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Women and Commercial Sex in the Viceroyalty of New Spain

Summary and Keywords

Female occupational and economic choices help clarify understandings of colonial historic agency, especially in the lives of Mexican women who made their income as alcahuetas or “bawds.” These women hosted and managed other women in the marketing and selling of sex acts in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Viceregal bawds manipulated both the sex lives of their clients and the paternalism of crown justice in hopes of exoneration in court. They walked a precarious legal tightrope, negotiating the fluctuating margins of legal procuring and the transition to more stringent laws against sex for sale. The examples presented here, drawn from contemporary archival documents, show that these women’s lives span most of New Spain’s history, ranging from 1570 to the independence era in the early 19th century. In the 16th century, bawdry resembled the clandestine personal mediation that was common and familiar in medieval and early modern Spain. Bawds working in the 1st century of Spanish rule in Mexico carefully defended their social respectability to contradict evidence that they solicited for clients in the street. Reputable hospitality featured prominently in the early 17th-century procuring, while indigenous-influenced sorcery and love magic dominated the understanding of 17th- and early 18th-century alcahuetas. Lastly, in the 19th century, profitable market exchange characterized professional brothel operations, granting bawds honorable status within their economic and occupational community. Bawds recorded in the archives demonstrate communication skills, entrepreneurialism, and a concern for reputation through all of these eras. These intelligent female survivors offer compelling representations of viceregal women who exercised their personal agency to forge their own economic prosperity.

Keywords: women, sexuality, gender, sex work, Mexico City, agency, honor, legal history, colonialism, New Spain

Decades of scholarship prove that many women in viceregal times managed businesses, from one-woman market stalls to complex enterprises, heading their own households, manipulating the judicial system, and carrying out multi-generational family inheritance strategies and bequests.1 The range of roles that nearly all women enacted in judicial records offers countless examples of how well these litigants performed the most effective persona available to them. Women’s frequent presence on the side of the prosecution confirms that they actively shaped their own lives, both in court and elsewhere. Often family members backed up women in court, making their claims much stronger. But not all women could call on familial networks, and these unprotected women had to push toward their goals independently.

This essay explores female agency in a wide and diverse occupation taken up by women who made their income as alcahuetas or “bawds.”2 Bawds wisely mobilized their sexual capital (in this era, a young woman’s greatest financial asset), into social assets, sophistication and moneymaking smarts as they aged.3 To sustain their public respectability, bawds in New Spain frequently and expertly denied all accusations made against them in court, despite overwhelming evidence of their occupation, an activity that remained illegal and proscribed for the entire viceregal era. Because they became so adept at hiding it in court, uncovering these women’s bawdry requires detective work in interpreting the evidence. Then as now, one of the points of tension for those involved in commercial sex was social stigma, prompting the strategies that bawds used to deftly conceal their profession behind their officially acknowledged reputations.

Despite the dissimulation they employed to obscure accusations against them, archival evidence indicates that Mexico City bawds operated variously to seduce men and women into all manner of consensual illicit sex from the 16th to the 19th century. After providing an overview of contemporary Spanish legal and literary understandings of alcahuetas, this essay will present five examples of viceregal bawds who, between 1570 and 1809, manipulated both the sex lives of their clients and the paternalisms of crown justice and official notions of propriety and morality in hopes of exoneration in court. These women’s lives span most of viceregal New Spain’s history, and demonstrate both continuities and trends specific to the eras each woman inhabited.

In each century, a particular theme could be said to come to the forefront. In the 16th century, as we shall see, a bawd’s carefully defended social respectability helped her contradict evidence that she solicited for her clients in the street. Highly reputable hospitality featured prominently in the early 17th-century procuring. In the third era discussed here, indigenous-influenced sorcery and love magic dominated the understanding of later 17th- and early 18th-century alcahuetas. Finally, in the early 19th century, profitable market exchange characterized the work of a known bawd, granting her honorable status in a legal occupational community. Notably, intelligence, communication skills, entrepreneurialism, and a concern for reputation feature throughout each of these eras. These female actors are offered here as compelling representations of viceregal women who challenged even our 21st century understandings of sex work and its reigning explanatory narratives.

A personal note on methodology: My methodological approach necessarily includes my confronting and complementing of both existing historiography and the influence of prevailing attitudes toward sex work in our present. Aware of the many modern connotations surrounding “sex work,” “sex brokers,” and “sex workers,” I consciously employ the terms to describe women in the past in order to escape the simple and almost universally negative and marginalizing categories they replace, drawing new kinds of attention to the thoughts, actions, and integrations of these female historical subjects.4 My attention challenges the simplified victimization view of sex work in the past, which continues to condition how we interpret sex work in the present. Both polarized sex work historiography and the heated political debates over trafficking and sex work today tend to envision all sex work as victimizing of women and inherently antifeminist. Any form of sexual exchange with men is viewed as submission to the patriarchy. Such arguments, however well meaning and even elementally productive, do not take into account viceregal sex workers’ wide variety of experiences, and diminish, in particular, our sense of female sexual agency and any potential for active sexuality. The evidence I analyze of a wide variation in sex work, and of entire careers in this occupation in New Spain, challenges the prevalence of victimization as an interpretation of these occupations and practices in both the colonial past and our present. For these reasons, here I highlight the individual histories and choices of women who chose sexual commerce, instead of repeating the tragic tales of abuse and pain.

That said, alcahuetas significantly challenge more than stereotypes and facile generalizations. For they do not always appear entirely ethical personages. Indeed, their moral complexity only helps us further understand these women as complicated historical actors determined to prosper in the competitive, male-dominated settings in which they were embedded. As financially astute women who manipulated the courts, they demonstrate their society’s reactions to females who were largely autonomous, and free from conventional kinds of dependence on men and marriage. In relation to my methodological motivation and practice, our own understandings of modern-day successors to these bawds continues to spark controversy within societies that do not wholeheartedly accept nonmonogamous, sexually active women who assert their own agency outside of marriage and their families.5 Then and now, both authorities and people in general struggle to fit such women into prevailing systems’ sexual and social ethics.

Definitions and Iberian Background

What exactly did an alcahueta do? The other words often used for this occupation, tercera—a third party—and consentidora—literally, a “consent-giver”—may actually prove more illuminating, suggesting how many of these women served as intermediaries between lovers, and consented to or approved of illicit unions. This type of procuring had long represented a significant occupation for many Spanish and western European women from medieval through the early modern eras. In keeping, procuring women in colonial Mexico often ran businesses with the least possible overhead and initial investment—as, from this foundation, all an alcahueta needed was her wits and men and women interested in having sex.6 In contrast to male rufianes—a common medieval and early modern word for men who simply took all of a female sex worker’s earnings, bawds usually received money directly from male clients in exchange for their service in setting up meetings and arranging safe locations for sexual encounters. Many people of all social statuses accepted long-term relationships without the sacrament of marriage as a normal practice. Bawds often brokered these kinds of unions, similar to a matchmaker, even as what amounted to their sexual event planning worked against contemporary moral rhetoric emphasizing marriage or chastity.

Other bawds might act as brothel managers, even as they pursued more than simply this one kind of business. They also managed illicit affairs in family settings or in their homes, on the street or in taverns, and in their own specialized boarding houses. Spanish tradition had long linked alcahuetas with erotic magic, through rituals designed to enchant men, causing them to lose their judgment in passionate lust for specifically targeted women. In New Spain, belief in such practices of love magic is predominant in 17th-century documentation. Accusations of involvement in magic for the purposes of seduction often pushed bawds out of the known and semi-respectable Spanish milieu, and were often brought against non-Spanish women regardless of the ethnic origins of these practitioners’ clienteles.7

What kind of women procured other women? Generally the bawd possessed some slight advantage over her female agents, most often that of age, literacy, marriage status, or social sophistication. But there was no one type of person: Mexico City authorities prosecuted bawds of African, indigenous, Spanish and mixed heritages, married, single, or widowed women, often with children. While the relationship between the alcahueta and a younger, less educated, socially inferior sex worker beneath her sway might mirror reigning hierarchies of race and class in viceregal Mexico, the bawd herself inhabited a marginal and potentially precarious social position—a woman earning money in an illegal and at least officially immoral occupation. With plenty of space for particular variation, in general terms, bawds and their male and female clients usually occupied equal or adjacent social statuses.

In Spanish legal, religious, and literary traditions, alcahuetas take on controversial and apparently contradictory roles. To start with the negative, legal codes excoriated them as completely abhorrent to Catholic Christian morality, buttressed by rhetorical and didactic exempla and treatises that gave primacy to celibacy, monogamy, and the sacrality of marriage. Lawmakers and moralizers took writerly and preacherly aim upon alcahuetas far more than they detested ruffians or sex workers themselves, because these procuresses allegedly drew innocent men and women into sexual commerce through their legendary clever and subtle ploys.8 As early as the second half of the 13th century, the Siete Partidas or “Seven Sections” of the Castilian King Alfonso X’s law code had set in place the judicial understanding of sex work, which would persist into the early modern times under our purview, in both peninsular and transoceanic settings. While in Spanish legal codes, procuring, and eventually brothel keeping could face legal sanctions, sex work itself was not explicitly found illegal at any moment under discussion here. Bawds broke laws with clear judicial ramifications, but women who had sex for money or gifts did not. Rather, these medieval and early modern sex workers faced various kinds of regulations, including sporadic efforts to police them via medical exams and sumptuary laws, even though they themselves were not outlawed. Even much later in the colonial era, under the Bourbon administrators’ efforts to police the streets, the night watchmen brought in women for vague offenses, such as breaking the curfew, visiting illegal drinking establishments, or public lewd behavior (sex on the street).

In contrast to the vaguely acknowledged juridical status of sex workers, Title Twenty of the Siete Partidas established laws that faced up to alcahuetas in detail. Title Twenty breaks down the alcahuetes/as (loosely interpreted) into five categories:

evil rogues who guard whores who are publically in putería, taking part of what they earn; second, those who go about as panderers for those seeking them [the providers of sex]; third, men who raise or keep captives or other servants in their homes knowing they will do evil with their bodies; the fourth [category] is a man so vile that he panders his own wife; the fifth is a person who consents to a married or other well-placed woman fornicating in his house, in return for something she gives to him even though he does not go about procuring for them [her or her illicit lover].9

The Siete Partidas assert that alcahuetas are degenerative forces, convincing good women to do evil, and by pushing those who are just starting to commit errors into becoming much worse. The idea is that bawds lead women into dishonor by the evil done with their bodies. In punishment, the Siete Partidas recommend that alcahuetas should be brought before judges and, if their crimes are proven, that they should be ejected from the town along with their whores [putas]. Those offenders who rent rooms to “evil women” involved in putería [whoring] should lose their houses and pay ten pounds of gold. According to the Siete Partidas, alcahuetas who arrange affairs for married women, virgins, nuns, or widows of good reputation deserve nothing less than the death penalty.

The Siete Partidas’ harsh condemnation of panderers and procuresses may derive from a royal preference for regulated brothels in this medieval era. Even before Christian reconquest, licensed sex workers operated in Seville and Cordoba, paying taxes to the Islamic rulers. From approximately 1300 until the late 16th century, regulated legal brothels flourished throughout the re-Christianized Iberian Peninsula, from Barcelona to Granada. Valencia and Barcelona had documented brothels from the early 14th century, while the historic record shows that Castilian monarchs regulated this institution at least from the mid-15th century.10 Spaniards took both the brothel and the alcahueta traditions with them to their Spanish viceroyalties.

Bawds in Literature

While the Siete Partidas established kinds of offenders and codified harsh punishments for bawds, many works of Islamic and Castilian literature from medieval and into the so-called “Golden Age” of the 16th and 17th centuries tended to humanize this figure. Even a brief foray into early medieval understandings of the alcahueta helps to explain and contextualize the wells from which the enduring popularity of this informal figure and her institution in the early modern Spanish world derive. The word alcahueta itself derives from the Hispanic Arabic term alqawwád.11 Islamic literary treatises prepared in the medieval peninsular kingdoms acknowledged the essential role of the bawd in setting up illicit liaisons. It appears to have been accepted that few if any affairs would happen without a third party involved. Illicit encounters as depicted in Islamic literature were, in a sense, love triangles or even squares. The fact that women lived separately from all men, not their husbands or brothers, did not stand in the way of sexual encounters, but led to the acknowledged necessity of a skilled mediator, an interlocutor to facilitate encounters and bridge gender communication gaps. In this Islamic tradition, both the bawd and the female lover cooperated, to entrap a man, dupe a husband, all the while showing off their intelligence and sophistication. To have the skills to move in men’s and women’s worlds, the bawd had to possess the wisdom of age and a desire to organize other people’s trysts.12

Castilian writers immortalized this Islamic literary tradition for Christian readers with the enduring bawdy characters such as Trotaconventos, in the 1330 Book of Good Love by Juan Ruiz, known as the Archpriest of Hita, and Celestina, in Fernando de Rojas’s 1499 work entitled the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea. These sly old women characters contributed human complexity to the Islamic portrayals they succeeded in the same lands. While the Siete Partidas had painted alcahuetas as ubiquitous but detested criminals, the descriptions of and reactions to Trotaconventos and Celestina suggest that early modern Spanish readers and listeners knew and understood bawds’ essential functions in their world.13 Trotaconventos had great verbal skill and dexterity in dealing with her clientele. Ruiz depicts her both as a crafty old woman and as the personification of “good love” itself.14 In other medieval Christian writings, the bawd figure assumes a more maternal role, sometimes actually procuring her own daughters’ lovers. Fittingly, even though she procured widely, many a brothel manageress in the medieval and early modern Spanish kingdoms was known by the occupational title of “mother.”15 Although Trotaconventos and Celestina are fictional creations, their literary portrayals expertly flesh out the ephemeral traces of nonfictional bawds found in archival documentation. The picture emerges of women carrying out an ancient and complex occupation, both reviled and acknowledged, and one that served essential purposes in the series of specific sexual, social, and cultural contexts that became in time the early modern Spanish world.16

A 16th-Century Mexico City Bawd

The bawd’s ability to negotiate affairs demanded social wiles and legal sophistication, as can be appreciated in records deriving from the prosecution of Catalina García, an alcahueta active in late 16th-century Mexico City. In 1570, García came before the ecclesiastical court in the viceregal capital, accused of helping to organize her friend María de Rojas’s encounters with at least three men.17 García’s modus operandi drew upon alcahueta ways known from Islamic and Christian traditions, transplanted and re-created in New Spain. García knew how to convince her clients with words, being persistent and even aggressive. In the case before us, she masterminded locations for lovers to meet. In return for arranging the affairs, carrying messages, and hosting the encounters, she received a few pesos in compensation and, in one case, some sugar. The official accusations labeled García not only an alcahueta “for fornicating men and women,” but also an encubridora and a tercera, an accessory to fornication and its active mediator.18

Both García and María de Rojas came from a plebeian peninsular Spanish background, but García, at thirty-eight, had twelve more years of life experience, and a slightly higher social status, claiming a tradesman husband and the ability to write and sign her name with confidence. She may have even written convincing petitions from prison in her own hand.19 According to Rojas and three of her lovers, García solicited each of the men as they strolled past her house at various hours of the night and day. García called to them from her window or stood in the doorway, alone and on occasion with her friend María de Rojas in the door with her. The targeted men—aged twenty, twenty-six, and thirty years—were also plebeians, with one further described as a mestizo and another as one employed as a tailor.

The evidence suggests that García sought out clients at her own social level. In classic alcahueta style, she was presented by the purported witness-victims as having ignored all of their hesitation over engaging in commercial sex, convincing the four potential fornicators to submit to her plans for their sex with her persuasive verbiage. With Rojas too, some creative cajoling was required. When Rojas at first refused to have sex with the men, García asked her over and over again [“tantas veces” or “so many times”], promising that each man would “do very well” for her.20

While Rojas and her lovers ultimately betrayed their own immoral acts in the course of making the aforementioned detailed accusations, as an alleged bawd, it was García who had the most to fear in terms of legal sanctions. The clerical court took Rojas and her lovers seriously, which meant disliking and acting upon what they heard about García. The authorities arrested her and put her in the archdiocesan jail. In response to her imprisonment and the serious accusations against her, García faced the challenge both of denying the specific charges made against her and of defending her general reputation. When questioned directly about pandering Rojas, García denied everything apart from the fact that Rojas had lived with her for a few months. She justified the cohabitation as an act of charity to help a sick friend.21

After these denials and presentation of an alternative scenario for her relationship with Rojas, García built her own case by turning simultaneously, first, to the cementing of her reputation as an honest married woman and, second, to tearing down the trustworthiness of Rojas and her lovers. According to García, Rojas’s accusations had no value because she was known to be a “public whore [ramera]” who often slept with men for money. García thereby denied any responsibility for either pandering her friend or controlling her actions.22

The court called on a group of young Spanish plebian men who appeared to be García’s close friends, often visiting her house. These men attested to García’s good character, while confirming the bad reputations of Rojas and her lovers.23 García’s sympathetic witnesses answered in turn the following series of typically leading questions:

Was García a good Christian who lived in recogida [withdrawn from public life] in fear of god and her reputation, providing a good example everywhere she went? Was María de Rojas a public woman, a whore who earned her money publicly with her body, for any price that they give her, and for this should it be understood that the witnesses lied in saying that [she used] an alcahueta?24

Witnesses agreed that García had a good Christian character, in contrast to their descriptions of María de Rojas. While García lived a discreet and suitably secluded life as a woman of honor, Rojas walked the streets alone at night as a puta. She sold her body to anybody who would pay. The witnesses interpreted her apparent lack of selectivity to mean that Rojas did not require the services of a bawd. They opined that given her sexual proclivities, a mediator simply was not necessary. In other words, Rojas took the initiative in sexual entrepreneurship and she did not require the persuasive and the communicative arts of a bawd.

The witnesses’ interpretation recalls the traditional Islamic and Spanish definitions of the alcahueta as a subtle, sophisticated go-between for discreet lovers, and not some crass high volume actor, only in it for quick cash in hand. Oddly enough, and perhaps tellingly, García’s close social relationships with the young Spanish men who spoke for her good character suggest that she enjoyed precisely the kind of social network to exist as an effective alcahueta. The young men spoke of coming to her house to converse with her over a period of a couple of years, and feeling great respect for her honorable character. If García served as a mediator for these men, they would certainly want to continue their mutually beneficial relationship with her. Although the trial record does not reveal the ultimate fate of either of these women, the trial evidence reveals how witnesses of Spanish descent brought understandings of the controversial tradition of female procuring to New Spain, showing that men and women in the viceregal period understood (and might avail themselves of) its purposes and methods even as secular and spiritual authorities continued to despise it.

Bawds in the Long 17th Century: Hospitality and Love Magic

In the early 17th century, another Spanish woman ran a kind of early modern love hotel/brothel in Mexico City. In this case, aided by a set of high-ranking male allies, we do learn the judicial outcome, one in which the bawd, matchmaker, and innkeeper Ana Bautista received a lenient judgment after an investigation by the archdiocesan court for the crimes of procuring and concubinage.25 Like García, Bautista also enjoyed the support of men who were very likely her clients, who spoke of her excellent character and helped her case. Because of the personages involved, her trial also reveals that complicated and negotiated sexual philandering among both men and women extended into the highest ranks of Spanish and Creole society, even into those in the viceregal court itself, where a respectable woman might have success as a bawd while retaining her good reputation through a combination of her own shrewdness and subtle manipulation of elite male protection.

As the forty-five-year-old widow of an audiencia attorney [procurador], Bautista circulated comfortably among the elite. She had owned two different businesses and reportedly had at least two lovers since becoming a widow. Despite her late husband’s elevated bureaucratic rank, she did not enjoy the honorific title doña and thus had plebian origins. Although labeled a Spaniard in our extant documentation, in the past Ana Bautista had owned a lodging house and pulquería tantalizingly (or playfully?) known as the “meson de la negra,” or the “black woman’s inn,” conveniently located adjacent to a house of recogimiento on the Calle de Jesus de la Penitencia. At the time of her arrest, Bautista operated yet another inn and pulquería, also centrally located, near Mexico City’s slaughterhouse. In both locations, it emerges that Bautista convinced several women to have affairs with her guests, providing them with the food and lodgings they needed to maintain their illicit relationships.26 Bautista was clearly an excellent businesswoman, and knew how to manipulate her patrons’ support in order to protect her social and legal status at a level far above that enjoyed by the 16th-century bawd Catalina García. Yet in more general terms, it is notable that neither of the women appears to have suffered poverty, instead working hard to make and maintain useful contacts, to facilitate myriad liaisons, and thus to cushion themselves with wealth and prosperity.

Bautista procured for a wide range of men and women. Witnesses listed a total of thirteen women and seventeen men, including widows, married, and single individuals, all of whom formed discrete relationships thanks to her machinations and hospitable support. Bautista frequently masterminded liaisons between guests in her lodgings, either enlisting those already staying there or enticing outsiders as a way of opportunistically bringing in more income in room rentals, food consumption, and of course pulque. She received gifts, services, money, and protection for her bawdry from these clients, as well as from her own lovers. One of these paramours, Felipe Álvarez, mentioned wasting a “great quantity of gold pesos” on her.27 Although we learn from a notarized inventory included in the case file that Bautista did not own many possessions, her room had quite a luxurious feel, as did her dress, appropriate for a woman who ran a successful “casa pública.”28 The inventory recorded that she decorated her lodgings with numerous religious retablos, chairs, cushions (including nine made of “Chinese velvet”), and a gilded wooden bed with a canopy. Not only does her most intimate living space appear before us, but a stunning portrait of the woman herself also begins to emerge. Her clothes were all of imported fabrics typically in shades of black and brown, and she wore an elaborate black and gold velvet mantilla. Married men and women committing adultery had not only a safe but a somewhat extravagant meeting place in Ana’s comfortable establishments, and some, including Bautista herself, enjoyed long-term illicit relationships in them. Most of her clients were acknowledged as Spaniards, but Bautista also procured lovers for two mulatas (both of whom were Ana’s servants who had affairs with Spanish men, one of whom was a cleric), a mulatto man, and a mestizo man. Over a period of time, Ana’s male clients ranged from laborers through priests to bureaucrats in the viceregal court.29

Ana’s elite clientele appears to have helped to soften her treatment both during her trial and in her ultimate sentencing. Instead of enduring imprisonment while being tried, she only experienced house arrest.30 Despite the fact that Bautista herself had lovers, her defense was able to formulate a case that solidified her reputation as an honest and devoutly Christian innkeeper who made a small income by providing room and board for important, honorable men, including a well-known associate of the Viceroy, the Marquis de Guadalcazar.31 Bautista had the reputation of living as a recogida: a woman with a decorous, secluded life. According to statements in defense of her character, one of which came from an official on the Audiencia, her accuser Felipe Álvarez nursed a violent passion for her that had led to attempts to seduce her, to break into her house, to shame her and her guests by calling Bautista a “puta” and her guests “cornudos [cuckolds],” and finally to bring her up on the charges she was facing.32 Bautista and her defense adopted the strategy of not a few contemporary women who found themselves before a court in the early modern Spanish world: they worked to assert, reformulate, or utterly transform a potentially bad reputation into a respectable one, and to render a victim out of an alleged evildoer in order to gain paternalistic sympathy from the judges.33 In the course of effecting this transformation, Bautista denied all sexual misdeeds. Thanks in large part to her careful role-playing in the judicial theater, the court absolved Bautista of all accusations, only requesting that she sever all ties and contact with her alleged current lover.34

Whether they worked as street touts offering their own beds, or provided a comfortable, well-furnished rented room, 17th- and 18th-century bawds often employed spells and potions to attract male lovers to the women in their employ. These lovers could provide both the alcahuetas and the sex workers with the means to survive in a world with few profitable female occupations. Many historians have discussed inquisitorial investigations into women’s practice of love sorcery, but far fewer scholars make the connection between the endeavor of finding and influencing love and making a stable income. This occupation was a survival strategy documented often for slightly older widows, the kind of women who also might transition to bawdry.35 The fact that most interrogated women explained that they used potions and enchantments so “that all men would want them,” confirms a conscious desire to attract many suitors, either for themselves or their employees.

A Mexico City Holy Office investigation from 1617 makes a more explicit connection between sorcery and earning money off sex with men.36 A constable denounced Isabel de San Miguel, a mestiza, as an alcahueta and trickster or embustera, who employed various forms of magic and enticement to drive men mad with irrational desire for certain women of her choice. Once they were involved, San Miguel would then offer these couples food, drink, and a bed in her house, while hiding their affairs from others. In other words, beyond her love magic, she both organized and helped maintain the illicit sexual relationships, in classic bawd style. Because San Miguel derived her income from this occupation, and was a poor woman who did not live with her working class husband, she had a history with the legal system, having already suffered imprisonment, banishment, and lashings at the hands of secular justice. Notably, Isabel de San Miguel lacked the male protectors and high-placed connections Catalina García and Ana Bautista had enjoyed. In a similar vein, the investigation into her case exposed the lowly origins of San Miguel’s humble female operatives, perhaps in keeping with her own plebeian status: two slaves, the thirty-year-old black woman Gerónima de Mendoza, and the thirty-three-year-old mulata Francisca Negrete. Allegedly, San Miguel had Francisca seek out men at various houses, in order to seduce them into “desiring her” and rewarding her. San Miguel was also accused of having organized a relationship between Gerónima de Mendoza and her nephew, a blacksmith.37

When the lovers broke up, the enslaved woman purportedly grew melancholic, so much so that San Miguel tried to sell Gerónima de Mendoza a spell that might seduce the blacksmith all over again. The elaborate spell involved preparing and activating a tecomate, a jug filled with clean water, placed in San Miguel’s room. The two women were said to have used a knife to make cuts in each corner of the room, grooves from which they extracted some dirt that they then placed in the tecomate. Further, San Miguel took a small insect or reptile from her breast and mixed it with some dust or dried herbs and stirred the mixture inside the tecomate. San Miguel was said to have raised the jug to her room’s ceiling, then down to her floor, before beating it with her hands. Afterwards, San Miguel ordered Gerónima de Mendoza not only to bathe her genitals and underarms with the mixture, but also to mix the concoction into her lover’s hot chocolate. The lover, the bawd’s own nephew, confirmed that his aunt commonly did this kind of spell as part of her work to bring lovers together in her house. Here, there would be no lenient treatment of the sort enjoyed by the aforementioned Catalina García. The inquisitors ordered San Miguel be placed in jail and questioned. As the case record peters out, we learn of the poor and more vulnerable Isabel de San Miguel affirming her innocence before all charges.

A woman called Doña Nicolasa de Guzmán, labeled an española, continued the bawd tradition of employing sorcery to seduce men into paid sex, as alleged and pursued in another investigation by the Holy Office in 1711.38 The inquisitors focused mainly upon the “simple superstitious” practices. Guzmán was said by witnesses to have used to lure women into prostitution, an early use of this word in Mexican archives.39 Doña Nicolasa de Guzmán had a reputation for living off the income gained by arranging sex work for younger women and girls, including the brokering of their virginity to the highest bidders. Guzmán operated a mediation organization, in which she oversaw girls, but did not directly arrange or escort them to their sexual liaisons. While this alcahueta did not testify in the surviving preliminary investigation, five young women described her bawdry in detail, an intricate operation she shared with several equally astute colleagues, not least another alleged Spaniard known to witnesses only as “Chomba,” and a woman called “La India Ángela.”40 Although one witness testified that Guzmán had a good reputation, and that her husband, a painter, was a devout member of the Third Order of Saint Augustine, other witnesses presented a contradictory picture, that of a notorious bawd who especially targeted vulnerable teenage runaways.41

Statements made by a fifteen-year-old orphan named Bernarda de Lara and her relatives emerge as particularly telling. Their allegations opine that Guzmán successfully balanced her respectable marriage to a pious man with her well-known reputation as a procuress, even to the extent that she ran what we may characterize as a kind of early modern outcall business for sex workers. Bernarda de Lara and her young relative Gertrudis de Lara explained how Bernarda de Lara had come from the countryside to Mexico City, moving in with Gertrudis’s mother after the death of her own mother when Bernarda de Lara was about ten years old. Probably vulnerable and suffering as a charity case in her relatives’ house, Bernarda de Lara had run away one night after a bout of physical punishment from Gertrudis’s mother. Bernarda de Lara made the choice to run to Guzmán’s house, a brothel, rather than endure more bad treatment with her relatives. After a month, Guzmán had sent her to live with Chomba, who embarked upon a plan for Bernarda de Lara’s violent defloration by the governor of the palace guard—a forced liaison allegedly worth 300 pesos.42 Thus brutally initiated, Bernarda de Lara was then returned to Guzmán’s house, where she commenced living with other young women also sent out to “earn their income with their bodies,” a pursuit they reportedly worked at every night and some days.

Spanish law proffered severe punishments for open bawdry of this kind, and yet the inquisitors in this case showed decidedly more interest in Guzmán’s use of love magic. Guzmán purportedly called on her mother, La India Ángela, for powders that might be provided to young women so that “men would desire them,” as well as to “stupefy” their cuckolded husbands so that the married women could enjoy their affairs. Guzmán gave the girls who lived in her house a yellow powder for just these purposes, a powder they were said to carry with them at all times, tucked into their stockings. She also had them bathe their hands and faces with incense smoke to the same ends. Bernarda de Lara herself was said to have received a small bag that Guzmán had told her to hide in her stocking so she could enchant men to desire her. The inquisitors acquired this bag, and found it to contain a few roots from an unknown plant.43 In the moment of her defense, Bernarda de Lara claimed that she did not believe in the power of the bag of roots to attract men, cheekily pointing out that she sometimes forgot to wear the stockings that contained it during assignations with men, which had proceeded well. Alongside these arcane practices of a love ritual specialist, Doña Nicolasa de Guzmán managed a streamlined business, housing young women who had brief sexual encounters, not the longer-term relationships that the alcahuetas discussed above had organized with and for their clients. Guzmán may best be understood as one who delicately combined the role of the traditional Spanish go-between, knowledge of local plants and indigenous practices, and a shrewd mind for competitive business.

No record exists to illuminate Doña Nicolasa’s reactions to the accusations against her, nor is there any surviving trace of her defense or sentencing. If other cases in which broadly similar practices and details were in play, the inquisitors here may very well have dropped both of the cases involving bawds who used minor erotic magic, deeming them practices unworthy of too much attention or punitive action. The women in those roughly analogous cases suffered little or no penalties, and the authorities seemed to view them with a kind of pity.44

A Late Colonial Successful Bawd

The final person considered in this essay faced an audiencia tribunal in very late colonial times, in 1809, charged with running a brothel and prostituting her own daughter, along with several other very young women.45 Born in 1769, María Manuela González Castrejón was a married castiza with five children and an absent plebian Spanish husband (at the time of María Manuela González Castrejón’s trial, he was in jail). González Castrejón’s racial labeling indicates that she was a nonelite woman perceived by the authorities as not entirely of Spanish ancestry, perhaps with some indigenous or African heritage. She asserted her good reputation in a legitimate career that blended extremely well with the management of sex workers. As was the normal practice for accused bawds, González Castrejón utterly denied the validity of all accusations that she was anything but a respectable businesswoman whose first concern was her children’s welfare. González Castrejón argued that she made a very good income, up to an impressive four pesos a day, as a dealer in used clothing and ornaments [alhajas]. González Castrejón presented five Spanish character witnesses who backed up her claim to be a successful clothing peddler, one who bought and sold from house to house, in her own home, as well as in the Parían and other public markets. Two of the witnesses, both Spanish men, claimed the same occupation, strongly suggesting that González Castrejón was their known peer, and that she did buy, sell, and accept pawned clothing and other items. These witnesses knew that she worked her way up to this modestly profitable profession from poverty by laboring as an in-house washerwoman for elite homes, and also ran an atolería along the way. To them, and as she presented herself, González Castrejón was the epitome of a versatile, hardworking Mexico City female plebian.

González Castrejón’s case compels us toward telling connections within her own life and livelihood, as well as within the lives of others. She certainly did work in legitimate professions, and perhaps she sustained herself and her family very well. However, further exploration of the items of clothing in María Manuela’s inventory, and consideration of the ways in which she might have supplemented her income, supports a strong link between her legal market work and her alleged bawdry. Similar to the other women discussed above, González Castrejón shrewdly explored more than one path to financial stability. Scholarship on brothels in early modern Paris suggest what may well have been going on in other major metropolises of the era, very much including those in the peninsular Spanish kingdoms and in New Spain, in that they functioned as versatile banks for small loans backed up by personal property as collateral. Professional madams bought, sold, loaned, and took in pawned goods, especially clothing and all other types of accessories useful for female adornment.46 Gathering and providing access to the proper wardrobe coexisted with successful sex work and with a person’s exploitation of their sexual capital.47 While women working independently would have had to acquire their all-important clothing and jewelry via personal gifts, buying used items, or making their own, madams might broker their charges with most of the essential clothing and luxurious ornamentation they might require. In short, successful madams often worked naturally as dealers and traders in clothing and personal adornments.

Inventories of María Manuela’s possessions support the hypothesis that she both dealt in clothing and ran a brothel. The authorities confiscated a large supply of female underclothes at her lodgings, while almost no outdoor clothing appeared in the inventory. The nearest items that González Castrejón and her daughter Francisca possessed to outdoor clothing were six bodices or armadores, but this term too may well refer to women’s underclothes only for private use. What is more, their lodgings also contained eight pairs of stockings made of either silk or cotton. The authorities further found clothing fitted for a young woman’s body in the range of fourteen petticoats of a wide variety of fabric, but apparently no outdoor skirts. The women’s clothing also included seven túnicos, or loose sleeveless garments. Taken together, the inventory contained an enormous range of indoor clothing. If Manuela truly earned her money only from the selling of clothing, it appears that she ran a lingerie store. Women of Spanish and mixed race descent in viceregal Mexico usually prioritized outdoor clothing, hats, and jewelry, of as much ostentation as their resources and social station might allow, and certainly not just underclothes.48

Still other small material items listed in the inventories also suggest coquettish indoor activities: several fans and decorative hair combs. In line with this interpretation of their belongings, the women possessed quite luxurious comfortable furniture entirely suitable for the needs of a brothel: there were five sofas, four chairs, various tables, a dressing table with a mirror, another stand-alone mirror, a cluster of comfortable beds fitted with sheets and blankets, and numerous cups and glasses. The accused and her allies held to their assertion that everything derived only from her business dealing in clothing and complementary adornments. González Castrejón and her character witnesses ended up having to explain to the court why she had all of this material wealth, in addition to why men and women often visited at odd hours of the day and night.

On top of the suspicious nature of her possessions, the authorities built their case against González Castrejón based on reports made by hostile witnesses, and especially about the group of young women alleged to have gathered at her lodgings one evening in early June, 1809. The authorities raided María Manuela’s alleged brothel on the Callejon de la Condesa at around 9 p.m. There they found six young women (mestizas and Spaniards, as well as González Castrejón’s own sixteen-year-old castiza daughter), all between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, as well as two married men who worked at a fabrica in Guadalupe, and one nineteen-year-old waiter from Trieste.49 The alcalde mayor (judicial official) and his sergeant felt justified in immediately arresting all of the women and the Italian waiter. In their statements, most of the arrested parties claimed a good reason for visiting González Castrejón at that hour, referring back to her work dealing in clothing and personal ornaments, while some of the girls simply said they happened to be passing by at the moment of the raid or that they were at work as servants in the house. The young women who already had acquired reputations as solteras—which is to say sexually active unmarried women—portrayed themselves as victims of predatory men who falsely promised marriage, availing themselves of the widely accepted defense and story for excusing sex work, provided it was short in duration and presented as nonvoluntary.50

Regardless of these protestations of innocence and victimhood, three of María Manuela’s neighbors, called as witnesses, had serious complaints to make against her. The owner of a nearby wine shop and tavern observed that González Castrejón left her door open until 11 p.m. or as late as 1 a.m. He saw both men and women entering, even at dawn. He also observed his neighbor and another woman standing on the balcony, each of the pair wearing nothing more than one of the numerous tunics in their possession. Another neighbor testified that men and women constantly entered and left from this house, a place of “mala conducta,” in her view. A third neighbor said that she had known González Castrejón for eighteen years and expressed amazement at her newfound riches, a dramatic change from her days as a washerwoman. Due to her apparently quite sudden wealth, and the frequent visits by men and women to her house, González Castrejón now had the local reputation as one working as an alcahueta. The authorities admitted they had no more witnesses mostly because González Castrejón’s house enjoyed a quite hidden location behind the walls of other edifices—a privacy that might serve a brothel’s clientele well.

Two of the girls arrested that evening in 1809—a soltera called María Hilaria Ximenes who looked around fourteen and her sister, a doncella (maiden) named Clara, who was said to have appeared thirteen—worked for a short time as servants in a kitchen adjoining María Manuela’s lodgings. These sisters admitted that men and women entered frequently with their faces covered, but they claimed not to know why, relating only that they had heard rumors of evil activity. María Hilaria and Clara also claimed that González Castrejón had offered them jobs in her adjoining house, luring them with luxurious clothes like those worn by María Manuela’s daughter Francisca. Due to the rumors of immorality in this house, they rejected the offer and professed that they would never set foot in an alleged brothel. The girls offered no more specifics, but it seemed clear to the judges that, if true, it constituted an act of procuring on the part of González Castrejón. The authorities expressed great interest in the fate of these “very attractive little Spanish girls [muchachas españolitas muy bien parecidas],” and also feared that their older brother, a soldier, operated as their panderer.51 María Manuela’s favorable witnesses, when questioned about these particular girls, asserted that María Hilaria and Clara were actually sex workers who worked independently in their own rooms, essentially rival businesswomen who needing no encouragement from their neighbor the purported clothes dealer.52

Despite her supportive character witnesses and her own protestations of innocence, González Castrejón received a harsh sentence of public humiliation and six years in the casa de recogidas. Her daughter was to be placed in an honorable house. Clearly, the judges believed that even if she dealt legitimately in clothing and other accessories, González Castrejón also ran a brothel, and did so in a manner that worked against the public and moral good.


Spanish American women of a variety of calidades made a career out of alcahuetando, out of organizing and hosting sexual trysts for men and women who paid these bawds to serve as their go-betweens and facilitators. Religious, intellectual, and juridical rhetoric excoriated alcahuetas as corrupt sinners: women who encouraged and tempted other (possibly innocent) women into nonmarital, nonmonogamous sex. Yet, in spite their official social marginalization, widows, wives, mothers, and unattached women chose an array of roles in sexual mediation as profitable occupations and a survival strategy in an era that offered few avenues for independent female economic success. While they certainly needed to work for their income, none of the five women from viceregal Mexico discussed here suffered desperate poverty that forced them to bawdry. Both Ana Bautista and María Manuela González Castrejón, for instance, lived in well-appointed rooms, according to archival inventories. The persons featured in this essay were, rather, clever businesswomen who chose their occupation for reasons other than economic pressure and panic.53

To assess these examples otherwise—to declare them women who turned to procuring only out of financial desperation—risks the creation of a static image of women who lacked reason and planning. This interpretation further presumes that these women actually believed that their acts were wrong and immoral, despite that fact that in virtually every aspect of their lives, all five bawds were remarkably well assimilated in their social and professional settings. When questioned, the women only denied what they did because the Spanish judicial system required assertions of honor by all litigators. But their perfect court performances of honor, in this respect and in others, does not mean they viewed their work as detestable or immoral as they went about their daily lives. If we assume that bawds would not do this work if they were rich, it follows that we would presume that they had internalized contemporary clerical constructions of sexual shame. Their actions prove the contrary: in these, they advocated nonmonogamy and the female control of sexual capital. The moral ambiguity of this occupation continues to provoke discomfort among historical interpreters today, forcing us to question our own understandings of female sexual agency in New Spain, and beyond.

Discussion of the Literature

Scholars in the last thirty years of sex work historiography have created new terminologies that have had a strong influence on perceptions of this occupation. Jill Harsin’s Policing Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Paris and Kathryn Norberg’s “The Body of the Prostitute: Medieval to Modern” explain why the term “prostitution” was not used in the early modern period, and proves it to be just as anachronistic as any other term we may use, other than quoted terms from the sources such as ramera and alcahueta.54 Ruth Mazo Karras argues for a broad application of the term sex work noting that “the fact that a category of analysis was not in use at the time does not obviate its usefulness to historians, so we might ask in what other sorts of ways women’s sexuality and women’s work intersected.”55 Prostitute is a term that came into use most commonly in the 18th century and points to an effort to push women outside of society in the context of a very gradual growth in the legislation against selling sex or later regulation policies. In the late medieval and early modern context, this marginalizing took place more sporadically. In Spanish America, negative assessments of sex workers most often appear only to solidify male litigants’ justification for acts of violence or divorce petitions.

In historiographic terms, attention to professional female sex brokers in the viceregal period complicates the Black Legend of Spanish rapacity, which would foreground male violence as a defining narrative of conquest and domination, and which would extend directly into our understanding the history of sexuality in New Spain. The classic source of this interpretation is Ramón Gutiérrez’s When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away, published in 1991. In contrast, Camilla Townsend’s Malintzin’s Choices (2006) emphasizes the conscious choices and female agency exercised by women in the Conquest Era.56 Analyzing gender roles within a court setting also highlights that both men and women gave gendered performances before the authorities, following the most effective script that they could access. For models of this kind of analysis, see Natalie Zamon Davis, Fictions in the Archives (1987) and more recently Nora Jaffary’s 2004 False Mystics: Deviant Orthodoxy in Colonial Mexico.57

Mexican bawds of the viceregal era defy the sex worker paradigms of our own times: they were neither pathetic victims nor liberated sexual rebels (the latter vision being favored by some modern sex-positive perspectives). Instead, in line with the arguments in Nina Kushner’s 2014 book Erotic Exchanges and Norberg’s essay “In Her Own Words,” I demonstrate them to have been sensible conformists whose essential goals in life were modest prosperity and a protection of their own good reputations.58 These novohispano women fit into a broader historiography of sex work that interprets this profession as a conscious manipulation of sexual capital by women who were not hyper-sexualized, personally scandalous, or even especially erotic. Further research may even prove that Mexican bawds and their patrons operated within a milieu of popular tolerance of nonmonogamy, perhaps with similar values to the diverse cultural contexts explored by William Reddy in The Making of Romantic Love (2009), in rejection of church and state-sanctioned emphases on a more restrained sexuality.59

Primary Sources

Archival evidence allowing insights into women, sexuality, and gender history can be found in many kinds of documentation produced under Spanish rule in the Americas. Researchers will encounter extensive documentation tracking the legal history of Spanish America in the audiencia sections of the Archivo General de Indias (AGI), located in Seville, Spain, as well as catalogs and limited access to scanned documents online. The AGI’s collection will often only provide documentation regarding viceregal justice that was appealed, adjudicated, or decreed beyond the level of the local authorities, thus prospective historians of New Spain should also visit the Archivo General de la Nación, in Mexico City, Mexico. The catalog and some scanned documents in this collection can be accessed online. Useful sections of that archive are criminal, inquisitorial, and ecclesiastical (especially marriage disputes) branches. Whenever possible, researchers should additionally try to read local criminal cases or notarial records, which can bring to life gender dynamics as played out in small towns, villages, and cities throughout the Spanish empire. Given the great importance of the Catholic Church in terms of the assertion and surveillance of both legal and moral norms, available parish, diocesan, or archdiocesan archives may also be of importance. These archives include records about many kinds of conflicts and disputes mediated by the Catholic Church, as well as more mundane details of daily life, such as marriages, baptisms, deaths, and religious organizations. For more information on sexuality and gender from the perspective of the church, state, informants, and prosecuted individuals, the Holy Office of the Spanish Inquisition has American tribunal records, stored in national and local archives in various towns in Spanish America, as well as in the Archivo Histórico Nacional, in Madrid, also accessible online.

Further Reading

Atondo Rodríguez, Ana María. Amor venal y la condición femenina en México colonial. Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1992.Find this resource:

    Arrom, Silvia Marina. The Women of Mexico City, 1790–1857. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1985.Find this resource:

      Bliss, Katherine Elaine. Compromised Positions: Prostitution, Public Health, and Gender Politics in Revolutionary Mexico. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

        Karras, Ruth Mazzo. Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

          Kushner, Nina. Erotic Exchanges: the World of Elite Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

            Levine, Phillipa. Prostitution, Race, and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire. New York: Routledge, 2003.Find this resource:

              Nagle, Jill, ed. Whores and Other Feminists. New York: Routledge, 1997.Find this resource:

                Perry, Mary Elizabeth. Gender and Disorder in Early Modern Seville. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

                  Storey, Tessa. Carnal Commerce in Counter-Reformation Rome. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2008.Find this resource:


                    (1.) For women’s employment patterns, see Silvia Marina Arrom, The Women of Mexico City, 1790–1857 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1985), 156–164.

                    (2.) A Spanish-English dictionary from 1591 translates alcahueta as a bawd or the Latin equivalent, lena. See the Nuevo tesoro lexicográfico de la lengua española, accessed via the Real Academia Española, for historical dictionaries. In English, a bawd can be a man or a woman, but this essay always refers to female bawds.

                    (3.) In contrast, married women theoretically transformed their youthful sexual capital into economic and social capital, inalienably held by one man and his family. Nina Kushner, Erotic Exchanges: the World of Elite Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century Paris (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013), 193–194.

                    (4.) See Discussion of the Literature section at the end of this essay for discussion of this term.

                    (5.) Clare A. Lyons, Sex among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution, Philadelphia 1730–1830 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 277–278, 321–322. Lyons stresses that the popular model of male sexual predation by taking away female agency only further solidifies the roles of women as sexually passive victims, and men as aggressors. Women relearn that ignoring their sexuality is the best path. See Lyons, Sex among the Rabble, 316–317.

                    (6.) Ruth Mazzo Karras, “The Regulation of Brothels in Late Medieval England,” Signs 14.2 (1989): 413–414.

                    (7.) See Nichole von Germeten, Violent Delights, Violent Ends: Sex, Race, and Honor in Colonial Cartagena de Indias (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013), Chapter Two for a circle of erotic magic practitioners comprising elite Spanish women in early 17th-century Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight discuss a similar group a few decades later, by this time dominated by Afro-Creole women.

                    (8.) M. Carmen Peris, “La prostitución valenciana en la segunda mitad del siglo XIV,” in Revista d’historia medieval, 1 (1990): 193–195; Karras, “The Regulation of Brothels in Later Medieval England,” 413.

                    (9.) Las siete partidas del Rey don Alfonso el Sabio cotejados con varios códices antiguos por la real academia española, Tomo III (Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1807), 665–666. The first lines of this title seem to treat what would more commonly be called the rufianes. However, Title Twenty ends with the note that all of these laws apply as much to procuresses or alcahuetas as to any rufian. Bawds are assumed almost always to be women.

                    (10.) Pablo Rodríguez, “Las Mancebías Españolas,” in Placer, Dinero, y Pecado: Historia de la Prostitución en Colombia, ed. Aída Martínez and Pablo Rodríguez (Bogotá: Aguilar, 2002); Eukene Lacarra Lanz, “Changing Boundaries of Licit and Illicit Unions: Concubinage and Prostitution,” in Marriage and Sexuality in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia, ed. Eukene Lacarra Lanz (New York: Routledge, 2002), 173; and María del Carmen García Herrera, Las Mujeres en Zaragoza en el Siglo XV (Zaragoza: Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza, 1990), 72.

                    (11.) See the entry on the Real Academia Española’s online Diccionario de lengua española.

                    (12.) Leyla Rouhi, Mediation and Love: A Study of the Medieval Go-Between in Key Romance and Near Eastern Texts (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 154–158. The word used for the female mediator in medieval Spain was “ajuz” literally meaning “old woman.”

                    (13.) Jean Dangler, Mediating Fictions: Literature, Women Healers, and the Go-Between in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2001), 84–127.

                    (14.) Rouhi, Mediation and Love, 206–208, 225, 236–245.

                    (15.) Rouhi, Mediation and Love, 213, 217.

                    (16.) Rouhi, Mediation and Love, 256–285; and Dangler, Mediating Fictions, 84–127.

                    (17.) AGN, Mexico, Bienes Nacionales vol. 497, exp. 7, “Contra Catalina García por alcahueta,” 1570.

                    (18.) “Contra Catalina García por alcahueta,” 1.

                    (19.) Ibid., 10, 14, 15.

                    (20.) Testimony of María de Rojas, “Contra Catalina García por alcahueta,” 2–3.

                    (21.) Testimony of Catalina García, “Contra Catalina García por alcahueta,” 5–7.

                    (22.) Ibid., 11.

                    (23.) “Contra Catalina García por alcahueta,” all quotes to follow from Catalina’s defense 18–26.

                    (24.) “Contra Catalina García por alcahueta,” 18. The set of questions included asking if García was a good Christian, “temerosa de dios, vivir recogida, dando buen ejemplo en los lugares … sin cosa en contrario de esto? Si sabes si María de Rojas es mujer publica ramera y que gana públicamente con su cuerpo por cualquier precio que le den y por esto entienden los testigos que mintió en decir que para ella fuese no alcahueta.”

                    (25.) AGN, Mexico, Bienes Nacionales 14, vol. 207, exp. 18, 1621, “El fiscal del arzobispado contra Ana Bautista por alcahueta y amancebada.”

                    (26.) “Contra Ana Bautista,” 1–4.

                    (27.) Testimony of Felipe Álvarez, “Contra Ana Bautista,” 2. This lover, Felipe Álvarez, spoke bitterly of Ana Bautista after she spurned him and refused to admit him in her home. He testified that “trato y comunico carnalmente a la dicha Ana Bautista tiempo de tres años mas o menos la cual ha gastado mucho cantidad de pesos de oro.” This case will be explored in greater depth in my project entitled Public Women: Sex for Sale in Spanish America.

                    (28.) Inventory, “Contra Ana Bautista,” 5, 8.

                    (29.) Ana María Atondo Rodríguez, Amor Venal y la condición femenina en México colonial (Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1992), 97–112.

                    (30.) “Contra Ana Bautista,” 10.

                    (31.) Ibid., 12–26.

                    (32.) Testimony of Felipe Álvarez, “Contra Ana Bautista,” 24, 40.

                    (33.) Anne Dyer, “Seduction by Promise of Marriage,” Sixteenth-Century Journal 34, no. 2 (2003): 440; “Contra Ana Bautista,” 8.

                    (34.) This case coincided precisely with the dismissal of the Marquis de Guadalcazar and the beginning of the viceregal term of the Marquis de Gelves, as well as the influence of Olivares in Spain. Only a few years later, Phillip IV ineffectively attempted to ban all brothels in Spain. See Atondo, Amor Venal, 121–122. “Contra Ana Bautista,” 44.

                    (35.) I discuss this in detail in Germeten, Violent Delights, 33–34, Chapters Two, Six, Seven, and Eight.

                    (36.) AGN México, Inquisición vol. 314, exp. 8, 377–385.

                    (37.) Atondo, Amor Venal, 125–133.

                    (38.) AGN México, Inquisición, vol. 758, 1714, “Contra doña Nicolasa de Guzman española por alcahueta supersticiosa,” 378–396.

                    (39.) Atondo, Amor Venal, 306–317.

                    (40.) “Contra doña Nicolasa de Guzman,” 386–387.

                    (41.) Ibid., 396.

                    (42.) Testimony of Bernarda de Lara, “Contra doña Nicolasa de Guzman,” 384–389.

                    (43.) “Contra doña Nicolasa de Guzman,” 386.

                    (44.) Germeten, Violent Delights, 31–41. Women referred to as doñas usually received lighter penances from the American Holy Office tribunals.

                    (45.) AGN, Mexico, Criminales, vol. 89, exp. 1, and Criminales vol. 84, exps. 13 and 14. “Delito: tener un prostíbulo, ejercer la prostitución y prostituir a jóvenes menores de 14 años; acusadas: María Manuela González Castrejón y su hija Francisca.”

                    (46.) Kathyrn Norberg, “In Her Own Words: An Eighteenth-Century Madam Tells Her Story,” in Prostitution and Eighteenth-Century Culture: Sex, Commerce and Morality, eds. Ann Lewis and Markman Ellis (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012), 39.

                    (47.) Kushner, Erotic Exchanges, 48, 67, 156–157.

                    (48.) Germeten, Violent Delights, 144–165.

                    (49.) Atondo, Amor Venal, 301–302. AGN, Mexico, Criminales 89, exp. 1, “Tener un prostíbulo,” 8.

                    (50.) Lyons, Sex among the Rabble, 315–317, 332.

                    (51.) AGN, Mexico, Criminales 89, exp. 1, “Tener un prostíbulo,”7.

                    (52.) AGN, Mexico, Criminales 84, exp. 14, Testimony of Octaviana Buitron, “Tener un prostíbulo,” 213–214.

                    (53.) Atondo’s otherwise excellent work is flawed by lazy moralizing assumptions that only poverty drove women to sex work. See Amor venal, 97, 100.

                    (54.) Jill Harsin, Policing Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985); and Norberg, “The Body of the Prostitute: Medieval to Modern,” in The Routledge History of Sex and the Body: 1500 to the Present, eds. Sarah Toulalan and Kate Fisher (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013), 393–408.

                    (55.) Karras, “Women’s Labors: Reproduction and Sex Work in Medieval Europe,” Journal of Women’s History 15.4 (2004): 153–158. Quoted on 153.

                    (56.) Ramón Gutiérrez, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991); and Camilla Townsend, Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006).

                    (57.) Natalie Zamon Davis, Fictions in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987); and Nora Jaffary, False Mystics: Deviant Orthodoxy in Colonial Mexico (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004).

                    (58.) For theories on French madams, see Kushner, Erotic Exchanges; and Norberg, “In Her Own Words.”

                    (59.) For global examples from other periods of history, see William Reddy, The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia, and Japan, 900–1200 CE (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).