessions
chapter abstract

Examines legal mechanisms whereby the Catholic church sheltered spousal murderers and other criminals and the King acted as God's proxy to extend pardon to criminals during the Catholic Holy Week. It also shows the central role of the church in the alleviation of punishment and the accompaniment of those marching to the gallows. It establishes that forgiveness was thus also critical to the legitimacy of the Church and its hegemony, both a complementary and competing force relative to the monarchy.

6 Dangerous Women: Gender and Domestic Disputes in Colonial Colombia
chapter abstract

Examines 54 cases of spousal murder that took place in late colonial Colombia. Similar to the discussion on Mexico, this chapter addresses the circumstances and motives of the crimes. Rather than concentrating on the ethic aspects of the various crimes, however, it highlights the gender dimensions. This is important in light of the fact that a considerable portion of the murders were committed by women, a peculiar situation the chapter seeks to understand.

7 The Many Shades of Pain and Punishment in the Spanish Atlantic
chapter abstract

Turns attention to punishments by considering encubamiento and confinement, the decline of judicial torture, and harshness against mixed-races. It shows the overall decline of the death penalty, the fact that it impacted much more metropolitan than colonial subjects and whites that non-whites, while establishing also the significance of other forms of punishment in particular confinement. It confirms too the great significance of clemency.

8 Transition to Independence, Criminal Justice and the Reinvention of Hegemony and Coercion in the Spanish Atlantic
chapter abstract

Examines briefly some of the changes brought about by Independence and peninsular liberalism. It establishes that the humanization of punishment was not the abrupt result of independence and liberalism but a long-term ("developmental") process extending back to even the 16th century

chapter abstract

Reiterates the centrality of law and justice in the lives of late colonial Spanish Atlantic couples, even members of Indigenous communities and colored peoples. It summarizes the study's findings about ethnic, gender and other cultural relations. Highlights, in particular, the apparent upending of stereotypes on negative legal discrimination against the natives; the exclusion of women from public life; and, the alleged male proclivity to avenge honor besmirched by morally inappropriate sexual behavior on the part of female companions. Stresses too hegemony at work, through the observance of longstanding legal rules, judicial routines, ceremonies and habitus concerning appropriate individual, familial and social behavior, as well as the right behavior on the part of Crown and Church, during times of peace and conflict.