Article Title

Theorizing Indigenous Female/Spanish Male Partnership and Reproduction in the Sixteenth-Century Caribbean


Sexual relations between Spanish conquistadors and indigenous women were common in the sixteenth-century Caribbean. Drawing upon historical census data, archaeological evidence, and firsthand accounts, this paper looks at indigenous female/Spanish male sexual contact in all its forms--from rape, to concubinage, to legal marriage--and then explores two starkly antithetical theoretical interpretations of such contact. The first is sexual relations were inherently oppressive and pro-conquest, even when consensual, because they served to promulgate the twin colonial goals of cultural homogenization and mass conversion to Christianity. The second, advanced most prominently by Tony Castanha, is that the passing on of the indigenous "seed" through sexual contact with the Spaniards was itself a form of "passive" or peaceful indigenous resistance to colonization. I conclude that while there is insufficient evidence to support the latter interpretation, archaeological evidence suggests that indigerrous women who formed unions with Spaniards were able to preserve parts of their culture and exercise considerable agency within such relationships, despite their inescapably pro-colonial nature. My analysis, which pertains mainly to the sixteenth-century Greater Antilles with supplementary evidence from elsewhere in the Caribbean and the Spanish Americas, is grounded in a critical feminist understanding of the gender and racial dynamics of colonialism.

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