Baltasar Fra Molinero, Bates College
Andrés Alejandro de Alegría was a man who lived in the early part of the 18th century in the city of Oaxaca, in the kingdom of New Spain. Last summer, I came across a process by the Inquisition of Mexico that read on its title page:
Oaxaca, año de 1732.
Al señor Fiscal deste Santo Oficio
Andres de Alegria mulato,
vecino de Oaxaca.
Por sospechas de casado dos veces.(1)
Most documents of the Mexican Inquisition bear the racial category of the individuals involved in the front page only when it matters, that is, when the accused belonged to one of the castas that delineated the social structure of Colonial Mexico. Casta divisions were the most important component in the Colonial language of power, and the Inquisition reflected the need to distinguish in order to punish accordingly. The notorious casta paintings of 18th century Mexico speak volumes about an obsession with racial mixture and the fear of the ensuing social upheaval.(2)
In the racially mixed Mexican society of the first part of the 18th century Mulattoes and Blacks stood out as the object of most acts of repression on the part of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. For an idea of the attitudes generated by those in power towards Blacks and Mulattoes in Mexican colonial society, one has to take into account the interrelation of religion, politics, and the concept of social order in Mexican colonial society. Viceroy Marqués de Mancera requested the collaboration of the Inquisition in 1660 to suppress Black slave insurrectionary moves. Blacks and Mulattoes, both free and slave, were the object of Inquisitorial persecutions right after periods of anti-converso (i.e. anti-Portuguese) trials. In reference to the notice given to the Tribunal about the incident in 1665 of a group of Blacks who had toasted "a nuestra salud, y a que el año que viene, governemos este Reyno," a directive of Viceroy Mancera orders the officials of the Inquisition to use their powers of secrecy to preempt any attempt of rebellion (Alberro 1981: 136).(3)
Viceroy Mancera was very candid in his assessment of the reasons for the social restiveness of Mexicans of African descent:
y así viene a cifrarse todo el orden plebeyo a las clases mencionadas [Mulattoes, Blacks, Indians, and Mestizos], en que se incluye variedad de mixtos, cuyos nombres definen sus grados y naturaleza, cuyo número llega en sólo México a ducientas mil almas, y cuyos pasos y designios merecen atención por su muchedumbre, por su oscuridad, por sus necesidades, por sus vicios y por la absoluta negación de toda esperanza de ascender a empleos honoríficos, habiéndolo notado la naturaleza con el carácter de la servidumbre, pues como sintieron los políticos más cuerdos, fácilmente se acomoda a ser reo el que se reconoce mal opinado (Mancera 106).
The historian J.I. Israel states that "the problem of the seventeenth-century mestizo is, in the first place, the problem of explaining his obscurity." (60). Blacks and Mulattoes outnumbered Mestizos as a class in late 17th century, according to testimonies from the authorities at the time (Mancera 275). As Mestizos appear more and more as a category, their position in the scale of social worthiness changes for the worse. From being part of the "gente de razón" they became more and more associated to Blacks and Mulattoes, as part of the generic concept of "gente vil" (Israel 64). Gente vil were a special group of undesirables marked by many restrictions in society: they could not occupy the position of master of most artisan guilds, they were barred from wearing European costume, and they could not hold either royal, municipal, or ecclesiastical office (Israel 64). In fact, in Southern Mexico, mestizos were always officially suspected of miscegenation with Blacks and Mulattoes.
Conflict between Spaniards and people of African descent in Mexican history was old and violent. The scare of the so-called conspiracy of Blacks and Mulattoes of Mexico City in 1612 was resolved with the public execution of the supposed leaders, after extracting their confessions through torture.(4)
This public and violent act of power did not end confrontations, and rumors of conspiracies always abounded.The rebellion of Yanga during the same decade and its inconclusive settlement with the founding of San Lorenzo de los Negros remains proof of the contradictory presence of people of African descent in Mexican colonial society. Whatever political conflict between the Spanish authorities and the Creole sector flared during the 17th century, it was always blamed on Blacks and Mulattoes. They were routinely accused by officials in their writings of being haughty, insolent, lazy, and loud, given to theft and prone to revolt. Measures for their control as a group were issued with regularity, and seemingly to no avail. Their religiouscofradías were always under surveillance, and frequently banned. They were not permitted to wear arms, yet many Black slaves were used by their masters as body guards, in open contradiction to laws and ordinances. And reluctant testimony exists of their political organizing. During the heady days of the conflict between the bishop of Puebla, the ineffable Juan de Palafox and the Viceroy Salvatierra in 1647, Blacks and Mulatto singers and dancers refused to perform when the Viceroy party took over Puebla.Their anti-Spanish sentiment was reflected in their political act of protest, in open defiance to the Viceroy. Palafox, who espoused the typical disdain for people of color of his contemporary fellow Spaniards, was seen nevertheless as a champion of the criollo groups. A rearrangement of castas was under way. Blacks and Mulattoes in many cases called themselves criollos too. Criollo became the catch-all word for social advancement. A good testimony of the attitude and language used by the Spanish elite at the turn of the century is reflected in Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora's work Alboroto y Motín de los indios de México(1692).
Pregúntame vuestra merced cómo se portó la plebe en este tiempo y respondo brevemente que bien y mal; bien, porque siendo plebe tan en extremo plebe, que sólo ella lo puede ser de la que se reputare la más infame, y lo es de todas las plebes por componerse de indios, de negros, criollos y bozales de diferentes naciones, de chinos, de mulatos, de moriscos, de Mestizos, de zambaigos, de lobos y también de españoles que, en declarándose zaramullos (que es lo mismo que pícaros, chulos y arrebatacapas), y degenerando de sus obligaciones, son los peores entre tan ruin canalla (133).
Throughout the entire Spanish American territories, the white elite's prejudice against the castasincreased the level of rejection and social discrimination during the 18th century. There was a contradiction between the aim at self-preservation of the Spaniards and the increasing practice of intermarriage between the different social groups (Moerner 67). A fundamental change in the demographic ratios of Spaniards, Mestizos, Indians and peoples of African descent (Blacks, Mulattoes, Zambos, etc.) was taking place. By the 18th century, being a Spaniard in Mexico did not automatically place an individual in the upper part of the economic and social ladder (Katzew 110). Yet at the same time, marrying someone with the slightest trace of African ancestry was considered a step backwards. This was the theater in which the Inquisitorial prosecution of the Mulatto Andrés de Alegría took place.
The prosecution and final punishment of Andrés de Alegría was due to no small extent to the fact that he was a man of African descent. His africanity was deemed very important by the secretary of the Inquisition in Oaxaca who penned the title page of his case. Being of African descent carried tremendous disadvantages in Mexican Colonial society, both economically and socially, but it also carried with it the supposition of moral debasement. Therefore Andrés de Alegría felt victim to the terrible web of influence, economic ties, hatred, sexual mores, racial oppression, and slavery. His enemies and the religious authority of the Mexican Inquisition came to the conclusion that his actions as well as his person--a racialized one-- had rendered him dangerous. And his body would suffer the consequences, physically.
Andrés de Alegría was a cart driver, a muleteer--arriero--from Guatemala who traveled all the way north to Oaxaca, and even to Mexico City. The Inquisition states very clearly on the front page of his process that he was a Mulatto. His denouncer was a priest, the bachiller don Tomás Varela de Figueroa, 40 years old, a Spaniard, that is, someone of Spanish descent, and not necessarily from Spain.(5)
Although a priest, he had been married and had children before becoming a widower and entering the priesthood. In the process, his son, daughter and son-in-law will have a prominent role as co-accusers against Andrés de Alegría. The Priests first accusation triggers the entire process:
parecio sin ser llamado y juro en forma tacto pectore que dirá la verdad...el cual por descargo de su conciencia dice y denuncia que por el mes de marzo de este presente año estando este denunciante en la casa de su morada, en esta dicha ciudad, en conversacion con Marziala la Galvana, española, mujer que fue de Joseph Casimiro, difunto, refiriendo el mal natural y propiedades de Andrés de Alegría, mulato, natural de Goatemala, quien se ha reputado por soltero, en esta dicha ciudad, donde tiene actual residencia, sin exercicio alguno, refirió la dicha Marziala y dijo al denunciante que en la casa de don Ignacio Hermosa, vecino de esta dicha ciudad vivió un pardo, tendero, que el denunciante cree sería paisano del dicho Andrés de Alegría, y que dicho tendero dijo en presencia de la referida Marziala, que el mencionado Andrés era casado en Querétaro, y de este testigo recela que diga la verdad del caso, porque fuera de que sabe el que declara que es muger ignorante del cumplimiento de su obligación, es según ha sabido, muy amante y familiar del referido Andrés, tanto que la susodicha le ha servido de tercera para que el dicho haya conseguido mujeres para ofender a Dios, cuya circunstancia ofrece fundamento para creer, que dicha Marziala calle la verdad, y revele el secreto al dicho Andrés, y que no expresa el nombre de dicho tendero, porque no se acuerda, ni se lo expresó la dicha Marziala. Lo que después del citado mes de marzo en adelante, ha sabido este denunciante, que en la casa de la morada del dicho don Ignacio Hermosa paró una carta que se dirigió de México al dicho Andrés de Alegría y le remitió una mujer llamada doña Manuela de Azeituno y Texada, y que habiéndola recibido el dicho Andrés, por no saber leer y para saber su contenido, la puso en manos del dicho Hermosa, o de su mujer, la cual en sustancia se reducía a reprehenderle por estar en esta ciudad amancebado y no hacer vida maridable con su mujer, pues desde que casó con ella en Querétaro, se apartó de su compañía y que lo demás que puede mencionar en la carta lo sabía el citado Hermosa y su mujer, a qué se refiere. Asimismo se afirma la certidumbre de este matrimonio con haberle dicho y referido al denunciante don Gaspar González, su yerno, casado en esta ciudad con doña Ana María Varela, su hija, que él tenía esta misma noticia, y cree el denunciante que el dicho don Gaspar lo sabe con mayor fundamento, porque estando en México se lo dio a entender y dijo una mujer con quien el dicho Andrés de Alegría tuvo ilícita amistad, el cual sabía su nombre, y le parece al denunciante que esta mujer sea la misma doña Manuela de Azeituno que lleva referida. También añade que varias veces ha oído decir el que declara que el dicho Andrés es casado en la ciudad de Goatemala, o cerca de ella, pero no oyó expresar el nombre, calidad y naturaleza de la mujer, y aunque no se acuerda individualmente de los sujetos que se lo refi/ri/eron en esta [fol.1v] que se lo refi/ri/eron en esta dicha ciudad, sólo tiene memoria cierta de que el uno de ellos es Juan de Mesquita, vecino de ella, quien habrá tiempo de dos o tres meses, que lo refirió al denunciante, con el motivo de haberse ofrecido conversación acerca de dicho Andrés. También hace denuncia en forma contra el susodicho, porque a este denunciante le hizo saber su hija doña Ana María Varela que el referido Andrés profirió en cuatro o cinco ocasiones esta blasfemia, tomando un santo Cristo de bronce en la mano /margin: blasfemia/ que se cagaría en aquel Señor si no hacía cierta cosa que él intentaba o pretendía de cuyo motivo y circunstancias tiene más individual noticia la dicha doña Ana María a que se refiere el denunciante. Lo cual ha creído ser cierto, porque sabe que el dicho Andrés, es poco recatado en decir blasfemias, estando muy en su juicio. También oyó decir a su hijo don Tomás Varela, habrá seis u ocho días que el citado Andrés le dijo y afirmó /margin: otra blasfemia/ que si no hacía cierto desatino o absurdo a fin de conseguir su dañada intención, se cagaría en todas las cosas divinas, lo cual profirió una vez. Y esta es la verdad, por el juramento que tiene hecho, y siéndole leído, dijo que está bien escrito, y no lo dize por odio, prometió el secreto, y firmólo de su nombre con el presente señor comisario.
The entire process is quite short, twenty folios long, but through it an amazing array of characters and situations develops. Through the monotonous succession of questions and answers, a story develops in which vendettas, sex, slavery, murder, and religious dissent come to the forefront. The facts are not simple. Some witnesses against Andrés de Alegría state that they have known him for a long time and consider him a bad example of sexual morality, as part of his general "mala vida." He has been known to have had many liaisons with women. His crowning act, it seems to these witnesses, has been his elopement from Guatemala with a married Spanish woman, doña Manuela de Azeituno y Texada. She became a party in his undoing, because he had abandoned her and her four year old son in Mexico City, and moved to Querétaro with another woman, a Mulata. Doña Manuela was not going to let this Mulatto man insult her like this, and started sending letters to his new address calling him back to Mexico City, implying that she was married to Andrés. She never stated the fact, but instead she demanded that he return to her to resume their "vida maridable," or marital life. The testimony of the Spaniard Gaspar González de Figueroa--the Priest's son-in-law-- reveals the circumstances in which Manuela de Azeituno finds herself at the time she demands Andrés return to her:
Que conoció y comunicó en México a Doña Manuela de Azeytuno y Texada, por los meses de marzo [14v]hasta octubre del año de 31, viviendo la susodicha en un cuarto interior de la casa principal de Altos, que hace frente a la del Coliseo, yendo a san Francisco por la acera izquierda, que está contigua a la esquina de la casa de un tercero franciscano, y dicha esquina hace frente al Colegio de Niñas. Después de algún tiempo, se mudó la dicha doña Manuela a una casilla assessoria [sic] en la misma calle de la Acequia, dando para la plaza, a seis o siete puertas más arriba de la casa principal, donde antes vivía.
In this description Manuela de Azeituno is presented as a typical criolla, married to a "gachupín" or Peninsular Spaniard, who has stooped to enter an extramarital liaison with Andrés, to the desperate point of eloping with him. She has made a fateful decision, leaving husband, home, town and ties to her family. Now she finds herself abandoned and starts a process of letter writing that will compromise her Mulatto lover. The witness, in his declaration, understands her predicament as a Spanish woman. Manuela Aceituno is a young woman of Spanish descent, but hardly on top of the colonial caste system. She is now in Mexico, abandoned, with one small child and going through hard times. She has had to move to cheaper lodgings in the time she has been known by the witness Gaspar González de Figueroa. Her physical description includes some traits about how low her spirits must be now. Her "gesto" or facial appearance has become dour and not very pleasant:
La referida es de estatura alta, delgada, de blanco y rosado rostro, cariaguileña, ojos azules, medianos y garzos; en una de las mejillas tiene un lunar negro; dientes blancos y labios de la boca, belfos, y encarnados. El pelo tira a color castaño y lacio. Su aspecto, de 25 años. Su pronunciación es clara y sosegada. Su voz es algo abultada y varonil, y últimamente no es muy agradable el gesto. Es oriunda de un lugar de adelante de Goatemala, casada con un gachupín. Tiene consigo un hijo nombrado Alfonso, de edad de 4 años. El motivo de su transporte a México fue haberla extraído de su patria y compañía de su marido el dicho Andrés de Alegría, con quien anduvo vagando en Oaxaca, Veracruz y otras partes de este reino, hasta parar en México, donde la desamparó.
The narrative of her extramarital affair lies all the blame in Andrés. First, she is devoid of agency, making her the direct object of a very strong verb, extraer. The concept of abduction that this verb implies denies any sort of agency in the woman. Somehow, Manuela Aceituno finds it convenient to appear as the religious and official discourse of her time tended to view women as beings without agency. The other element in the narrative of her relation with Andrés is the verb vagando, which condemns more Andrés than her. Roaming the southern part of New Spain is a way of describing in negative terms--implying lack of gainful employment, sedentary life as a virtue in itself--what otherwise is the normal activity of an arriero, a muleteer. It seems that Andrés de Alegría was unable to find work as a weaver, as he did in Guatemala before he left for the first time. In the second third of the 18th century, free people of African descent were systematically excluded from the administration, the Church and artesanado. They had to compete for work with slaves, who were hired out by their owners. Mining and obrajes were their main means of employment. Moreover, free Blacks and Mulattoes had to settle with "amo conocido". Homeless--vagamundos--were many, and that in itself was a crime (Aguirre Beltrán 226).
Manuela's resolution to leave her husband and elope with Andrés must have been strong, since she took her four year old son Alfonso with her. The narrative is an account in the third person that states the point of view of a Spaniard, someone who will have some degree of affinity with this woman. The detail of mentioning the fact that she has her young son with her adds to the impression of abandonment. Andrés left her, "la desamparó", another damning word against him. And now, the witness continues, we know that she was the instigator of the rumor of Andrés' bigamy:
la cual informó al dicho don Gaspar que el dicho Andrés es casado con una mulata cuyo nombre ignora, o en Querétaro o en Guadalajara, o en Guatemala, de cuya especie no tiene radical noticia, ni sabe otra cosa más que lo que tiene expendido en su declaración judicial, que hizo ante mí, y lo que ahora /[15r]/nuevamente ha manifestado...
This conversation, and what she had stated in her letters comes to the attention of his principal accuser, the priest Tomás Varela, his original denouncer. While concubinage was illegal, the fact was that few cases ever reached the Inquisition. Something more substantial was needed to face the Tribunal. The priest Tomás Varela, in his statement, testifies that he has heard from other people that Andrés was a married man already, but back in Guatemala, where he was originally from. The Inquisition starts moving against Andrés de Alegría on the basis of a suspicion of bigamy.
Was Andrés de Alegría a bigamist? Was he ever married to anyone? The answer is both yes and no. He had married a Mulatto woman, Francisca de Aguirre, a.k.a. Francisca Bernabela, years before, but the marriage was annulled the following year. This would turn out to become the great source of confusion that would create trouble for Andrés de Alegría. The parish priest who testified that indeed his Guatemalan marriage had been officially annulled commented in his written report that Andrés had neglected to secure the necessary papers and certificates that made it plain and clear that he could marry again. His previous marriage had happened more than twenty years before, and witnesses who assured that they knew him seemed to be ignorant of the changes in his marital status. Andrés de Alegría had also left his hometown, the village of Sonsonate in Guatemala for good a long time ago.
At the time of the process Andrés de Alegría was 45 years old. His way of living, always on the move, changing homes constantly, made him a potential danger in the eyes of the authorities. Like most arrieros, his life developed in the margins of Colonial society, traveling between cities--Mexico City, Querétaro, Veracruz, Oaxaca--, but never settling in any of them for a long time. His way of living was as questionable as his race. Being a free Mulatto, he lived under constant suspicion. He was an archetype of the deterritorialized subject, since in the social stratification of Mexico, he occupied a position of perpetual illegitimacy. The attribution of African ancestry was the most important cause of social exclusion.
But who was Andrés de Alegría? In the entire process others speak about him, but his declaration is not considered worth recording. To quote Gayatri Spivak, he is a subaltern that cannot speak. Others--the owners of power and definers of the ideology sustaining it-- would interpret his actions and words for him, negatively. To know details of his biography, we have to wait for his own brothers testimony, right at the end of the process. He tells the Inquisitors that his name was not Andrés de Alegría originally.(6)
He was born a slave to a Spanish high military officer, the maestre de campo --colonel--don Sancho Álvarez de las Asturias. There is good reason to believe that he was his son also, since his mother, Andrea de la Cerna, was a slave in the country household. When as teenagers the two brothers were freed, don Sancho provided both of them with the means to learn a trade. Nicolás was a shoemaker and Andrés became a weaver. His original name was Andrés de don Sancho. The change Andrés made from de don Sancho to de Alegría seems to be motivated by the double desire of disassociating himself with an illegitimate birth and the condition of slavery he was born into.(7)
Andrés brother, Nicolás de Negreros, gave his testimony in Guatemala City, on February 8, 1732. Placed in front of the Inquisition, he had to reveal another side of Andrés de Alegría that complicated the picture and made him officially a "dangerous man":
20r Fuesele dicho si conose [sic] a Andrés Alejandro de Alegría. Dijo que le conose por ser hermano suyo, que se criaron juntos en la casa del Maestre de Campo don Sancho Alvarez de las Asturias, hijos ambos naturales de Andrea de la Cerna, esclava que fue de dicho Maestre de Campo, quien le dio libertad, y en ella los hubo con otra hermana suya llamada Antonia de Don Sancho, y que el dicho Andrés es oficial de tejedor, y el que declara, oficial de zapatero, que vive en una tienda que alquila en la casa de Pedrosa en el barrio de San Sebastián, pero que el dicho Andrés, por haberle dado la muerte a un hijo de Pablo Rosales, llamado Alejo, dejó su oficio y después de haber estado dos años refugiado en el convento de las Mercedes de esta ciudad, se fue a la villa de Sonsonate, donde se casó con una mulata de dicha villa llamada Francisca Bernabela. Fuésele dicho si sabe si hace vida con dicha Francisca Bernabela, dijo que no, porque habiendo estado el Sr. Don Fray Mauro Obispo que fue de esta diócesis en la visita de dicha villa, de allá lo trajo a esta ciudad y lo hubo en el hospital de San Juan de Dios, separándolo a su mujer, no sabe por qué causa, y que después de algunos lances que le acaecieron, huyendo de la justicia, por último en un indulto general se presentó en la cárcel y de allí salió absuelto de dicha muerte, y se fue para la Nueva España, donde se ha ejercitado en el oficio de la arriería, en el de correo y de servir en caminos a algunas personas, como lo hizo con el Doctor don Manuel de Falla, a quien trajo desde México hasta esta ciudad...
The testimony of Nicolás de Negreros, stands in a striking contrast with the previous twenty folios. He is treated differently from the white witnesses. Even his name is not his own property. Mulattoes and lesser castes are always suspect. Nicolás de Negreros's own self-identification is not accepted without rhetorical reluctance ...un hombre que dijo llamarse Nicolás de Negreros, "a man who says his name is Nicolás de Negreros." The Holy Office does not acknowledge him, like it seemed to acknowledge all the white witnesses who testified: the denouncer, the Priest Varela and his family. Now, we know from his own brothers voice filtered by the questioning style of the Inquisition, that his father was also his owner, that he became a free man, that he married a Mulatto woman and later had the marriage annulled for reasons that are not declared but seemed valid. Andrés also killed a man, and fled to a church to take asylum. Once he was pardoned, he left for New Spain, where he found employment in a variety of jobs: muleteer, bodyguard, courier. All offices that put him in direct contact with the white elite of New Spain. They put him in contact with the Priest Don Tomás Varela de Figueroa, his future enemy.
Cases of bigamy against arrieros were not rare at all. Their itinerant lifestyle made them prone to the wariness of the more sedentary society of Spaniards. Less common was the racial composition of the liaison between a Mulatto man and a Spanish woman. In Richard Boyers list of 216 bigamy cases dealt with by the Mexican Inquisition, there is not one single instance of a Mulatto or Black man or woman accused who had been married to a Spaniard. The majority of bigamists were men, and of the women, most of them were Mestizas, Mulatas or Black, and mostly free. The crime of bigamy, and its persecution, and has a clear racial bent to it.
Next in the line of witnesses against Andrés de Alegría is Juan de la Mezquita, a Spaniard and a labrador, a friend of the Priest and an enemy of Andrés. His testimony develops in two stages. First, this Spaniard reveals the moral character of Andrés, which is tied both to his race and his means of life:
Dixo se acuerda que abrá tiempo de dos o tres meses que estando en la ciudad conversando, le parece que con Juan Manuel de Trujillo, en la puerta de su casa, vio pasar a Andrés de alegría, mulato, que le parece ser arriero de oficio, acompañado de una mujer, llamada María, es mestiza, soltera, que vive frente de casas del Prebendado don Manuel Hidalgo, en cuya ocasión este declarante dijo que era poca vergüenza fuese por la calle acompañado con aquella mujer, a lo cual le respondió el dicho Trujillo, que era su mujer, según había oído decir. Y el declarante le replicó no podía ser, porque estando él en Goatemala, abrá tiempo de seis años, preguntándole unos arrieros por Andrés de Alegría les respondió que estaba en Oaxaca, y ellos le dixeron que era casado en Goatemala, mas no le dixeron el nombre de la mujer. Iten declara que varias veces ha asegurado a este declarante el dicho Andrés de Alegría en conversación ser casado en esta ciudad con la dicha María, y en una ocasión le preguntó si era casado en Goatemala y él respondió que no, porque había diez años que se ausentó de Goatemala, y ha estado en México, y otras partes deste reino, pero es lo cierto que en esta ciudad vive en ilícita amistad en una casa con la dicha María, tratándose con familiar estilo de casados, que ocularmente le consta a este testigo.
After giving testimony to the immorality of Andrés de Alegría, the witness proceeds to describe him physically, for purposes of identification. He responds almost to the last detail to the official definition of a Mulatto. He has physical traits in his hair, lips, and skin color, that denote his African origin, and a mixture of phenotype and cultural assertion that proclaim his White progenitor, and the cultural world of the Spaniards he inhabits.(8)
His nose is "well defined" and, more tellingly, his pronunciation is correct. He is a native speaker of Spanish, and he dresses correctly, in the Spanish fashion. He is not an Indian or a bozal, a newly arrived African slave, His dress--anda bien portado-- is another mark of his casta, which distinguishes him from the Indians:
Preguntado por las señas personales del dicho Andrés de Alegría?
Dixo: que es alto de cuerpo, delgado con proporción, de color pardo, crespo y corto el pelo de la cabeza, caridelgado, ojos grandes redondos, bien perfilada la nariz, los dientes anchos, y desunidos, y blancos. Algo gruesos los labios. En la pronunciación es vigilante, anda bien portado, y es personero del Bachiller Don Thomas Varela.
What lied behind the accusation leveled by the priest Varela and his children against Andrés? In a town of less than 6,000 people, it could not be a secret that Andrés de Alegría had women all over the place. Aside from the pieties of moral corruption and bad character that they charged Andrés with, there is the almost accidental mention that Andrés was a personero of the priest Varela. A personero was someone who represents his boss in business transactions and the like.(9)
One could suspect that the priest and the muleteer had fallen out of friendship. Something in the priests testimony squeaks. He says that Andrés does not have a known gainful means of life. Such ignorance is suspicious and it had the effect of staining the reputation of Andrés even more. Mulatto, from out of town, without a known job. But he was an arriero, and furthermore, a personero of the Priest himself, as Juan de Mezquita stated in his sworn testimony..
The first accusations of bigamy speed up, almost daily. One is on October 18, the next by the priest again is from the 24th. Did the accusers keep the secret of their declaration as was required under penalty of incurring in a crime punishable by the Inquisition? Father, son, daughter and son-in-law are called to declare about the same subject within weeks, and their declarations are very similar in content and intent.
Enter the priests own son, a sixteen year old boy. His words cast further doubt about the legality of the entire process. On October 23, in the afternoon, Tomás Varela de Figueroa, "español, soltero" comes to declare in front of the Tribunal. This young man says that he heard Andrés Alegría utter a blasphemy. However the most interesting thing is that he says that Andrés was "soltero":
"dijo se acuerda que había tiempo de siete días que Andrés de Alegría, mulato, soltero, vecino de esta dicha ciudad le dijo a este declarante, en una ocasión, estando ambos en la calle, que en suposición de que este declarante fuese a ver a su cuñado don Gaspar Gonzales de Figueroa /blasfemia, al margen/ avia de ensusiarse en todas las cosas divinas, si no le matara, a la qual proposición no halló presente otra persona."
We will never know the details of their discussion. Andrés is furious with Gaspar Gonzalez, to the point of yelling blasphemies and threats to his life, more as a matter of speaking that of real desire to kill him, to be sure. The final swearing formula that the declarante has not spoken "por odio" has to be questioned. As a note for further reference, the secretary writes "blasfemia" on the margin. It looks as if some business deal between the priests son in law and Alegría went awry. The adolescent Tomás "hears" Alegría utter damning blasphemous threats against his brother-in-law. But, of course, there are no witnesses. However, he is a Spaniard, the legitimate son of another Spaniard, who is now a priest. His word carries more weight than a possible denial from a Mulatto man.
Little by little the accusation of bigamy seems to be enveloped in a web of contradictions, while the more immediate of blasphemy seems to gather momentum. The priest's daughter, Ana María Varela, also accuses Andrés of blasphemy. Her deposition in front of the Inquisition is from the same day, also in the afternoon. The secret that both siblings swore to keep is difficult to believe, since both declare one after the other. And Ana María recognizes that she knows why she is there:
"dijo presume será para que declare, como lo hace en forma, que Andrés de Alegría, mulato, soltero natural de Guatemala, y vecino de esta, en cuatro o sinco [sic] ocasiones, no se acuerda con certidumbre, qué tiempo había, y en presencia de esta declarante, tomó el susodicho en la mano un Santo Cristo de bronce, y profirió esta proposición, que se cagaría en aquel Señor si no consegura [sic] cierta cosa que aseguraba estando en su entero acuerdo. y no se halló presente otra persona alguna.
Both brothers have heard Andrés wishing to defecate on God or its images, but there are no witnesses. Ana María is very conscious of who she is, a Spanish lady talking to her inferior, a Mulatto, however older he may be. She chides him for his language, but Andrés de Alegría, never very respectful of social rank, repeats his blasphemy. Ana María adds the detail that Andrés was in perfect use of his mental faculties. This detail reveals that Ana María was familiar with the law, especially canon law. Did her father the priest coach her?:
dijo que al tiempo que el susodicho dijo las palabras e hizo las acciones que refiere, le reconvino esta declarante, diciendole que atendiera lo que hacia, a lo qual el replico enfurecido repitiendo la misma proposición en dichas cuatro o sinco veses. También añade que siempre que el susodicho ha proferido la dicha proposición ha estado en su juicio".
Everybody ratifies what they denounced without adding anything new, except one person. It was Gaspar González, the one Andrés had the violent verbal confrontation with. While nobody else adds anything to their testimony, Gaspar González, in his ratification of October 21, adds the accusation of blasphemy :
aora añade que oyó dezir al dicho Andrés de Alegría que el confessar y comulgar no hinchía barriga, y que eso era mojiganga y embustes. Esto lo oyó dezir el testigo cuatro o cinco vezes, persuadiendolo dexasse el mal estado en que vive, y que en las mismas cuatro o cinco ocasiones, el dicho Andrés persuadió a dos mujeres, que ambas se llaman María Ramírez, tía y sobrina, diziendoles escusassen de confesarse, porque se habían de volver a la culpa en que estaban. Era escusado confesarse.
Chronologically, this was the first time the accusation of blasphemy was launched. After Gaspar González, who indeed had a grievance against Andrés, mentions as an addendum to his previous declaration that the accused is a blasphemer, the other members of the Varela family came up with similar stories of their own. This was too much coincidence to believe that the Varela family did not consort with each other on the Alegría case. Gaspar Gonzálezs testimony indicated indeed more than blasphemy, although the secretary wrote on the margin "añade haber oído algunas blasfemias a Andrés de Alegría". Technically, belittling the importance of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist constituted full heretical propositions, something of a much more serious nature. However, the Inquisition always put into account the social condition of both the denouncers and denounced. To accuse a Mulatto man of heresy was not as expedient as to accuse him of blasphemy.(10)
The former accusation might be difficult to substantiate, and it required a new lead in the investigation, which the Inquisitor decided not to pursue. Andrés would probably have to be accused formally and incarcerated. A full declaration would have to be obtained from him. his This in turn might become a matter of weeks, or even months and it was too expensive, probably. His punishment was a foregone conclusion, and matters should remain as such.
Andrés de Alegría was called to answer to the charges of blasphemy, only at the end. The Inquisitors did not even bother to write his testimony. This was another egregious breach in the Inquisitorial system of due process. His final sentence was 20 lashes. His corporal punishment was required as a means to reestablish the perceived breach in the social order--this Mulatto man had been insolent to God and his Spanish betters-- and his penitence had to become, in the words of the Inquisitor, a "medicine":
por lo qual se ha de servir V.S. dar orden para que el Comissario de Oaxaca de una audiencia al dho Andres Alexandro de Alegria y no resultando cierto que qudo. dixo las Blasfemias referidas estaba privado de juicio, le imponga alguna pena corporal, que arvitrara V.S. juntamente con alguna penitencia medicinal en satisfacion de las injurias hechas a la Imagen de Ntro. Sor. o las cossas Divinas y Sacramentos. En todo acordara VS. lo mexor. Secreto y Julio 4 de 1732. Licenciado Diego Morgado y Clavijo.
The Inquisitors of Oaxaca complied with the lashing in private, after interrogating and convicting Andrés, but without even writing down his declaration. Following the directive, everything had to be done in secret. This secret, which wanted to be interpreted as beneficial and charitable for the person of the accuser, had the effect in fact of making the entire process a private vendetta orchestrated by the Varela family. A different hand, less calligraphic than the rest, added the following note to the margin of folio 23v:
le mandaran dar veinte azotes en el patio de su casa, y le reprendera severamente, cominandole en que si rreinsidiesse se sacara con una mordasa por las calles publicas y se le daran dosientos açottes, e impondran las demas penas qu contra semejantes blasfemos disponen los derechos y le deja en su libertad.
The convicted and punished Andrés de Alegría was let go with a severe warning of further physical aggression--200 lashes--if he was found to repeat his offense. The trade-typical expletives of a muleteer became for him in the future a matter of fear and concern, if uttered within hearing distance of anyone who might feel inclined to accuse him again. Not only that, but his punishment promises to be a public spectacle. The inquisitorial language reads like a synopsis of a future chapter in public punishment and shame. His mouth muzzled, his person paraded through the streets, and his body marked for ever with the very physical signs of the power of the Spanish Inquisition.
Andrés Alegría, Mulatto, is a deterritorialized subject of the Spanish Empire. Colonial social order based legitimacy on lineage. While pure Spanish or pure Indian ancestry gave individuals a sense of worth and belonging in Mexican colonial society, African ancestry was the disturbing element that had to be negated. Because of this, mestizaje, and the social structure created around its reality was an internal frontier in a perpetual state of creation and decomposition (Klor de Alva 243). The imaginary territory of New Spain was thus divided between Spanish and Indian towns, two distinct societies or repúblicas. Miscegenation in towns like Oaxaca and its valley created a new population whose very existence blurred this distinction and sense of place in society. For Mulattoes. Blacks, and Mestizos there appeared to be no "territory" of assignation. They were the human embodiment of lack of a territory, a blank space in the sociopolitical order. They did not belong in society, and their very presence was a sign of crisis and conflict. Their increasing demographic weight, and the new economies that they represented and practiced, was a sign of a crisis of authority and a weakening of social controls (Morse 186).
The very serious crime of bigamy could not be imputed to Andrés de Alegría. It did not really matter, since the 20 lashes inscribed on his body were just a warning of future penalties. The 200 lashes he was threatened with were the same penalty most bigamists of the lower classes received at the time. The Inquisition understood its mercy as a scale of punishment that found the upper classes less deserving of harsh physical injury.(11)
Andrés de Alegría had to be found guilty of something. He was already guilty of being a Mulatto. He was a living danger for a society that wanted Spaniards, Indians in separate categories but could not find a place for people of African descent, whether enslaved or freed.
The life of Andrés de Alegría was fluid, changing, never settled. It was unclassifiable, and thus it defied Power. As a Mulatto in a relation with a Spanish woman, he was perpetrating a breach in the casta classification of Mexican society. He was indeed a symptom of a disease, or dis-ease, in his society. More and more casta categories kept appearing in Mexican society, up to sixteen, and even twenty.(12)
Andrés de Alegría, with his intercasta promiscuity, was a factor in the complication of categories of people. He was an index of a changing society. The social crime of which he was accused--bigamy--proved to be unfounded. A different one was brought up in order to leave a mark on him of how power also controls language. His blasphemies--a free use of language--were words that the Inquisition owned: defecation and sacred objects. The Inquisition controlled language in the same manner that parish priests controlled the racial classification of people in baptismal records.
Andrés de Alegría was a rebel, but not of a romantic sort. He rejected his Spanish father--and
owner--by changing his name, he killed a man, he married a woman and the marriage was
annulled, he was a muleteer, he eloped from Guatemala with a Spanish woman, and then
abandoned her in Mexico City. He lived in and out of Oaxaca, and was known to lead a very
irregular life. While being in a patronage relation with a priest, he dared make fun and mock the
Eucharist and the Crucifix. And ultimately, he allowed rumors of bigamy to circulate about him
without seeming to care. In the end, he was not a bigamist. His ultimate crime was to demonstrate
his enormous contempt for a social and religious system that did not give him much space.
1.1. Ayer Collection, MS. 1026. Newberry Library. Chicago, Illinois.
2.2.The number of artists who practiced this first form of a non religious painting genre is quite extensive, and it includes the names of some of the most important painters of 18th-century Mexico, such as José de Páez, Francisco Clapera, Miguel Cabrera, Luis Berrueco, Ramón Torres, Andrés de Islas, Mariano Gutiérrez, José Alfaro and many others. Their work is best described by García Sáiz and Katzew. More than one hundred series of casta paintings exist in museums of Europe and the American continent (Katzew 27 n. 3).
3.3.In general members of the castas--Mulattoes, Blacks, and Mestizos--were disproportionally the object of Inquisitorial persecution. The types of crimes they were accused of were also found to be preponderant in these groups. The Inquisition was used against them to suppress their uprisings, especially during the 18th century. By royal statute, since 1571 people considered "Indian" and accused of the crimes normally judged by the Inquisition were placed instead under the jurisdiction of the local bishop. This situation created considerable confusion among the ecclesiastical authorities, especially on issues of religious orthodoxy (Greenleaf 130 and ff.). Acts of bigamy and blasphemy, on the other hand, stayed firmly within the ordinary episcopal authority, although it was the Inquisition who investigated the cases (Greenleaf 156).
4.4. References to this conspiracy in history books have always been sketchy and contradictory. Perhaps the best contemporary account is the Relación del alzamiento que negros y mulatos, libres y cautivos de la ciudad de México de la Nueva España, pretendieron hacer contra los españoles por cuaresma del año 1612 y del castigo que se hizo de las cabezas y culpados.(Querol y Roso 141-153). It has been attributed by J. I. Israel to Antonio de Morga (Israel 285).
5.5.The term "español" became in Mexico an ethnic and social denominator. It was intimately tied to the concept of limpieza de sangre, this is, being of old Christian--godo or Germanic--descent. Only Spaniards in this ethnic and not geographic sense were eligible for office in the government, or to take holy orders in the Church. The old Medieval distinction between the three estates of warriors, clerics, and laborers was adapted in New Spain in ways that placed the descendants of the 16th-century conquistadors and newly arrived Spaniards above every one else and to the exclusion of the rest for most offices (McAlister 357).
6.6. De Alegría was a typical casta surname. Lists of marriage and burial in Mexico City abound with last names such as de la Cruz, de los Ángeles, de la Concepción, or de los Reyes were common for Mulattoes and Mestizos, in contrast with an abundance of Fernández, Rodríguez, and other "-ez"patronymics for Spaniards (Cope 64).
7.7.At the time many members of the castas did not have last names, particularly in the countryside, and these were given to them in baptismal records and marriage certificates by the priests themselves. The patronymic "de don Sancho" was a means of identification within the rural area in Guatemala where he was born. Slaves tended to avoid having their last names taken from their owners (Cope 60-63).
8.8. Race was constructed in the casta system as a complex mixture of biological and socially constructed markers (Schwartz 185), in which manner of speech, dress, domicile, ancestry, skin color, hair texture, facial features, profession or trade, and gender counted. Casta definition was a dialogue between social perception of the self and individual self-perception.
9.9. The term personero is defined in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española as "el constituido procurador para entender o solicitar negocios ajenos."
10.10.The sin of blasphemy in Mexico was punished by the Inquisition in different ways, depending on who the accused was. Race played a very important role. Figures collected by Solange Alberro indicate that in the first years of the Mexican Inquisition, in the 16th century, Spaniards were the main focus of the Inquisitorial zeal. Their bad example in swearing and using foul language was seen as a bad example. However, by the middle of the 17th century onwards, it is mostly Blacks and Mulattoes who become the target of the Inquisitorial activity. Blasphemy among people of African descent took the form of "reniegos," which in the case of enslaved men and women served the very practical purpose of calling the attention of the Holy Office to their victimization at the hands of their masters (Alberro 1978: 75).
11.11.The anonymous inquisitor, who operated in different tribunals of the Spanish geography during the first half of the 17th century, expressed his surprise at the harsh fate of a man condemned to serve three years in the galleys for bigamy. Five years in the galleys and 200 lashes was the common sentence for the lower classes (Cardillac and Jammes 187).
12.12.Manuel Alvar in his lexicon of terms related to the casta division in Colonial Spanish America gives definitions to 82 different terms, with a combined total fo. 240 different meanings. (Alvar 84). To the common, if Baroque, terms such as torna atrás or tente en el aire, one can add other no less fancy such as ahí te estás or simply ahí, both recorded in Mexico (Alvar 89).