Imagining Identity in New Spain

Imagining Identity in New Spain

Copyright Date: 2003
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    Imagining Identity in New Spain
    Book Description:

    Reacting to the rising numbers of mixed-blood (Spanish-Indian-Black African) people in its New Spain colony, the eighteenth-century Bourbon government of Spain attempted to categorize and control its colonial subjects through increasing social regulation of their bodies and the spaces they inhabited. The discourse ofcalidad(status) andraza(lineage) on which the regulations were based also found expression in the visual culture of New Spain, particularly in the unique genre ofcastapaintings, which purported to portray discrete categories of mixed-blood plebeians.

    Using an interdisciplinary approach that also considers legal, literary, and religious documents of the period, Magali Carrera focuses on eighteenth-century portraiture andcastapaintings to understand how the people and spaces of New Spain were conceptualized and visualized. She explains how these visual practices emphasized a seeming realism that constructed colonial bodies-elite and non-elite-as knowable and visible. At the same time, however, she argues that the chaotic specificity of the lives and lived conditions in eighteenth-century New Spain belied the illusion of social orderliness and totality narrated in its visual art. Ultimately, she concludes, the inherent ambiguity of the colonial body and its spaces brought chaos to all dreams of order.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79774-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Introduction: Visual Practices in Late-Colonial Mexico
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    In the process of researching and writing this book, I found myself constantly returning to the 1769 paintingThe Painter’s Cupboard, an image I had first encountered at the Pinacoteca Virreinal in Mexico City many years ago (figure 1.1). This beautifully executed image by Antonio Pérez de Aguilar, who was active in New Spain between 1749–1769, is one of the few surviving still-life images of the colonial period. It is a painting that one could easily disregard or overlook. Its ostensible topic, artists’ tools and props, seems inconsequential and mundane, especially when compared to other opulent and ornate religious...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Identity by Appearance, Judgment, and Circumstances: Race as Lineage and Calidad
    (pp. 1-21)

    IN THIS SCENE, I have imagined the polite but intense concern and disquiet of an elite Spaniard who had found that there was a shadow over the bloodline of Doña Margarita Castañeda, his wife. This fictitious narration is based on the archive record of Christobal Ramon Bivian’s petition of 1789 in the ecclesiastic court of New Spain. Although court documents do not state why Don Bivian’s request was brought forward, it is likely that if the location of Doña Margarita’s baptismal record in the libro de castas were made public, it would tarnish Don Bivian’s and his family’s reputations. More...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Faces and Bodies of Eighteenth-Century Metropolitan Mexico: An Overview of Social Context
    (pp. 22-43)

    DOÑA SEBASTIANA INÉS JOSEFA DE SAN AGUSTÍN, a noble Indian woman, and Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Cervantes, an elite Spanish woman, were contemporaries in eighteenth-century New Spain. While the details of the lives of these women are not known, we do know what each looked like. In figure 2.1, we see the portrait of Doña Sebastiana, painted in 1757 by an unknown artist, and in figure 2.2, the image of Doña María, painted by Miguel Cabrera, a prolific artist, well known for his religious and portrait painting between 1755 and 1760. Both artists employ a conventional visual...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Envisioning the Colonial Body
    (pp. 44-105)

    MEXICO CITY WAS ALIVE with anticipation in December 1680 as Tomás Antonio Manrique de la Cerda y Aragón arrived to become the thirtieth viceroy of New Spain. Extensive civil and religious ceremonies and celebrations had been prepared to mark his accession and greet his entrance into the noble city. When the new viceroy toured Mexico City, he had his first glimpse of a place unlike any city he had visited before. The buildings and city spaces, such as the great cathedral, the viceregal palace, the municipal buildings, and the parián (marketplace), while distinctive, were somewhat comparable to such buildings in...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Regulating and Narrating the Colonial Body
    (pp. 106-135)

    Plaza Mayor de la ciudad de México(Plaza Mayor of Mexico City), painted by Juan Antonio Prado in 1767 (figure 4.1), documents the crowded and bustling central plaza of late-colonial Mexico City.¹ As in the Islas casta series and the single panel showing the albina-Spaniard couple looking at the Alameda, it is a surveilling eye that provides the viewer with a comprehensive survey of this central urban space. In this panoramic scene, a triad of architectural features is located. They are: the cathedral on the right; the viceroy’s palace marked by a crenellated wall at the bottom of the painting;...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE From Populacho to Citizen: The Re-vision of the Colonial Body
    (pp. 136-149)

    ONE OF THE MOST well known paintings of nineteenth-century Mexico is José Obregón’sDiscovery of Pulque(figure 5.1). The 1860s image recounts the legend of the discovery of the fermented maguey drink, pulque, by a young Indian woman, whom we see as she presents it to the Aztec-Mexica king. At the time of its exhibition, the painting received enthusiastic critical acclaim. The Indians depicted are not the unkempt vagrants of the streets or the barbarous subsistence hunters of the untamed countryside seen in casta paintings. Further, the vaunted attention that the painting bestows on the discovery of pulque is extraordinary,...

  11. Epilogue: Dreams of Order
    (pp. 150-153)

    Grateful for the diminishing of light in the early evening, Gregoria Piedra stepped from her house and walked cautiously down the street on her way to the Plaza Mayor. Unable to avoid intermittent brushes with other pedestrians, she tried to maintain her invisibility by keeping her head upright and looking straight ahead in order to deflect any furtive glances. The sharp smells of street food filled her nostrils, while the cacophonous squawks of vendors rang in her ears. She relished this freedom to explore and enjoy the smells, sounds, and activities of Mexico City. Only the occasional piercing stare of...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 154-172)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 173-173)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 174-183)
  15. Index
    (pp. 184-188)