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Women in Colonial Latin America

The purpose of this research is to examine the following statement: "The fact that they could file legal suits against men, administer valuable family properties, run small businesses, and become major literary figures, indicates that women in colonial Latin America had as significant economic, social, and political roles as men." The plan of the research will be to set forth a comparison of women's and men's roles in Spain's New World colonies during Spain's most significant imperial period, with reference to two books that discuss the behavior of women who resided in the colony of Peru.

In the aftermath of the so-called conquest of Peru, which achieved importance in the Spanish colonial sphere of the New World largely because of its rich precious-mineral deposits, there appears to have been an intent to structure a society that would emulate the society of the Old World, complete with all the divisions of class and privilege, as well as influence of the Roman Catholic Church, that were typical of Spain during the sixteenth century. In significant part, this emulation appears to have been accomplished. That explains Padden's description of the increasingly formal separation of racial and social classes that took place in the Peruvian city of Potosi, site of "one of the largest and perhaps richest silver lodes ever found on earth" (Padden vi), into neighborhoods and suburbs that reflected the superior position of the aristocratic Spanish colonists who supervised and benefited from the mineral exploitation and the inferior position of the less wealthy Spanish and the oppressed indigenous peoples who made up the bulk of the labor force (xxiii). But above all the presence of European Spanish women in the New World had the effect of duplicating the society, and validating the civilized nature of that society, vis-à-vis the Old World. Padden cites the lavish way of life of aristocratic families, such that "daughters were dowered with hu...

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Women in Colonial Latin America. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:15, April 21, 2019, from