Dead giveaways: indigenous testaments of colonial by Susan Kellogg, Matthew Restall

By Susan Kellogg, Matthew Restall

Final wills and testaments contain no less than half the surviving files written in indigenous languages through the Spanish colonial interval. either women and men, mortally in poor health, most likely bedridden, participated within the customized as they summoned relations, shut acquaintances, maybe enterprise affiliates, and the notary, who truly wrote the dictated ultimate assertion. no matter if in Nahuatl or Spanish, Mixtec or Maya, even if within the dry flatlands of the Yucatan peninsula or the west valleys of the Quito highlands, the ritual opened within the related way--"In the identify of the daddy, the Son, and the Holy Spirit"--and the sick and death went directly to put off their worldly items. The lists of fabric goods sandwiched among non secular and criminal formulation lends those files an easy and mundane visual appeal; even though, the essays accrued right here exhibit in different and intriguing methods their significance as wealthy ethnohistorical resources. as well as supplying details on households, gender roles, estate holdings, institutional constructions, social and familial relationships, and spiritual ideals and practices, the wills for a given quarter offer facts for realizing cultural swap over the years. the 10 contributions to this quantity, that are dedicated to the outline and research of wills, objective at huge geographic and chronological assurance, exploring a sector from imperative Mexico to Bolivia and spanning the interval from the mid-sixteenth to the early-nineteenth centuries. on hand for the 1st time, this entire primary-source fabric offers person voice to peoples frequently both missed or taken care of basically as collective entities, specially the "Maya," or the "Inca."

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As early as the sixth century, laws were passed attempting to keep priests from hovering around the residences of the dying, but to little effect (Goody 1983; Fox 1986). Not surprisingly, but nevertheless significantly, a guide for making testaments was among the first materials prepared by European friars for their pastoral and sacramental roles with the New World indigenous peoples. , Confesionario mayor en lengua mexicana y castellana. 11 The Franciscan Confesionario is typical of the genre that Page 17 evolved in Europe in the thirteenth century, which outlined in the vernacular how the priest was to query members of his flock about matters of faith and sin, and instructed the priest how to perform his role in confession and assigning penance.

Women testators and women heirs are well represented in colonial indigenous testaments, suggesting that some form of pre-Hispanic inheritance patterns was being extended into the colonial period. The concept of legitimacy to inherit or to rule is worth examining. When Christianity was introduced in the New World, its ideal concepts of family structure were well developed and articulated. By the twelfth century, marriage had been elevated to sacramental status, and the church regulated marriage.

In Spanish law, only adult males in their prime could serve as witnesses, and as Molina's manual indicates, men in their great old age were excluded. But there is evidence in central Mexico that Indian women often served as witnesses. Indeed, sometimes they were in the majority. 26 Something the notary was not obliged to do was inform the priest of the testator's imminent death. There is no direct connection between the priest's sacramental function of administering the last rites (extreme unction) and the ordering of a testament.

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