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4. "That They Not Be Lost": Three Recogimientos 1548-1582

The Colegio de Niñas Mestizas


Mestizas were the focus of much attention in the middle of the sixteenth century, and to a certain extent inherited the concern that Bishop Zumárraga and other friars had expressed for the proper rearing of Indian girls. Yet concern for the fate of Indian girls had never apparently gripped society in general, and had remained part of the evangelical effort. Concern for unprotected mestizas, on the other hand, would be expressed by many in the república de españoles. Orphan girls of whatever kind were considered among the worthiest objects of charity, and were a particular concern to the city fathers in the middle of the century. In 1555, for example, the city's alguacil mayor left half his estate for the marriage of fatherless Spanish girls. 1 Indeed, the cabildo considered the marriage of orphan girls its particular province. In 1569, Jerónimo López, then the city's procurador mayor, was ordered to act in a suit concerning the will of Juan de Sala, "because it relates to orphaned maidens of the city." 2 (porque toca a huérfanas doncellas de la Ciudad) While the dowering of Spanish orphan girls was a popular testamentary provision, mestizas received a more institutionalized form of civic charity based on anxieties about their numbers and poor prospects.

In the first decade of the colony, mestizos were a largely invisible presence in the city. Children born of Indian mothers and Spanish fathers existed very early in the period of contact, of course, but the labelling of such children as "mestizo" was not an immediate development. Their fate was an ambiguous matter; they were absorbed by either one or the other parental group and thus disappeared. 3 The term "mestizo" arose more to describe a social problem rather than an ethnic admixture. Those whose parents enjoyed social standing or legal union were generally not perceived or described as "mestizos." Instead, those who were absorbed into their fathers' world and were either legitimate or legitimized partook of the status and privilege accorded gente de razón. 4 The label "mestizo" was reserved for those who suffered from its pejorative connotations: abandonment, poverty, illegitimacy, orphanhood. 5 The application of the term spread, and its meaning changed, through the sixteenth century. This caused no little confusion. As late as 1582 the Crown felt compelled to clarify the definition of the term. 6

Yet if proper legal definitions of mestizaje were slow to crystallize, some perception of a "mestizo problem" had emerged by the 1530s. A royal cédula of 1533 ordered that such boys be gathered and educated, as was then done by the Franciscans in the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán. In 1548, Zumárraga described the school for boys as the "remedy of all the land." 7 (remedio de toda la tierra) In that same year, the College of Our Lady of Charity (Colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad) was established to meet the needs of comparable girls. The new school was created through the efforts of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament and Charity (Cofradía del Santísimo Sacramento y Caridad), an entity created in 1538 by the merger of the Cofradía del Santísimo Sacramento and the Cofradía de la Santa Caridad. The brotherhood included "a great number of brothers from among the most principal and honored [men] of the city." 8  translation Indeed, although the brotherhood was open to all Christians, male and female, 9 many of the founding members of Caridad were officeholders in the urban government. 10

The cofradía was pledged to "good works and charity to different needy people," and to the service and accompaniment of the Holy Sacrament, for example, when it was carried out to the gravely ill. 11 The cofrades, among them many men, and also "women with candles," apparently accompanied the Sacrament regularly. 12 In 1548, the members of the cofradía decided to found a residential school for girls, "considering that perfect charity consists in preventing offence to Our Lord God with all their strength." 13  translation Their arguments for the establishment of the school speak volumes about the importance of feminine purity in the city. "The remedy of orphan girls, Spaniards or Mestizas, is even more important than that of the boys," the cofradía asserted, "because according to their feminine weakness they are more likely to fall." 14  translation

To be sure, mestizo boys were considered vulnerable, prone to wandering the land in a kind of primitive state. According to Zumárraga, before the creation of the mestizo boys' school, "they wandered lost through the fields, without law or faith, eating raw meat." 15  translation Mestizas, however, were prone to a form of disorder strongly associated with the city: sexual looseness. In 1543, Bishop Marroquín of Guatemala wrote to the king asking that some remedy be provided for mestizos and mestizas, "so that the boys might be men and the women might not be lost." 16  translation Here the same obsessions are reiterated: the boys must be humanized and the girls must avoid becoming whores. The brotherhood accepted this view of the problem, presenting enclosure as the cure. Notably, however, the sexual peril in which mestizas found themselves was not construed as a racial characteristic; rather, it was a danger inherent in unsupervised living for women of any group, given their "feminine weakness." Thus the cofradía claimed in 1557,

in this city of Mexico there were many poor lost defenseless orphaned maidens, without protection or remedy, daughters of Spanish conquerors and other other people who, because of their death, left their daughters without remedy, and they came into great perdition, from which has followed very great disservice and in the land very evil example and occasion for offence to God. 17  translation

As the piling up of protective metaphors implies, mestizas were thus a menace to society only in their lack of regard for their honor, and in the "evil example" their degradation would provide. Their protection was for the "universal good of the land." 18

The universal good was invoked in part because the enclosure of mestizas, like the enclosure of Spanish nuns in the foundation of La Concepción, could also be interpreted as an example for the Indians. 19 Fray Juan de Cruzat, prior of the Augustinian monastery, echoed these concerns in a 1549 letter to the King:

... in these parts there is a great necessity that Your Majesty provide some medium so that the mestizas, daughters of Spanish men and Indian women, be enclosed in some house where they might be taught and raised in good customs, so that from there they might leave to marry or to take some state in which to serve God; because there is a great number of them, and from not having this remedy it results that they give many evil examples to the natives, and very many of them wander lost. 20  translation

Such persuasive arguments ensured that royal support would be quickly forthcoming. Viceroy Mendoza assisted in the colegio's foundation, granting it half of the unclaimed livestock in New Spain for its sustenance. 21 In 1552, the colegio received a cédula of foundation which reveals part of the reason for the Crown's enthusiasm in its reference to the marriage of the girls. 22 While this would be a quasi-monastic institution, placement within it would be temporary and directed toward the increase of a settled and stable Spanish population. Indeed, marriage was explicitly the focus of the education the girls would receive. Thus they were taught, in the words of the school's chaplain, "spiritual and temporal things, that they might be housewives." 23  translation A reformative impulse was also at work; the cleric Francisco Rodríguez de Santos claimed that he knew "some daughters of conquerors ... who were living in error and in disservice to God." 24  translation Such girls would be placed in the colegio for their own "remedy." While avoiding sexual offenses was obviously the primary goal of enclosing the mestizas, they were also to be more firmly yoked to the república de españoles. Thus they were originally forbidden to have Indian servants who might impart ethnic confusion. 25

By the time the cédula was received, the cofrades had already well begun the foundation; between 1548 and 1552 they had purchased a building and had commenced construction of the colegio's church on a new site near the convent of San Francisco. 26 The functioning of the colegio was totally in the hands of its members. The school was governed by a rector, six deputies, and a mayordomo, all elected annually by the cofradía. 27 The role of the bishop was minimal. While Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza had been a strong supporter of the project, Viceroy Don Luis de Velasco avoided becoming involved in the enterprise, leaving it to the cofrades. 28 As his family was involved in the cofradía, the viceroy must have felt that the matter was in able hands.

The cofrades chose to have laywomen rather than professed nuns in charge of the colegio. This meant that the institution was quasi-monastic at best. Yet although officially a lay institution, the colegio was regarded by the public as a "monesterio." By 1557 the cofrades claimed that its church was a popular place in which to hear mass. The colegio now received a great number of alms, and was also chosen by many Spaniards as the site at which they wanted to be buried. It had become, in short, a focus of much local devotion. 29 The cabildo members themselves buried in the colegio the city councilor Alonso de Mérida, who left a great deal of wealth to the school. 30 The enthusiastic cofrades collected alms, which were allegedly freely given because of the high social standing of many of the members of the cofradía and the worthiness of its cause. By 1557, the colegio had far exceeded its original plan; though designed for thirty girls, it now housed between eighty and ninety "pobres," both Spaniards and mestizas. 31 By 1570 the colegio contained some 128 girls and women. 32

For the first eight years of the colegio's history, applicants had to be between eight and thirty years of age, making the colegio's definition of girlhood rather elastic. So too was its definition of maidenhood; the high age limit was accompanied by a lack of a proscription against sexually experienced women, even those who had prostituted themselves. In the 1555 ordinances, however, adult women were prohibited and the lower age limit was set at twelve. In the 1565 ordinances, further restrictions were added barring non-virgins. 33 Prospective inhabitants of the colegio — or their representatives — applied in writing, giving reasons for their application. If the cofradía accepted their entreaties, they could enter the colegio as "charity girls," (colegialas de la caridad) in which case they would receive not only their sustenance in the colegio, but dowries to assist in their marriage or profession as nuns. 34 Clearly, a chance at such an opening was valuable, and there was apparently no shortage of applicants. Fray Antonio de San Isidro claimed that he had been an "intercessor" in gaining admittance for "some poor orphan girls." 35 During the first years of the colegio, many mestizas and other poor girls entered in this capacity. The founding girls, in fact, were seven mestizas and one Spaniard, all poverty-stricken. 36

A second group of girls and women entered the colegio by another route. Beginning in 1549, such girls and women entered the colegio as "boarders" (pupilas) or "deposited girls," (depositadas) whose maintenance was paid to the institution by parents, relatives, or benefactors. Boarders were generally placed by their families, who hoped that they would partake of the "good enclosure and doctrine that exists in the said house." 37  translation Among the latter group were the daughters of Bernaldino de Albornoz. 38 Others were daughters of other principales and "honored citizens." 39

Both poor and rich girls and women were soon entering the colegio in excessive numbers. Entrants could be received in the hope that other girls would soon leave, for, as Don Fernando de Portugal said, "as some enter, others leave to marry." 40 (como van metiendo unas van casando otras) Yet in the first year of his rectorship seven or eight girls were married, while fifteen to twenty entered. 41 The result of this flurry of entrances was overcrowding, evidence of both the need the colegio filled and the high esteem in which it was held. 42

The devotion and support shown by the populace to the Colegio de Niñas Mestizas highlights an important characteristic of sixteenth-century institutions for women. Though institutions like La Concepción — true convents of professed nuns — were highly respected, "welfare institutions" like the colegio were not thought of merely as such. Kathryn Burns suggests that while convents were a "mark of civic confidence," beaterios and recogimientos were "welfare institutions — the sign that a problem existed and a solution had not yet been found." 43 But during the sixteenth century at least, the relationship between pride and anxiety, confidence and problem, seems more complicated. The Colegio de Niñas Mestizas was established as a result of anxiety; once established, it became a source of pride. Contemporaries referred to the colegio within the same breath as "the most principal work of charity" (la mas principal obra de caridad) and "one of the most enclosed houses [of religion] and of good doctrine that exist in New Spain." 44  translation When "true" convents were established as emblems of civic confidence, they also responded to anxiety about the need for women to enter either matrimony or the cloister. Indeed, the line between convent and welfare institution was a fluid one, at least in popular perception. The Colegio de Niñas Mestizas was included in lists of convents during the sixteenth century, and was often described as a convent, as in the 1583 cabildo inventory that described it as "the monastery of the enclosed maidens." 45 (el monasterio de las donzellas recogidas) The colegio, like other institutions for women, was an important municipal resource both as a solution to a social problem and a source of spiritual renewal.

The degree to which the colegio was perceived as a possession of the city is evident from the cofradía's efforts to exempt it from episcopal control. To ensure the colegio's independence from both viceregal and clerical interference, the cofrades sought and in 1570 received permission to annex the colegio to the Church of Rome, thus achieving its exemption from local ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 46 The project thus remained under the administration of prominent members of the urban elite, who continued to interest themselves in other projects with similar aims.

Jesús de la Penitencia


The reclusion and education of mestiza girls was considered a sound solution to the perceived social problem they had presented. Yet the city contained other problematic and deserving women, some of whom would be served by the establishment of the recogimiento known as Jesús de la Penitencia. Like convents, recogimientos were part of an urban strategy for the protection and enclosure of women. They too were often grouped with proper convents and with the colegios de niñas by representatives of government. As late as 1590, Viceroy Luis de Velasco the Younger made little distinction between these various types of women's institutions, writing that "in Mexico there are five monasteries of professed nuns and one of penitence and another of sheltered women that is called Santa Monica and a school of maidens."  translation Though the order of their listing might indicate some ranking, Velasco asserted that "all are very necessary because of the many young women there are and the great poverty of their fathers, so that now there are few who have assets [sufficient] even to place [their daughters] as nuns."  translation Thus all the institutions for women were in some sense "welfare institutions." But they were at the same time the source of a great deal of pride. In fact, Velasco claimed, all of these institutions were among "the most enclosed and exemplary monasteries in Christendom, where the rule is best kept and Our Lord is most served." 47  translation The distinction now made between such houses of retreat and true convents, then, was less clear in the sixteenth century.

Jesús de la Penitencia was a Magdalen house, dedicated to the conversion of prostitutes. Prostitutes, in the European tradition, were an important part of the urban fabric, just as were nuns. Aquinas, of course, considered prostitutes, in an ugly metaphor, as necessary to a city as a sewer or cesspit — they were to remove the filth from a town and purify it. 48 This was a standard view echoed in sixteenth-century Spain by Francisco Farfán, who compared the brothel in the city to the stable or latrine of the house. 49 Brothels and their inhabitants, then, were a municipal asset and resource. 50 Yet as "cesspools," brothels were a shameful part of the city. Thus European cities controlled their position in urban geography; in Germany, for example, brothels were allocated positions near city walls and confined to a few streets. 51 In Rome, Pius V attempted in 1566 to move all prostitutes to an area "at the opposite pole of the city from the Vatican." 52 In Spain, municipal authorities attempted not only to confine prostitution to certain areas of cities, but to enforce dress codes that would preserve visual distinctions between prostitutes and other women. 53 In fourteenth-century Seville, such distinctions included the prescription of yellow headdresses for prostitutes to distinguish them from respectable women. 54 In the early sixteenth century the Catholic monarchs confirmed these prescriptions and added restrictions upon the wearing of fur by prostitutes. 55

In the New World, authorities showed the same concern with managing prostitution. As early as 1526, a brothel was licensed in Puerto Rico. 56 The first officially licensed brothel in Mexico City was created through the efforts of the cabildo in 1538, though it was not built until after 1542. 57 Thus the cabildo sought to establish a whorehouse and a convent at the same time. While this tandem foundation might seem ironic to some, 58 both brothel and convent were municipal resources. The difference in their status, however, was indicated by the location of the former (apparently marginal, given that an Indian was granted a solar in the same street). 59

Prostitutes were considered necessary to receive the "filth" that spilled over from apparently uncontrollable male lust, which might otherwise threaten "decent" women. Yet toleration of prostitution gave a poor example to the very women whose decency it was supposed to protect. Moreover, the two groups of women — decent and indecent — were not always easy to tell apart. The success of New Spain's prostitutes led to complaints before the visitador Tello de Sandoval in 1544. In response, he ruled that loose women should not wear skirts with trains or carry cushions to church because of the confusion that might arise between them and respectable women. Thus, though prostitution was considered a necessary evil in New Spain as in the Old World, the institution was regarded with ambivalence as a source of societal contamination and a poor example for decent women. 60

This ambivalence extended to the women who worked as prostitutes. On one hand, they were sinners and lawbreakers worthy of punishment. On the other, they were victims of circumstance, human beings with souls in peril. The second conviction seems to have grown during the sixteenth century, when homes for repentant prostitutes arose in many European countries in response to the recognition that poverty and prostitution were linked, and that many prostitutes were unable to leave prostitution, 61 along with a fear for the fate of the children born to women living in such a vile state. Concern about the spread of syphilis may also have played a role, 62 but the provision of an opportunity for redemption seemed the most important societal concern. In Italy, this was manifested in the foundation of both convents and "houses of succor" for repentant prostitutes. 63 Such concern was also expressed in Spain. In 1570, Seville prohibited the practice of pawning women into prostitution. 64 In addition, prostitutes were required to attend Mass and to observe other religious customs to ensure that their souls were not totally lost and in the hope that they might repent. Repentant prostitutes were received in the Convent of the Most Sweet Name of Jesus, established in Seville in the middle of the sixteenth century. This recogimiento prescribed a strict regimen for penitent prostitutes, including prayer and work, but also accepted non-prostitute novices, who were strictly isolated "from the contagion of both venereal diseases and sinful knowledge" represented by the reformed prostitutes. 65

The idea of converting prostitutes into nuns is at first glance a curious one. Yet there has always been a conceptual if not actual association between the two groups. 66 In Seville, ordinances warned of false monasteries where abbesses rented rooms to prostitutes, and often prostitutes assumed new names like those nuns took in religion. 67 Lutheran propaganda would elaborate upon this parallel in its attack on female monasticism. Yet, though Lutheran reformers attempted to tar nuns with the brush of sexual depravity, the association between nun and whore in Catholic lands was generally one of opposition. Prostitutes were virtual "anti-nuns." One can constructively think of consecrated women and prostitutes as two poles on either end of one spectrum: the prostitute represents female debasedness, the nun exaltedness. 68 The prostitute must be confined to the margins of the city, serving as a necessary cesspit but therefore eternally threatening contamination. The nun, particularly during the sixteenth century, became a source of purity to be installed at the very heart of the urban center. Converting the former into the latter was a worthy task.

In Mexico, concern for prostitutes' souls was manifested through the creation of an institution that would gather "women who are sinners in the sin of the flesh, who with their life gave bad example and were the occasion of many evils." 69 translation The bull of foundation, granted in March 1569, specified that,

"as in the said city [there are] many women of evil life, to whom we refer with sorrow ... it is very important that there exist there some good men who, especially taking it as their occupation, may work to convert the said women." 70  translation

The "women of evil life" were to be received without dowry, and even to be given clothing and have their debts paid if they were totally destitute. 71 They would follow the rule of Saint Clare and be under episcopal supervision.

Once again, however, a cofradía maintained control over at least "temporal" governance of the project it had instigated. 72 The Cofradía de la Soledad de Nuestra Señora y Santa Lucia was composed of "good and distinguished men of the city," (hombres buenos y distinguidos de la Ciudad) among them the apparently ubiquitous city father Bernaldino de Albornoz, 73 as well as women dedicated to supporting the converted nuns. The cofrades looked to the ordinances created for "the enclosed religious women of the city of Seville" (las rreligiossas rrecoxidas de la ciudad de sibilla) for their example. 74 Diego de San Román, a silkworker, supervised the gathering of alms, which apparently met with great success. A house was purchased from another silkworker for 1400 pesos to begin the foundation, and the number of women to be admitted and supported was set at eight. 75

On 30 July 1572, mass was preached in the newly completed convent of Jesus de la Penitencia. The oidor Doctor Pedro Farfán attended, as patron of the house, as did a few other members of the elite. Four women entered, dressed in white and carrying candles, attended by other women. 76 Farfán ordered that the woman named as mother of the house be called. She gave her name as Aguilar de Castro, kneeled, and accepted a scapulary and a belt from the oidor. Three other women were admitted, including a "woman said to be a virgin." 77 (donzella que dixo ser) The existence of a maiden in an institution for reformed prostitutes may seem surprising; but from its inception the recogimiento received novices as well as prostitutes. Magdalens and Marys were to profess side by side.

The institution, like the Colegio de Niñas Mestizas, met with almost immediate success. After the convent's first year, it received a true abbess. Ana de San Gerónimo, a fifty-three-year-old nun, was brought from La Concepción on 5 October 1573. She quickly imposed a truly monastic regimen on the women in her care. By 1577, the house contained twenty-eight "nuns," almost all of them professed, along with a number of servants. 78 Ana de San Gerónimo had a great sense of the importance of the institution, claiming that "from it this land has received great benefit, through the example that it has given and gives to many other women of the world ... in all this New Spain there is no other house or monastery where God Our Lord is so well served." 79  translation Her statement conveys no sense that "converted" nuns were less valued than those who followed a more traditional path to profession, or that the house was simply a welfare institution. Indeed, Pedro de los Rios, secretary of the Holy Office, claimed that the nuns' devotion was a source of "great satisfaction" for the entire city, and the foundation "one of the pious works most worthy of being favored." 80  translation The populace seems to have concurred; people soon began to attend mass at the church in great numbers to hear the singing of the nuns, which quickly became famous. 81 No less than the Colegio de Niñas Mestizas, the institution had become a focus of local piety as well as a civic response to a social problem.

Santa Mónica


Concern for the vulnerability of colonial women was the hallmark of foundations such as that of Jesús de la Penitencia. A more coercive element came into play in the creation of Santa Mónica, the last recogimiento established in the sixteenth century. Indeed, its foundation was a direct response to a perceived colonial reality, the greater freedom — or license — of New World women.

Santa Mónica was the project of the conquistador Pedro de Trujillo and his wife Isabel López, who used their own wealth to establish "a house holy and pious and very necessary in that city." 82  translation The couple envisioned a home where women could be "deposited" under a variety of circumstances, "some because of the absences of their husbands and fathers, and others because of divorce and matrimonial suits, and others to be enclosed and honored, and others to wait for their remedy." 83  translation

The house was established in 1582. In 1583, on Saint Monica's Day, with viceregal and episcopal approval and a "public feast," Isabel López and her daughter made simple vows of chastity and perpetual clausura, professed obedience to the archbishop, donned Augustinian habits, and were enclosed in the ritual of encerramiento. 84 The cabildo, viceroy, and audiencia attended the ceremony of enclosure "with all solemnity and rejoicing." 85 (con toda solenidad y regosijo) The foundresses had hoped to take formal rather than simple vows and become true nuns, but without a papal dispensation this was not possible. Nonetheless, the house quickly became accepted as a convent; people began to call the institution a "monesterio" and its inhabitants nuns. 86

The recogimiento differed from Jesús de la Penitencia, which avowedly dedicated itself to the voluntary reclusion of penitent prostitutes. The goals of Santa Mónica were more ambiguous, suggesting coercion and surveillance of unruly women of the elite. Isabel López herself claimed that the institution was necessary because "there were excesses in this city." (avia ecesos en esta ciudad) These "excesses" were particularly linked to what López understood as a particular failing of Mexico — its high rate of divorce suits, many frivolously initiated. According to the foundress, the lack of a recogimiento was responsible for this social problem:

It has been seen and understood to be an important and very necessary house, and more in this republic than in others, and many divorce suits have been excused, in which particularly there were excesses in this city because of [women's] not going to the said house of protection. 87  translation

In addition, López asserted, the fact that many "honored men" of the city had to travel "to Asia and to the Chichimec Wars and to [attend to] their important business"  translation meant that women and girls were left without protection.

Witnesses called by López to support her assertions were all members of the urban elite, some of them officeholders in the cabildo. All reiterated the importance of the house, noting that men who left the city now felt confident about leaving their wives and daughters there. Maidens in danger of being "lost" had also been confined there with success. Guillén Brondat, a city councilor, noted that the recogimiento had been useful in curbing the excesses of Mexico City's women. Before the house was founded, he claimed, "there was so much looseness and license among most of the married women."  translation Such women, "to be able to attend with freedom to their evil intentions and lewdnesses,"  translation sought to divorce their husbands "in exchange for wandering loose and with license and free of [their husbands'] dominion." 88  translation Thus Brondat, like López, suggested that the libertinage of colonial women necessitated some strong response from the authorities.


The coercive or punitive character of the recogimiento was forthrightly stated by other witnesses, who noted that women now avoided launching divorce suits because they did not want to be enclosed in the shelter. 89 Doctor Juan Fernández Salvador, an audiencia lawyer, claimed that women had already been deposited there "by order and command of the ecclesiastical and secular justices of this city."  translation He too saw the house as useful in its prevention of "suits and distractions" (pleytos y distraymientos) among women. Don Diego de Velasco, alguacil mayor of the city, appeared as a particular expert in convents, emphasizing his familiarity with convents in Madrid and Guadalajara. He concurred with testimony regarding the institution's usefulness, adding that the low cost of enclosing a woman there made the institution useful "for all classes of people," (para todo genero de gente) making it clear that the enclosure of women was not merely a matter of elite concern.

Many women apparently entered Santa Mónica voluntarily because of the kindness and good reputation of the foundress. Nonetheless, the institution's emphasis appears to have been on the control, rather than the succor, of the city's women. One cleric, after noting the previous "license and brazennesses in some women in this city,"  translation described Santa Mónica as more important than any of the other convents founded in the city. 90 The protective discourse that accompanied and justified the foundations of the Colegio de Niñas Mestizas and Jesús de la Penitencia was wholly absent here, replaced by a conception of women as willfully sinful and deserving of punishment.

Despite — or perhaps because of — her punitive aims, López hoped that the recogimiento could function as a convent of nuns, with the recogimiento supervised by but separate from the convent proper, "so that the one cannot see or communicate with the other."  translation Furthermore, all of the women would be kept strictly enclosed and separated according to their states, so that married women would not mix with maidens. The nuns would bring dowries that would help support the house, from which the "deposited women" could benefit. Both financially and spiritually, then, the addition of nuns to the shelter would elevate and enhance the institution and its usefulness to the city.

At first glance, the foundation of Santa Mónica might appear to conform to the more typical late-colonial model of patrimonial foundation. After all, the institution was established using the wealth of private patrons. But the cabildo remained both morally and financially supportive. The city fathers' perception of the utility of the house was evinced in the support of its alguacil mayor and at least some of its councilors. Soon after Santa Mónica's foundation, the cabildo decided to send the institution all bread, vegetables, and other goods confiscated in the city's public plazas for being sold in contravention of ordinances. 91 In 1589, the convent was granted an additional solar. 93 Thus Santa Mónica, no less than other institutions for women, received official civic support both during and after its creation.

The three protective institutions established between 1548 and 1582 gained the unified support of the colony. All were cooperative projects in which the urban elite, represented by the cabildo or its members, took an important leadership role. Again and again, the importance of protecting women in the Hispanizing city was reiterated in proposals that emphasized the new characteristic of the colonial scene — a fluidity that left many women "without shelter." Yet if women were to be protected from society, society was also to be protected from womanly disorder, as the case of Santa Mónica suggests.

All of these institutions, however, were seen as quasi-convents, sanctified locales that purified urban space and provided new spiritual resources for the city while solving pressing social problems. Little distinction was made between such welfare institutions and true convents, both of which were critical to the development and adornment of the newly Spanish city, and which would flourish in the last three decades of the century.




Note 1: Schwaller, op. cit., 1334. The actual dowering of orphans was delayed by testamentary provisions and legal wrangling until 1576, when eight girls received dowries of 300 pesos.  Back.

Note 2: Guía, Acta del 26. iv. 1569, 464. At the same time, the Crown was interesting itself in the matter. Philip II ordered in 1568 and 1569 that mestiza and Spanish orphan girls should be "placed in virtuous houses where they might serve and learn good customs" [puestas en casas virtuosas donde sirvan y aprendan buenas costumbres] Norman Martin, Los vagabundos en la Nueva España: siglo XVI (Mexico: Editorial Jus, 1957), 72.  Back.

Note 3: Altman, op. cit., 440.  Back.

Note 4: Martin, op. cit., 95.  Back.

Note 5: Gómez Canedo, op. cit., 219; Martin, op. cit., 967. See also Burns, "Gender," 15.  Back.

Note 6: "Capítulo de carta que Su Majestad escribió a la Audiencia de México, año de mil quinientos ochenta y dos, que manda que la cédula que esta dada para que no se ordenen mestizos, se entienda solamente con los hijos de india o indio y español." García, El clero, No. cvi, 224-5.  Back.

Note 7: Carta de Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga al Príncipe Don Felipe. 18 February 1548. In Cuevas, op. cit., 1535; 154. Yet there is evidence that the boys were viewed with suspicion by both republics. In 1554, Don Luis de Velasco would complain to the king that he was finding it difficult to find a new location for the school:

I wrote to Your Highness that the Church of San Juan, which is in this city, was in a convenient location to move the school for boys. The move has not taken place because the Indians resisted, saying that it is their parish and there are many of them living near the church, and the boys will be bad neighbors. And the cathedral also forbids that the school building be built around this church.  translation

Carta de Don Luis de Velasco, el primero, a Felipe II. 7 February 1554. In Cuevas, op. cit., 183218; 194. Indeed, after the death of Zumárraga the school was poorly supported and by 1579 was in "a pitiable state" (Braden, op. cit., 151). The effort to rehabilitate mestizos foundered as their numbers grew and attitudes toward them hardened.  Back.

Note 8: AGI, Justicia 157, No. 2, Pieza 2. Información sobre la casa de nuestra señora de la caridad. 6 December 1557, f. 25v.  Back.

Note 9: AGN, Cofradías y Archicofradías 10, Exp. 1. Fundación de la Ylustre Archicofradía del Santísimo Sacramento, f. 16.  Back.

Note 10: Muriel, Colegios, 1025. Muriel describes the cofrades in detail.  Back.

Note 11: AGN, Cofradías y Archicofradías 10, Exp. 1. Fundación de la Ylustre Archicofradía del Santísimo Sacramento, f. 2v.  Back.

Note 12: Ibid., f. 3.  Back.

Note 13: Ibid., f. 4.  Back.

Note 14: Quoted in Muriel, Colegios, 112.  Back.

Note 15: Carta de Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga al Príncipe Don Felipe. 4 December 1547. In Cuevas, op. cit., 13553; 52.  Back.

Note 16: Sáenz de Santa María, op. cit., 189.  Back.

Note 17: AGI, Justicia 157, No. 2, Pieza 2, f. 23. Información sobre la casa de nuestra señora de la caridad. 6 December 1557.  Back.

Note 18: Ibid., f. 24.  Back.

Note 19: "In such a way that Our Lord be served and the natives edified." [De manera que en todo sea Nuestro Señor muy servido y los naturales edificados] Ibid.  Back.

Note 20: AGI, México 280. Carta a SM de fray Juan Cruzat. 12 June 1549.  Back.

Note 21: AGN, Cofradías y Archicofradías 10, Exp. 1. Fundación de la Ylustre Archicofradía del Santísimo Sacramento, f. 4v.  Back.

Note 22: "We have also been told that, seeing [the girls] enclosed, taught, and indoctrinated in virtue, many Spaniards, both officials and other persons, ask to marry them; and that [viceroy] Don Antonio de Mendoza in his time helped with some money for their marriage from the treasury of His Majesty."  translation Ibid., f. 5.  Back.

Note 23: AGI, Justicia 157, No. 2, Pieza 2, f. 23. Información sobre la casa de nuestra señora de la caridad. 6 December 1557.  Back.

Note 24: Ibid., f. 33.  Back.

Note 25: Muriel, Colegios, 117.  Back.

Note 26: Ibid., f. 43. This site was too close for the friars' comfort, as will be briefly discussed in Chapter Seven.  Back.

Note 27: AGI, México 336A, R. 2, doc. 104 (7). Relacion de los diezmos, religiones, etc... de mexico. 1570.  Back.

Note 28: AGN, Cofradías y Archicofradías 10, Exp. 1. Fundación de la Ylustre Archicofradía del Santísimo Sacramento, f. 4v.  Back.

Note 29: AGI, Justicia 157, No. 2, Pieza 2, f. 27, 43. Información sobre la casa de nuestra señora de la caridad. 6 December 1557.  Back.

Note 30: Ibid., f. 39, f. 56.  Back.

Note 31: Ibid., f. 44v.  Back.

Note 32: AGI, México 336A, R. 2, doc. 104 (7). Relacion de los diezmos, religiones, etc.... de mexico. 1570.  Back.

Note 33: Muriel, Colegios, 133, 138.  Back.

Note 34: Ibid., 1518.  Back.

Note 35: AGI, Justicia 157, No. 2, Pieza 2, f. 27, 43. Información sobre la casa de nuestra señora de la caridad. 6 December 1557, f. 55v.  Back.

Note 36: Muriel, Colegios, 139.  Back.

Note 37: AGI, Justicia 157, No. 2, Pieza 2,. Información sobre la casa de nuestra señora de la caridad. 6 December 1557, f. 39, f. 61v.  Back.

Note 38: Ibid., f. 65.  Back.

Note 39: Ibid., f. 66v.  Back.

Note 40: Ibid., f. 58v.  Back.

Note 41: Ibid., f. 60.  Back.

Note 42: Ibid., f. 54v, 56.  Back.

Note 43: Burns, "Convents," 34.  Back.

Note 44: AGI, Justicia 157, No. 2, Pieza 2,. Información sobre la casa de nuestra señora de la caridad. 6 December 1557, f. 39, f. 54v, 56.  Back.

Note 45: AGI, México 317. Memorial de las iglesias y monesterios que ay en esta ciudad de mexco. 15 September 1583.  Back.

Note 46: AGN, Cofradías y Archicofradías 10, Exp. 1. Fundación de la Ylustre Archicofradía del Santísimo Sacramento, ff. 68.  Back.

Note 47: AGI, México 22, N. 18. Carta del virrey Luis de Velasco, hijo. 5 June 1590. F. 2r.  Back.

Note 48: Lyndal Roper, "Discipline and Respectability: Prostitution and the Reformation in Augsburg," in Joan Wallach Scott, ed., Feminism and History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 333365; 341.  Back.

Note 49: "Because just as the city keeps itself clean by providing a separate place where filth and dung are gathered, etc., so neither less nor more, assuming the dissolution of the flesh, acts the brothel; where the ugliness and filth of the flesh are gathered like the garbage and dung of the city." Quoted in and translated by Mary Elizabeth Perry, "Deviant Insiders: Legalized Prostitutes and a Consciousness of Women in Early Modern Seville," Comparative Studies in Society and History 27:1 (1985), 13858;143.  Back.

Note 50: Roper, op. cit., 334.  Back.

Note 51: Ibid., 340.  Back.

Note 52: Cohen, "Honor and Gender," 611.  Back.

Note 53: Marjorie Ratcliffe, "Adulteresses, Mistresses, and Prostitutes: Extramarital Relationships in Medieval Castile," Hispania 67:3 (September 1984), 34650; 349.  Back.

Note 54: Perry, "Insiders," 141.  Back.

Note 55: Ibid.  Back.

Note 56: Muriel, Recogimientos, 33.  Back.

Note 57: Ibid., 34.  Back.

Note 58: Porras Múñoz, op. cit., 91.  Back.

Note 59: Guía, Acta del 20. ii. 1543, 194. Despite Muriel's assertion that the casa de mancebía was constructed in 1542, it was evidently still not built at the time of this grant, which refers to "the lots where the brothel is going to be built." [los solares donde va a construirse la casa de mancebía]  Back.

Note 60: Muriel, Recogimientos, 367.  Back.

Note 61: Ratcliffe, op. cit., 349.  Back.

Note 62: Anna Foa suggests that sixteenth-century fear of syphilitic contamination focused seldom and only sporadically on prostitutes. See her essay "The New and the Old: The Spread of Syphilis (14941530)," in Edwin Muir and Guido Ruggiero, eds. Sex and Gender in Historical Perspective: Selections from Quaderni Storici, trans. Margaret A. Galluci with Mary M. Galluci and Carole C. Galluci (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), 2645; 28 passim. Perry suggests a stronger role for fear of disease. The 1568 syphilis epidemic in Seville was followed by new brothel regulations which emphasized prevention of disease. Perry, Disorder, 13745.  Back.

Note 63: Lucia Ferrante, "Honor Regained: Women in the Casa del Soccorso di San Paolo in Sixteenth-Century Bologna," in Muir and Ruggiero, op. cit., 4672.  Back.

Note 64: Perry, "Insiders," 149.  Back.

Note 65: Perry, Gender, 141, 148.  Back.

Note 66: Lina Eckenstein writes that both are "the outcome of the refusal among womankind to accept married relations on the basis of the subjection imposed by the father-age." Whatever the dubious merit of such a notion, the association is venerable. Eckenstein, op. cit., 5.  Back.

Note 67: Perry, "Insiders," 142, 146.  Back.

Note 68: Perry places prostitutes on one end of a continuum that reaches to the Virgin herself (Ibid., 156); but as no woman could attain the perfection of the Virgin, it might be more useful to see the nun as the opposite end of the spectrum.  Back.

Note 69: AGI, México 284. Ynformon rrda en la rreal audiencia de la nueva spaña a pedimio de las monjas rrecogidas desta ciudad. 1578, f. 1.  Back.

Note 70: AGN, Cofradías y Archicofradías 205, Exp. 1. Testimonio de la Bulla del Sor Pio Quinto y Ordenanza y Fundaon de la Cofradía de Santa Lucia en el convto de Religas de Jesus de la Penitencia, nra sa de Balbanera. 1578, f. 2.  Back.

Note 71: AGI, México 284. Ynformon rrda en la rreal audiencia de la nueva spaña a pedimio de las monjas rrecogidas desta ciudad. 1578, f. 2.  Back.

Note 72: INAH, Fondo Franciscano N. 336, Exp. 24. Sobre la fundación de una cofradía llamada de Sta Lucía. Ff. 1056.  Back.

Note 73: Muriel, Recogimientos, 489.  Back.

Note 74: AGN, Cofradías y Archicofradías 205, Exp. 1. Testimonio de la Bulla del Sor Pio Quinto y Ordenanza y Fundaon de la Cofradía de Santa Lucia en el convto de Religas de Jesus de la Penitencia, nra sa de Balbanera. 1578, f. 10.  Back.

Note 75: Ibid., 18v.  Back.

Note 76: Ibid., f. 24.  Back.

Note 77: Ibid., 24v.  Back.

Note 78: AGI, México 284. Ynformon rrda en la rreal audiencia de la nueva spaña a pedimio de las monjas rrecogidas desta ciudad. 1578, f. 2.  Back.

Note 79: Ibid., f. 55r.  Back.

Note 80: Ibid., 5v.  Back.

Note 81: Muriel, Recogimientos, 51.  Back.

Note 82: AGI, México 289. Ysavel Lopez de jesus rectora e fundadora del monesto y rrecogimiento de sancta monica de la ciudad de mexco sobre que su magd sea patron del dicho monesto... 15861591.  Back.

Note 83: Ibid.  Back.

Note 84: Ibid.  Back.

Note 85: Ibid.  Back.

Note 86: Muriel, Recogimientos, 76.  Back.

Note 87: AGI, México 289. Ysavel Lopez de jesus rectora e fundadora del monesto y rrecogimiento de sancta monica de la ciudad de mexco sobre que su magd sea patron del dicho monesto... 15861591.  Back.

Note 88: Ibid.  Back.

Note 89: Ibid., testimony of Fray Juan de Contreras, testimony of Don Diego de Velasco.  Back.

Note 90: Ibid., testimony of Diego de Cabrera, clerigo.  Back.

Note 91: Ibid.  Back.

Note 92: Guía, Acta del 27. ii. 1589, 6878.  Back.


Escogidas Plantas: Nuns and Beatas in Mexico City, 1531-1601