“Porque no tengo el ánimo de casarme”: el desistimiento al matrimonio en los juicios de disenso en la Nueva Galicia a finales del siglo XVIII*
José Luis Cervantes Cortés
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Research and Innovation Article.
La aplicación de la Real Pragmática de Matrimonios de 1776, en el mundo hispánico, dio origen a una gran cantidad de controversias familiares, debido a la elección matrimonial que habían hecho los hijos de familia. Por una parte, los padres defendían el linaje y la reputación de sus familias, mientras que los hijos optaban por la capacidad que tenían para manifestar su libre voluntad para contraer matrimonio; de esta manera se presentaron varias demandas judiciales ante los tribunales ordinarios para tratar de resolver estos conflictos. En este contexto se inscribe el siguiente trabajo, en el cual se analizan ocho juicios de disenso que culminaron con la presentación del desistimiento al matrimonio por parte de la pretensa, sin tener que justificar cuáles fueron los motivos que le concernían para retraer su decisión; sin embargo, mediante la lectura de estos casos se puede apreciar la participación de diversas personas que influyeron en el discurso de las jóvenes convenciéndolas de no verificar su casamiento; asimismo, también se distinguen los recursos que utilizaron los padres, como el depósito femenino, el desprestigio de los pretendientes o el refuerzo de su autoridad patriarcal, para tratar de evitar que se llevaran a cabo dichos enlaces.
Palabras clave: Desistimiento, Juicios de disenso, Consentimiento paterno, Consenso conyugal, Matrimonio.
“Why I do not wish to marry”: withdrawal from agreements to marry in lawsuits in Nueva Galicia in the late 18th century.
In the Hispanic world, the implementation of the Royal Pragmatic on Marriages, in 1776, caused a great amount of family controversy, due to the matrimonial choice made by the children from good families. On the one hand, parents defended the lineage and reputation of their families, while the children chose to express their free will to marry. Several lawsuits were filed before the courts in order to solve these conflicts. This is the context in which the present research project is framed, where eight lawsuits were analyzed, that ended with the rejection of the marriage proposal by the female party, without having to justify the reasons concerning to their decision. Nevertheless, in reading these cases, external influences over the speech of the young ladies are evident, convincing them to avoid the fulfillment of the weddings. We can also identify different strategies used by the parents such as the “confinement of wives” in the homes of honorable families or other places suggested by the jury, discrediting the reputation of the fiancé or reinforcing patriarchal authority, in order to dissuade them from engaging in these marital unions.
Key Words: Withdrawal, juicios de disenso (lawsuits by guardians contesting the right of children to marry), parental consent, conjugal consent, marriage.
Une stratégie féminine: le refus du mariage dans les procès de désistement : Nouvelle Galice, fin du XVIIIe siècle
L’application dans le monde hispanique de la Pragmatique Royale de Mariages (1776), a suscité une grande quantité de disputes familiales, en raison des choix des conjoints. Tandis que les pères défendaient le lignage et la réputation de leurs familles, les fils passaient à l’acte, en mettaient en avant leur libre volonté, ce qui a entraîné nombre de procédures devant les tribunaux ordinaires. Dans cet article nous analyserons huit procès de désistement dans lesquels les femmes ont refusé le mariage, sans se voir pressés de justifier les motifs de leur décision. Ces cas, permettent, toutefois, d’apprécier l’ascendant de diverses personnes sur les jeunes et sur leur décision de ne pas se marier. De même, on peut y distinguer les ressources employées par les pères pour tenter d’éviter ces liaisons comme le dépôt féminin, le discrédit des prétendants ou le renforcement de leur autorité patriarcale.
Mots-clés: Renoncement, Procès de désistement, Consentement paternel, Consensus conjugal, Mariage
The objective of this work lies in the analysis of the withdrawal from marriage by young women who were involved in the lawsuits so as to argue that they did not wish or it was no longer their will to proceed with said marriage. In order to carry out this analysis we have aimed to make a review of the different strategies used in this type of family litigation, as well as identifying the presence of several characters that participated in these conflicts and that, in some way, motivated the betrothed to change their minds and refuse to marry. It is true that in these eight cases we can explicitly observe the decision of the betrothed to decline her promise to marry, but the contrivances that the parents used to guide the decisions of their daughters as a means of putting their interests first are also evident. We will also find the participation of the judicial authorities in defending the ideas of the parents in such circumstances and thus protecting the honor and will of the intended wives in view of the presumed marriage.
In order to support our work, we have used the study of the statements made by the women involved in this type of civil litigation, for in these cases their word became irrefutable proof to finalize the lawsuit. However, the strategies that were used in these trials on several occasions did not consist of an original idea coming from them, but they were frequently influenced by the decisions of the parents, of some relative or other circumstance that forced them to change their minds. In this way, the legal condition of the intended wives was used to a certain end, in this case the invalidation of the marriage that these women intended to enter into.
One of the main questions that we will try to answer is the reasons why the testimony where the fiancée claimed that it was no longer her will to get married became enough proof to suspend the trial, without a justification for this decision, as in none of the eight cases that will be presented below were the reasons for this sudden change of heart given. It was different in the case of men, because if a man refused to fulfill his matrimonial promise, he had to present the arguments that concerned evading his nuptial responsibility and, in some occasions, he could be forced to keep his word or remedy the situation in some way, especially if the sexual act with the woman in question had been consummated.
The following investigation derives from a more extensive work, where the general method of application of the Royal Pragmatic on Marriages of 1776 in Nueva Galicia at the end of the 18th century was studied. However, in this work we will exclusively dedicate ourselves to the study of eight particular cases which correspond to a part of the lawsuits that we have found in this jurisdiction and that concluded with the withdrawal from marriage by the intended wife.
The eight cases that we will analyze in this work took place in the Royal Audiencia of Guadalajara between 1790 and 1803, in the capital of the Intendency and other neighboring towns. In this jurisdiction, we have found 90 lawsuits of this type and more than 70 marriage licenses, of which we have selected eight cases which share similar situations and results, and represent 9% of the documental corpus studied. At the same time, it was a period when the Royal Pragmatic on Marriages was put into practice in the Indies, legislated by Carlos III on 23rd March 1776, and the main objective of which was to avoid that marriages of notorious inequality due to racial, social and economic questions took place.
2. Paternal consent and conjugal consensus
Towards the18th century, a sociocultural debate started between the Crown and the Church in the Hispanic monarchy, regarding the authority the parents had to intervene in the matrimonial decisions of their children before the free will if the spouses-to-be.
Spanish legislation, from Siete Partidas, gave the parents the faculties and the authority to have a vigilant attitude as regards the matrimonial choice of their children, under the legal condition of parental responsibility. However, it was supposed that the ecclesiastic authorities constantly favored the choices of children over paternal objections. This situation caused endless tensions in society, for while some defended the acknowledgement of the paternal authority and the need for the parents to give their consent for their children to marry, others had the idea of the freedom of the children, to follow their free will and choose a partner for purely affective reasons.
This debate implied a discussion with the precepts that had been ratified in the Council of Trent, for one the achievements of the counter-reform, as regards marriage, was the reiteration of the existence of free will for the spouses-to-be to get married. While this reflection was not a novelty at the time, the phrase Consensus facit nuptias was revived, and with this expression the true nature of marriage was announced, this is, mutual consent of the spouses. In this way, canonists and theologists of the time reflected upon the idea of marriage under this assumption, given that conjugal consent was the first element that could construct the sacrament of marriage.
On the other hand, in the same council, it was established that the will of the spouses had to be expressed orally and through external signs that ruled out any doubt, this action was used make the word of marriage more valid, “for no contract takes effect if the contracting parties do not express their will to one another.” In addition, marital consent had to be expressed in the present tense; this means that they had to express their will to get married at the moment they made the statement.
At the same time, the doctrine on free will established the limits of the paternal authority, for the heads of the family had the chance to participate in the matrimonial choice, but they could not assign the future spouse of their children, nor try to change their wishes, even less cast doubt upon their choice or impose a decision. Canonic law condemned the use of force, coaction and violence in the choice of a spouse, except in the case that the condition was contrary to the interests of marriage or that there was any impediment between the spouses-to-be to carry out the wedding.
However, the practice of expressing the free will to get married was not very frequent in most cases, because the tradition of the father’s supervision was more relevant. In this way, the choice of the future spouse became a decision that was not exclusively made by the couple, but it was of the utmost interest to the families of the spouses-to-be.
In this context the Royal Pragmatic on Marriages arose, which was enacted on 23 March 1776 by Carlos III, and spread in the Indies through a royal document as from 7 April 1778. The main objective of this legal order was to “avoid the indecency of unequal marriages.” The main reasons that motivated the Crown to write this Royal Pragmatic were: the change in the economic conditions of the population and the growth of social mobility, the expansion and reinforcing of the normative patriarchy and the concern of the aristocratic families regarding unequal marriages or the fear of “racial contamination” through marriage.
In this sense, the enforcement of such a law constitutes a paradigmatic example of the effort made by the Spanish Crown to control social and political conflicts, which had triggered the phenomenon of the “darkening” the population as a consequence of interracial marriages, as the Royal Pragmatic referred to the inconvenience of unions with people of mixed blood, that is to say, mulattos and other afro-mixes.
Through this Royal Pragmatic, the heads of the family were given the faculty to have active participation in the election of their children’s spouses. This law specified that the sons and daughters under 25 years of age had to ask for and obtain parental consent in order to marry. Additionally, through this norm, parents were transferred attributions over their children’s marriage, subjecting them to a forced parental authority, as they needed their explicit consent as a formal requisite to get married. This was justified by the authorities saying that respect for paternal authority would lead to a basis of social stability.
The fact of studying the Royal Pragmatic within a certain jurisdiction, that of Nueva Galicia in this case, is not because it had a different application there than that specified in its content, but because through its application it is possible to observe its exercise and invocation in the pre-nuptial conflicts that took place in the area, for through the study of these cases it is possible to detect different elements that allow us to make a more thorough analysis of the family relationships and the conflicts between parents and children in Nueva Galicia at the end of the 18th century. At the same time, in this work we can determine the participation of the justice boards regarding the regulation of the individual conducts, through the resolution of lawsuits.
3. The lawsuits
The conflicts that arose as a consequence of the enactment of the Royal Pragmatic on Marriages have a diverse nature. Even when the aim of this regulation was to avoid marriages between people of unequal racial quality, in the case of Indies, we can also observe that there were circumstances or factors that had an incidence in the justification of the parents to take the issue to court.
In general terms, the reasons that the parents put forward in order to start a lawsuit have been divided into seven categories. First, we have cases where the justification was the ethnic differences between the spouses-to-be; there are also the cases about lineage, in this case we refer to situations where the parents mentioned that one of the future spouses was of inferior quality, although they were referring to people who belonged to the same ethnic group. There was also opposition over moral disparity, which refers to people’s attitudes. At the same time, there were age oppositions that could be of two kinds: when the spouses-to-be were too young for marriage or when there was a great age difference between them. On the other hand, there were also cases of different social conditions, for example, that one of the two was a slave, an abandoned child or that the trade of the husband-to-be parents was not considered decent enough so as to marry their daughter. There was also opposition due to the economic situation of the young, for social status was also measured by their wealth and social position. And finally, a group called “for no reason,” as during the whole process of the trial the reasons of the parents to oppose the marriage were never mentioned, the only argument is that the person chosen by their children was not to their liking.
From the cases that were dealt with in the Royal Audiencia of Guadalajara, only 25% of the total correspond to the processes where the ethnic quality of the spouses-to-be was involved, which was the main reason why the Royal Pragmatic was enacted, while most of the cases correspond to requests to start legal actions for various different reasons; lineage and moral conditions of the young were the most common.
The eight cases that we have selected to carry out this work are very different from one another, but they have some common ground. In general, the procedure can be the same, there is a negative response from the parents who do not want to give their consent for their children to get married. However, after several statements and testimonials, of both parties, finally the woman desisted from their promise of marriage and in the face of this situation, the trial was concluded, for the presentation of the statement was considered justification enough to put an end the lawsuit. Now it was no longer necessary to review the evidence presented or that the judge declare the parental dissent rational and fair.
As it had been expressed before, the eight cases that we have analyzed in this work took place between 1790 and 1803, in the city of Guadalajara and in the villages of Mascota and Tala. Additionally, these cases share some characteristics: all of them were started by the men who wanted to get married, in seven of the opposing the cases of marriage, it was the parents of the wives-to-be. And finally, the reasons the parents used to justify not giving their consent, obey the following causes: in four of them the opposition lay in the ethnic component, in two the social conditions prevailed, in one of them moral conduct and in the other the crime of having kidnapped the fiancée.
4. Withdrawal from marriage
In Hispanic legislation, when a woman presented a lawsuit before the civil justice due to marital non-fulfillment, it proceeded to the investigation of the matter and the man had the obligation to argue the reasons to evade his responsibility. If after his testimony his acts were not justified or supported, according to canonic and civil laws, he could be penalized for failing to fulfill his word. However, a totally contrary attitude can be observed when it was women who made the decision to not get married, although engagement with her fiancé had already been celebrated. This reality will be reflected in lawsuits where, on some occasions, the young women expressed that they no longer desired to get married and, after their testimonial, the trial was concluded without the need to justify the cause of this decision.
For this reason, we wonder about the opposite situation, which supposed the resolution of both cases, if the cause was the same for both: the engagements’ non-fulfillment, although it is evident that the legal effects were different because if men refused to fulfill his promise he had to present the pertinent justification for failing to comply with his word, while for women, dissent was argument enough to put an end to the conflict. The explanation for this situation is argued in the legislation of the time as well as in the representation of honor in the society of the Old Regime.
In the Hispanic world, the honor system was the underlying structure that led and organized the way in which people interacted with each other. However, despite the simplicity of the scheme, honor had a very complex system and multiple ways of being appreciated, for it consisted to a great extent of social relations in which the elite of the town stood out and, in addition, it highlighted the family structures of the time. One of the characteristics of honor refers to the sexual identity of the individual. Schwaller mentions that the roles that the sexes had were clearly defined and, additionally, there was a marked distinction of gender regarding the activities that men and women carried out, and within the female circle there was a marked unity regarding their roles.
During the new Hispanic period, honor was based on maintaining a reputation, prestige and the good name of families. At the same time, honor constituted the structure of the “must be,” although this scheme was not necessarily generalized nor static, for this model was not always fulfilled and not the whole of society could aspire to the same levels of prestige and social recognition.
The main dimension of honor can be observed in the lawsuits, and more precisely in the ones analyzed in this work, which correspond to the sexual honor of women. In the Old Regime, women had the general honor of the family, for that matter, fathers protected the reputation of their wives and daughters. For example, if a young woman had been dishonored by having lost her virginity, the parents tried to remedy the loss of the young woman’s virtue, and one of the solutions was that she married he who had dishonored her. Nevertheless, in several occasions the women had lost their virginity, but the parents refused that they marry because of considering the suitor to be inferior, although this situation could cause them to lose their honor, and bring shame and public humiliation upon the whole family, but they considered that to be preferable to seeing their daughters marry a mulatto or someone inferior to them.
This same approach was recurrently used by the civil authorities in the lawsuits, where the judges always tried to defend the honor of the women involved, mainly when the case involved the loss of virginity with a promise of future marriage. When this type of situation took place, women were considerably supported, as in general the authorities solved these conflicts and always cared for the restitution of sexual honor. Likewise, when they presented marital withdrawal, this proof became testimonial enough to put an end to the conflict, for it was taken for granted that putting that decision forward had the objective of keeping their honor, so it was respected without question. For this reason, the resolution of the cases for marriage non-fulfillment had different conclusions whether the litigant was a man or a woman, as the dishonor to the fiancée would be punished and the restitution of the young woman’s virtue would be privileged.
This situation was taken advantage of by the parents who denied their consent for their daughters to get married, for they used the before mentioned argument to serve their purpose. On some occasions withdrawing was the young woman’s own decision, which can be inferred from the statements made before the authorities, where they expressed their unwillingness to marry. However, this fact could be really ambiguous and many times the different circumstances around this decision cannot be determined, for it was not frequent that the reasons for this sudden change of heart were put forward, although in some cases the young women were pregnant, which meant public dishonor. Below, we will approach the matter of marriage withdrawal in the lawsuits, on the basis of the detailed study of the cases reviewed.
5. The strategies for withdrawing
In the town hall of Mascota, on the 10th of May 1791, appeared Don Juan María Celis before the ordinary justice of said place to denounce the fact that the father of his fiancé, Don Nicolás Perez, refused to give consent to his daughter, Doña Leonarda, to marry Juan María. The spouses-to-be had already celebrated their engagement and they had already kept an “illicit friendship” for some time. For that matter, Juan María appeared before the local authorities so that Don Nicolas would express the reasons for disagreeing with their marriage.
Thus, Don Nicolás appeared in court to mention that his daughter’s suitor was: “a mulatto with a bad reputation” and he also added that he was a person with bad customs, for he had “the vice for gambling,” as Juan María was a gambling operator in a gambling den of the town and he related with “the most insignificant people who are commonly called rogues”; in addition, Don Nicolás pointed out that the suitor had been involved in scandals and criminal conduct in said locality, and for that reason he would not give his consent for his daughter to get married.
On the other hand, Doña Leonarda expressed that she was aware of the arguments presented by her father against her marriage with Juan Maria, and she also expressed that “although there were more arguments, she would marry him anyway” and that she would not change her mind. However, after several statements, presentations of evidence, and testimonials on both sides and a full year of litigation, Doña Leonarda presented a written document where she expressed the following: “My beloved father, this document is to be presented to whom it may concern, I hereby declare that it is not my desire to marry.”
The stories that we will retell below shared similar situations and ended up with the women desisting from carrying out said marriage. In some cases, the mechanisms used to achieve this goal tended to be visible, whereas in others it is more complex to determine what the reasons were for withdrawing from marriage. The previous case can be peculiar as much conflict was caused by Doña Leonarda’s intention to marry. In addition, it is evident that the young woman is determined to marry her fiancé. However, this wish changed due to several circumstances that finally convinced the young woman to desist from her intentions to marry Juan María.
The fundamental part of this case is the letter presented by Doña Leonarda, where she expressed that she no longer wanted to get married. Nevertheless, this decision was the result of different resources applied by her father to discourage his daughter and make her realize that the marriage she intended was not convenient. First, he tried to discredit the suitor by stating that he was of inferior quality and moral conduct. However, this strategy did not work as the accusations were not proved. Juan María also proved his blood purity by presenting five witnesses who corroborated that he was Spanish and of a good reputation. At the same time,Don Nicolás managed to hide his daughter to avoid that she be kidnapped or that the marriage took place in secret and, finally, when the documents of this trial were sent to the Royal Audiencia of Guadalajara for review, a situation took place that convinced Doña Leonarda to decide not to marry and then she presented the previously mentioned letter, which will be dealt with later on.
Another lawsuit where the proof of withdrawal was presented took place in Tala, around 1790. In this case the father of the young woman, Don Miguel Balcázar, denounced, before the ordinary justice, the kidnapping of his daughter, Doña Juana María, perpetrated by José María Naranjo, an aboriginal servant who used to work in their house. In his statement, Don Balcázar expressed that José María had kidnapped his daughter, with her full consent, and that he had taken her to Cocula with the objective of getting married. In this way, Don Miguel begged that the judge “prevented the marriage from taking place, as he, under no circumstances, would give his consent.” Later on, the judge ordered the search for the couple, who were found in the ranch of Higuera and it was determined that Doña Juana María was confined in Don Francisco Delgadillo’s house and José María was imprisoned with the charge of kidnapping.
When Doña Juana was in confinement, she had a statement taken and she expressed that, at first she did intend to marry José María, because “she had done wrong, having carnal relations with José María Naranjo, and that she was now pregnant, and that being in such a shameful and fearful situation, leaving her house and going into hiding was the right thing to do.” However, given the situation of the young woman and her condition, she said: “I no longer wish to get married […] because I know that my parents disagree, and I just want to make them happy.” In that way, the trial was concluded, not without previously confirming that the suitor had escaped from prison.
In this case, the situation that triggered Doña Juana’s change of heart was the confinement she was in. Even when Doña Juana expressed that this decision was made out of respect for her father as she knew that he did not agree with it, it can be corroborated that father and daughter had no contact during the trial until she was taken from the house of Don Francisco Delgadillo, so the temporary confinement could have influenced her decision to desist from marriage.
The confinement of women had diverse objectives, first, this legal resource was useful for the custody and safeguard the young women, so they were not bothered or assaulted, but confinement was also thought as an opportunity for the women not to have contact with the litigant parties and, thus, could give their statement without family or affective pressures. In general, confinement was compulsory if determined by a judge and, in other occasions, the same suitors or the parents of the young women solicited their reclusion so as to obtain a certain result. The most common places to carry out the confinement were the houses of clergymen, honorable families and institutions, such as schools, convents or seclusion retreats for women.
Another case where feminine confinement also had an influence on the decision of not getting married took place in Guadalajara around 1791. Doña Inés de la Loza, mother of Doña María Dolores, refused to give consent for her daughter to marry José Gerónimo Aguilar, for she expressed that the suitor was not of pure blood “for his simple appearance.” In this way, the mayor, Don Patricio de Soto, determined the confinement of the young woman in the house of Don José Zapata, while the investigation on the case was carried out. Afterwards, Doña María Dolores said under oath that “it was no longer her intention to get married and that she only wanted to make her mother happy, the reason why she asked to be taken to her family home,” and the trial concluded in that way. This case was rapidly solved and no proof was needed on the kind of person José Gerónimo was, who afterwards ratified that he was a legitimate Spaniard. Before this situation, it cannot be determined if the young woman had any contact with her mother, but it is evident that her respect for her mother’s will was stronger than for her own. Once again, confinement was useful for the young woman to change her mind as regards marriage.
Another strategy used by many relatives of young women to justify their not giving consent for them to get married was to prove that one of the two had already been promised in marriage to someone else. One of these cases took place in 1798, when Doña María Gertrudis Sandoval tried to marry José Manuel Pérez Fernández. The uncle of the young woman, Don José Antonio Calvillo, refused to give consent for his niece to marry, for he explained that the suitor had already married María González, information which was in the church of Mexicaltzingo. On the other hand, Don José Antonio asked that his niece take an oath to express if she intended to marry José Manuel, in this way, María Gertrudis was summoned and she stated that “it was not her intention to marry José Manuel as she had already given her word of marriage to Antonio Cabrera,” this testimony was enough proof to conclude the trial.
A similar case took place in 1803 in Guadalajara, with the intended matrimonial union of Don José Barbosa Camarena and Doña Rosa Septién, both Spanish and from the same city. However, the mother of the young woman, Doña Micaela Patrón, refused to give her consent because her daughter had already been promised to Don José Manso. When this Don José was informed of this, he made the decision that his fiancée be confined in a place of the judge’s choice, so she would make a statement under oath and express who she had given her word of marriage to.
It was not necessary to confine Doña Rosa, for Don José Barbosa found out that in the church of Sagrario there were records of the promised marriage of his fiancée and Don José Manso, so Don José went to see the mayor to send the young woman into confinement, so that she decide who she wanted to marry, for she was intended to marry both her suitors. However, the sentence was given by Don José Miguel Cervantes Negrete, who stated:
The confinement of the young women of good family is proof of the oppression they suffer from their parents, going against their will to express freely their wish to marry. The only person this should concern is the person who is being deprived or oppressed. It is, therefore, necessary to say that, as Doña Rosa is not suffering any kind of violence while living with her mother, nor had she asked for her daughter’s seclusion, Don Barbosa’s request is not legitimate.
Finally, Doña Rosa appeared before the mayor and in her statement she declared that it was true that she was promised to be wed to Barbosa, but that it was no longer her wish to do so, as she was now in the process of marrying Don José Manso. In this way, the lawsuit was concluded and Doña Rosa finally married Manso on 25 January, 1803 in the parish of Sagrario de Guadalajara. In this case, it can be observed with precision that there were no legal effects for not fulfilling her matrimonial promise to Barbosa, it was enough for her to express her will to marry someone else.
There is also a case that can be quite peculiar, for it is about defending the will and sexual honor of a mulatta. In 1793, Don Anastasio Fernández appeared in front of the mayor of Guadalajara to express that he intended to marry Ana María Lizaola, who was a servant in his house and with whom he had had an “illicit friendship” and, as a consequence, she was pregnant. For this reason, Don Anastacio wanted to get married. However, the father of the suitor, Don Nicolás Fernández refused to give authorization for that marriage to take place “as the woman was dark-skinned” and said union could mean the end of his son’s lineage. In addition, Ana María already had two children, but the identity of the father was unknown.
Despite the intentions of Don Nicolás to put obstacles before the marriage of his son, Don Anastasio proved that his father’s allegations were unfair and that he was within his due rights to marry his fiancée. In this way, he once again showed his will to marry Ana María. As a last resort, Don Nicolás tried to stop the marriage from taking place by using as a strategy the defamation of the woman, by mentioning that she had a doubtful reputation and that she was a prostitute. This reaction of Don Nicolás had no grounds at all, for he had no proof to corroborate his affirmations against his son’s fiancée. In these types of trials, it was very common that violent reactions and attacks took place between the litigants, which many times were fallacies to disqualify the suitors or show that the opposing party did not have the social status expressed in their statement.
When this statement was made known to Ana María, it was evident that she was hurt by the lies Don Nicolás had said about her, so she presented a letter to the mayor where she expressed the following: “I do not want and it is not my desire to marry Anastasio.” After this written statement reached the mayor, he suspended the trial, not before proving that the comments made by Don Nicolás about Ana María were false as he had no evidence to prove the excuse Don Nicolás had presented.
The strategies used by the parents or the young women are varied, each case may present characteristics of its own and employ diverse resources to try to justify the causes. However, in what refers to withdrawing from marriage, these are the main strategies that we could spot in the files: the request of the young women to be confined, the argument that the person had been promised to wed someone else, and the use of lies to discredit the honor of one of the spouses-to-be. Below, we will relate the application of these mechanisms in the observation of different people who had an influence on the speech of the young women involved in these trials to change their decision and desist from their matrimonial commitment.
6. A will with different voices
In the Catholic tradition, free consent was essential to get married. The spouses had to express their will to marry the person they had chosen. However, this situation is very subjective, as it is not possible to corroborate the individual will of the people who want to get married, nor if the person was influenced in his/her decision by others. In an attempt to acknowledge the problem that this situation generated in the trials, we now intend to analyze the marriage lawsuits where the influence of others on the will of the women who finally refused to get married can be corroborated.
To begin with, there is a case that was analyzed in the previous section, regarding the marriage of Leonarda Pérez and Juan María Celis, where the young woman wrote a letter to her father in which she expressed that she no longer wanted to marry. It seems complicated to determine which were the circumstances that had an incidence on the decision of the young women who had a change of heart, as the causes do not appear in the files, nor does the background of the situation. However, in the case of Doña María Leonarda, the person who had an influence on her decision not to get married was the priest of her locality, Juan José Aguirre, because through this trial the communication between these two people has come to our attention.
In a letter written by the priest to María Leonarda, he told her about her father’s uneasiness due to her intention to marry Juan María, who had a bad reputation in the town of Mascota. In this way, the priest convinced the young woman not to fulfill her promise to be wed. For this reason, María Leonarda wrote a letter to her father where she informed him that she had changed her mind and showed how repentant she was about having wanted to marry Celis: “My beloved papa […] it is my will not to marry Juan María, kneeling at your feet I beg you by the blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Most Holy Mary to forgive me, I know you will because you are such a good father.”
The fear of the father’s discontentment was the main factor for the young woman to desist from getting married, apart from the advice of Aguirre, who managed to convince the girl to obey her father. This behavior receives the name of reverential fear, which is based on the authority a person exerts upon his subordinates, in this case the father’s authority exerted upon his children; that is to say, the children had to recognize the father as an authoritative figure, therefore, they had to accept the father’s decisions. On some occasions, reverential fear was linked to significant expressions of great gloom and offense, and there were even punishments and repression towards the children for them to renounce their wishes and respect the father’s will.
In another trial, which took place in Guadalajara, the confinement of the young woman had an incidence on her decision to not get married, but not due to the parents’ pressure, but because of the advice of the people of the place where she was confined. In1797, Don José Dávalos expressed that he had been promised to wed Doña Gertrudis Vallejo, who was confined in the house of the parish priest of Mexicaltzingo with the intention of celebrating her marriage. However, the father of the young woman, Don José Vallejo did not allow for said union to take place, although he did not have grounds to not give his consent. Thus, Don José Dávalos presented his information of legitimacy and purity of blood to confirm that he was an equal to his betrothed. Immediately, the father of the intended appeared before the ordinary court to express that he accepted the information presented by Dávalos, but he requested that his daughter be removed from the house of the priest of Mexicaltzingo and be sent to another house of the judge’s choice, so Doña Gertrudis was sent to Don Villán Carbajal’s house.
Finally, Don José Vallejo asked the mayor that his daughter was taken oath, so she could express her will to marry her fiancée and thus, Doña Gertrudis expressed that “due to the advice provided by the daughters of Don Carbajal she had left her house” with the objective of marrying Don José Dávalos, but that the same women had explained to her, when she was confined in their house, the uneasinesss that this union was causing her father, and for said reason she expressed that she no longer wished to get married. Once again, it is possible to observe the influence of other people on the decision of the intended, who persuaded her to withdraw from marriage. What cannot be determined is if this action was a strategy of Doña Gertrudis’ father or if there were other circumstances that caused the young woman to change her mind.
Another case, where it can be found that a person that was not a member of the family of the young fiancée had an influence on her, is that of the presumed marriage of José Manuel Pérez and María Gertrudis Sandoval, which we have mentioned previously, where the intended was said to have been promised to be wed twice. When Doña Gertrudis’ uncle requested that his niece was taken oath, she stated that she had already been promised to wed Don Antonio Cabrera. In the same statement, the young woman mentioned that she was also promised to wed José Manuel, “it was not for herself but for fear of a woman called Ignacia, whose last name is unknown to her.” At no time was it explained what Doña Gertrudis actually referred to when she talked about the woman she feared, for throughout the trial there was no word of her, and after this testimony the trial was concluded. On this matter we could make several suppositions, but as we lack trustworthy evidence, we can only say that this woman had an influence on Gertrudis, and perhaps had her threatened to marry José Manuel. However, we do not know the reasons that led to this situation, but this woman could have been a relative of the suitor.
Finally, there is the case of María Gervasia who, in 1803, intended to marry Venancio Zárate. However, the mother of the intended, Doña María Andrade, refused to give her consent to legitimize said union, for she argued for the blatant inequality that existed between the spouses-to-be; Venancio had mixed-blood. Afterwards, the mother of Doña María Gervasia proved her purity of blood through the statements of three witnesses, who ratified that Doña María Andrade “was obviously of pure blood and so were her parents and relatives from both lines.” Consequently, the intended was taken oath and she expressed that she had realized that:
[…] the inequality that my mother had seen in him and his family, and that I am aware of the suffering she had caused her mother and the fatal consequences that would come upon me if said union took place, so I have spontaneously resolved not to marry the before mentioned, not now, nor ever.
To conclude, Venancio was informed of Doña María Gervasia’s decision and, thus, the trial came to an end, In this case, it is evident that the mother exerted an influence on her daughter for her to withdraw from marriage, for the reason expressed by the young woman not to go on with her plans of marriage was that the ethnic inequality that existed between her and her suitor was not to her mother’s liking. It is noticeable that the ethnic condition could be a very relevant element and, in the context of the Royal Pragmatic, an infallible argument to use in the decision of not getting married.
In the Hispanic world, marriage constituted a moment of fundamental interest for the families, given that it represented the construction of a bond or alliance between two groups and also implied a social and economic exchange. For this reason, the parents of the betrothed made an effort to lead their children towards an advantageous marriage, whose mechanism would contribute to guaranteeing the route towards social preeminence. In this way, marriage became a decision to be taken as a group, for said bond not only affected the people who actually got married, but also all the people who were close to the family group and, as a consequence, the moment of making such big decisions became of interest to many individuals, especially the parents of the couple.
Due to these circumstances many times conflict arose in the family bosom as a consequence of the matrimonial choice that their children had made, and so the parents tried to stop these unions using various strategies. In this work, some of those mechanisms can be observed, such as the confinement of the intended wife and the influence that the parents could exert over their children. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to realize the main reasons that motivated some parents to disagree with a marriage or in other situations to learn the reasons for the couple to desist from getting married.
What can be proved, through the reading of the lawsuits, is that there are a number of factors that had an incidence on many women so that they made the decision of not getting married, the main one could be the respect and affection towards their parents or other reasons like the blatant inequality that existed between the spouses-to-be as a result of their ethnicity and even their economic situation or their social reputation. An emphasis has also been made on the woman’s confinement, as one of the most feasible strategies to succeed in convincing the young women to desist from their matrimonial promise; making the decision of not getting married had its costs, perhaps the situation of confinement they were in or the influence exerted by the parents were the cause.
Confinement had diverse objectives and it was a recurrent mechanism in these types of cases, and employed by both parties. However, when the cases of withdrawal from marriage were presented, the resource was more commonly used by the parents of the brides-to-be in order to prevent their daughters from marrying an inconvenient suitor, even legal authorities took advantage of the situation to defend the position of the parents, for example when there was a request to withdraw the confinement from the house of a priest in order to avoid the marriage that one of these young women was about to contract. In this sense, female confinement constituted a potential reason against marriage.
At the same time, in this research article it has been corroborated that the withdrawal from marriage in the lawsuits, when it came from the women’s side did not generate much conflict, because after the intended wives had expressed their will and negative answer to marriage, the trials concluded without further justification or explanation of the reasons for not fulfilling their marriage promise.
Finally, it can be established that from the review of the pre-nuptial conflicts we could corroborate the invocation and the uses of the Royal Pragmatic on Marriages, as well as observe the diverse strategies used by the parties involved to settle the family inconveniences and to try to defend their will or their power to decide on the matrimonial choice.
Archivo General de la Nación (AGN). México. Reales cédulas originales, volumen 113, expediente 209.
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Carballeda, Ángela. “Género y matrimonio en Nueva España: las mujeres de la élite ante la aplicación de la pragmática de 1776”. En Las mujeres en la construcción de las sociedades iberoamericanas. México: CSIC/El Colegio de México, 2004, 219-259.
Cervantes Cortés, José Luis. “Familia, honor y elección de pareja: aplicación de la Real Pragmática de Matrimonios en la Nueva Galicia, 1778-1806”. (Tesis de maestría, Universidad de Guadalajara; 2014).
Gálvez Ruiz, María Ángeles. La conciencia regional en Guadalajara y el gobierno de los intendentes (1786-1800). Guadalajara: Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco, 1996.
Gaudemet, Jean. El matrimonio en Occidente. Madrid: Taurus, 1993.
Ghirardi, Mónica. “Experiencias de desigualdad. El régimen matrimonial homogámico y sus tensiones en Córdoba en la transición del Orden Monárquico al Republicano”. En Mestizaje, sangre y matrimonio en territorios de la actual Argentina y Uruguay, siglos XVII-XX. Córdoba: Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, 2008, 41-72.
Irigoyen López, Antonio. “Estado, Iglesia y familia: la complejidad de los cambios legislativos y socioculturales”. En Familias. Historia de la sociedad española (del final de la Edad Media a nuestros días). Madrid: Cátedra, 2011, 515-604.
Lavallé, Bernard. “Los colores y el amor: realidades y engañifas de las tensiones étnicas”. En Amor e historia. La expresión de los afectos en el mundo de ayer. México: El Colegio de México, 2013, 171-186.
Lipsett-Rivera, Sonya. Gender and the Negotiation of Daily Life in Mexico, 1750-1856. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012.
Lorenzo Pinar, Francisco Javier. “Actitudes violentas en torno a la formación y disolución del matrimonio en Castilla durante la Edad Moderna”. En Furor et rabies: violencia, conflicto y marginación en la Edad Moderna. Santander: Universidad de Cantabria, 2002, 159-182.
Marín Tello, María Isabel. “‘Yo y mi hija gozamos de distinción en nuestra clase…’. La oposición de los padres al matrimonio de sus hijos en Valladolid de Michoacán, 1779-1804”. En Estudios michoacanos VIII. Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacán, 1999, 201-220.
Ortega Noriega, Sergio. “El discurso teológico de santo Tomás de Aquino sobre el matrimonio, la familia y los comportamientos sexuales”. En El placer de pecar y el afán de normar. México: INAH/Joaquín Mortiz, 1988, 15-78.
Pellicer, Luis Felipe. “Entre el honor y la pasión. Familia y matrimonio en Venezuela 1778-1821”. En Dimensiones al diálogo americano contemporáneo sobre la familia en la época colonial. Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 2010, 127-156.
Penyak, Lee M. “Safe Harbors and Compulsory Custody: Casas de Depósito in Mexico, 1750-1865”. Hispanic American Historical Review 79, No. 1 (febrero 1999): pp. 83-99.
Premo, Bianca. Children of the Father King: Youth, Authority, and Legal Minority in Colonial Lima. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
Rípodas Ardanaz, Daisy. El matrimonio en Indias. Realidad social y regulación jurídica. Buenos Aires: Fundación para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura, 1977.
Rodríguez Jiménez, Pablo. “Sangre y mestizaje en la América colonial”. En Familia y organización familiar en Europa y América, (siglos XV-XX). Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 2007, 255-274.
Rodríguez Sánchez, Ángel. “El poder familiar: la patria potestad en el Antiguo Régimen”. En Estructuras y formas del poder en la historia. Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca, 1994, 105-116.
Schwaller, John Frederick. “‘La identidad sexual’: familia y mentalidades a fines del siglo XVI”. En Familias novohispanas. Siglo XVI al XIX. México: El Colegio de México, 1991, 59-72.
Seed, Patricia. Amar, honrar y obedecer en el México colonial: conflictos en torno a la elección matrimonial, 1574-1821. México: Conaculta/Alianza, 1991.
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Socolow, Susan. “Cónyuges aceptables: la elección de consorte en la Argentina colonial, 1778-1810”. En Sexualidad y matrimonio en la América hispánica, siglos XVI-XVIII. México: Conaculta/Grijalbo, 1991, 229-270.
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Van Young, Eric. La ciudad y el campo en el México del siglo XVIII. La economía rural de la región de Guadalajara, 1675-1820. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1989.
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* This article is the product of the Master’s thesis, read in June 2014 called: “Family, honor, and choice of partner: application of the Royal Pragmatic on Marriages in Nueva Galicia, 1778-1806", in the Universidad de Guadalajara.
 Master’s in Mexican history. University Center of Social Science and Humanities - Universidad de Guadalajara. Doctorate student in History at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. firstname.lastname@example.org.
 José Luis Cervantes Cortés, “Family, honor, and partner choice: application of the Royal Pragmatics of Marriage in Nueva Galicia, 1778-1806" (Thesis for Master’s in Mexican history, Universidad de Guadalajara, 2014).
 Towards the second half of the 18th century, the city of Guadalajara experienced rapid population growth and, at the same time, consolidated as a very important economic center. In the Census of Revillagigedo of 1793 28,250 inhabitants were reported in this city, which positioned it as the fourth most populated city of Nueva España, of which 35% of the population was aboriginal or mixed, 32% was Spanish, and 33% was formed by mulattos and different afro-mixes. It is also worth mentioning that most of the lawsuits reported in the Royal Audiencia of Guadalajara originated from Spanish families, constituting 64% of the cases studied, and so the conclusion of most of them led the judges to consider the dissent of the parents to be irrational and unfair. María Ángeles Gálvez Ruiz, La conciencia regional en Guadalajara y el gobierno de los intendentes (1786-1800) (Guadalajara: Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco, 1996), p. 96; Ramón María Serrera, Guadalajara ganadera. Estudio regional novohispano (1760-1805) (Guadalajara: Ayuntamiento de Guadalajara, 1991), p. 23; Eric Van Young, La ciudad y el campo en el México del siglo XVIII. La economía rural de la región de Guadalajara, 1675-1820 (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1989), p. 43.
 Ángel Rodríguez Sánchez, “El poder familiar: la patria potestad en el Antiguo Régimen”, in Estructuras y formas del poder en la historia (Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca, 1994), 107-108.
 Patricia Seed, Amar, honrar y obedecer en el México colonial. Conflictos en torno a la elección matrimonial, 1574-1821 (México: Conaculta, 1991), 17.
 Jean Gaudemet, El matrimonio en Occidente (Madrid: Taurus, 1993), p.73.
 Lourdes Villafuerte García, “Casar y compadrar cada uno con su igual: casos de oposición al matrimonio en la ciudad de México, 1628-1634”, in Del dicho al hecho. Transgresiones y pautas culturales en la Nueva España (México: INAH, 1989), p. 59.
 Sergio Ortega Noriega, “El discurso teológico de santo Tomás de Aquino sobre el matrimonio, la familia y los comportamientos sexuales”, in El placer de pecar y el afán de normar (México: INAH-Editorial Joaquín Mortiz, 1988), p. 39.
 Antonio Irigoyen López, “Estado, Iglesia y familia: la complejidad de los cambios legislativos y socioculturales”, en Familias. Historia de la sociedad española (del final de la Edad Media a nuestros días) (Madrid: Cátedra, 2011), p. 518.
 Patricia Seed, Amar, honrar y obedecer... p. 50.
 Susan Socolow, “Cónyuges aceptables: la elección de consorte en la Argentina colonial, 1778-1810”, in Sexualidad y matrimonio en la América hispánica, siglos XVI-XVIII (México, Conaculta-Grijalbo, 1991), p. 229.
 Daisy Rípodas Ardanaz, El matrimonio en Indias. Realidad social y regulación jurídica (Buenos Aires, Fundación para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura, 1977), 263.
 General Archive of the Nation (AGN). México. Reales Cédulas Originales, vol. 113, file 209, f. 297v.
 Pablo Rodríguez, “Sangre y mestizaje en la América colonial”, in Familia y organización familiar en Europa y América, (siglos XV-XX) (Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 2007), 264; María Isabel Marín Tello, “‘Yo y mi hija gozamos de distinción en nuestra clase…’. La oposición de los padres al matrimonio de sus hijos en Valladolid de Michoacán, 1779-1804”, in Estudios michoacanos VIII (Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacán, 1999), 202-203.
 Mónica Ghirardi, “Experiencias de desigualdad. El régimen matrimonial homogámico y sus tensiones en Córdoba en la transición del Orden Monárquico al Republicano”, in Mestizaje, sangre y matrimonio en territorios de la actual Argentina y Uruguay, siglos XVII-XX (Córdoba: Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, 2008), 56.
 Ángela Carballeda, “Género y matrimonio en Nueva España: las mujeres de la élite ante la aplicación de la pragmática de 1776”, in Las mujeres en la construcción de las sociedades iberoamericanas (México: CSIC-El Colegio de México, 2004), 220.
 José Luis Cervantes Cortés, “Familia, honor… 193.
 Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, Gender and the Negotiation of Daily Life, 1750-1856 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012), 11-12.
 John Frederick Schwaller, “‘La identidad sexual’: familia y mentalidades a fines del siglo XVI”, in Familias novohispanas. Siglo XVI al XIX (México: El Colegio de México, 1991), 59.
 Patricia Seed, Amar, honrar y obedecer… 256.
 María Luisa Candau Chacón, “El matrimonio presunto, los amores torpes y el incumplimiento de la palabra: Archidiócesis de Sevilla, siglos XVII y XVIII”, in Padres e hijos en España y el mundo hispánico: siglos XVI y XVIII (Madrid: Visor, 2008), 47-48.
 Luis Felipe Pellicer, “Entre el honor y la pasión. Familia y matrimonio en Venezuela 1778-1821”, in Dimensiones al diálogo americano contemporáneo sobre la familia en la época colonial (Murcia, Universidad de Murcia, 2010), 135-136.
 Royal Archive of the Audiencia of Guadalajara (ARAG, by its acronym in Spanish). Guadalajara, Jalisco. Civil branch, box, 167, file 17.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 176, file 9, fs. 2-2v.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 176, file 9, f. 3v.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 176, file 9, f. 4.
 Lee M. Penyak, “Safe Harbors and Compulsory Custody: Casas de Depósito in Mexico, 1750-1865”, Hispanic American Historical Review 79: No. 1 (February 1999): pp. 87-89.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 290, file 6, f. 3v.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 375, file 5, fs. 4-4v.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 375, file 5, f. 5.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 383, file 22, f. 2.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 383, file 22, f. 5v-6.
 The confirmation of the marriage between Doña Rosa Septién and Don José Manso was obtained from the Family Search database (https: //familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JCDV-4JC, retrieved on 12 November 2013.)
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Criminal branch, box 43, file 12, f. 4.
 Bernard Lavallé, “Los colores y el amor: realidades y engañifas de las tensiones étnicas”, in Amor e historia. La expresión de los afectos en el mundo de ayer (México: El Colegio de México, 2013), 192.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Criminal branch, box 43, file 12, f. 6.
 Patricia Seed, Amar, honrar y obedecer... 50-52.
 ARAG. Guadalajara, Jalisco. Civil branch, box, 167, file 17, f. 84.
 Bianca Premo, “‘Estado de miedo: edad, género y autoridad en las cortes eclesiásticas de Lima, siglo XVII”, in Historia de la infancia en América Latina (Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia, 2007), 196.
 Francisco Javier Lorenzo Pinar, “Actitudes en torno a la formación y disolución del matrimonio en Castilla durante la Edad Moderna”, in Furor et rabies: violencia, conflicto y marginación en la Edad Moderna (Santander, Universidad de Cantabria, 2002), 168-169.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 373, file 16, fs. 3-3v.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 375, file 5, f. 5.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 385, file 7, f. 4.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 385, file 7, fs. 5-6v.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 385, file 7, f. 8.
 ARAG. Guadalajara-Jalisco. Civil branch, box 385, file 7, f. 9.