Honor and Personhood in Early Modern Mexico

Osvaldo F. Pardo
An examination of the concept of honor as essential to both colonial Spaniards and indigenous Mexicans


Osvaldo F. Pardo examines the early dissemination of European views on law and justice among Mexico’s native peoples. Newly arrived from Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, mendicant friars brought not only their faith in the authority of the Catholic Church but also their reverence of the monarchy. Drawing on a rich range of documents dating from this era—including secular and ecclesiastical legislation, legal and religious treatises, bilingual catechisms, grammars on indigenous languages, historical accounts, and official reports and correspondence—Pardo finds that honor, as well as related notions such as reputation, came to play a central role in shaping the lives and social relations of colonists and indigenous Mexicans alike. Following the application and adaptation of European ideas of justice and royal and religious power as they took hold in the New World, Pardo sheds light on the formation of colonial legalities and long-lasting views, both secular and sacred, that still inform attitudes toward authority in contemporary Mexican society.

“The author shows the polyphonic nature of the notion of persona by devoting chapters on material possessions, restitution, honor, and punishment as conceived and discussed by the missionaries. In doing so, the author opens a fascinating window into the tense and complicated relationship between religious conversion, cultural mediation, and political authority in early colonial Mexico.”
—Javier Villa-Flores, University of Illinois, Chicago

“This work provides a unique compendium of evidence that should prove exceedingly useful to social and cultural historians of colonial Spanish America.”
—David Tavárez, Vassar College

Osvaldo Pardo is Associate Professor of Spanish at the Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages of the University of Connecticut. He is the author of The Origins of Mexican Catholicism: Nahua Rituals and Christian Sacraments in Sixteenth-Century Mexico (University of Michigan Press, 2006).

Praise / Awards

  • "Pardo makes an important contribution to the understanding of how regular clergy served as the first line of education for many native peoples. He persuasively impels the reader to consider the importance of ecclesiastical voices for understanding the legal and social structure of empire."
    --American Historical Review
  • "Basing his book on a vast array of archival documents, bilingual catechisms, ecclesiastical and secular treatises, legislative treatises, bilingual grammar treatises, historical accounts, letters, and a rich secondary literature, Pardo has produced a complex and intriguing cultural study of colonial Mexico."
    --The Catholic Historical Review
  • "Impressive in the scope of its research, this study will be of interest to a wide range of scholars of early modern Latin America."
    --Renaissance Quarterly
  • "This study is well worth reading...Pardo provides a rare look at the ways that clerics shaped the viewpoints of indigenous peoples not so much in religious terms but in their sense of self and moral values. The book should find audiences among specialists but also with any scholar interested in colonial studies."
    --Hispanic American Historical Review
  • "Essential reading for anyone interested in the religious orders, colonial pedagogy, material culture, and the
    many discursive trajectories of honour and personhood in early modern Mexico."
  • "An essential book for those students and researchers interested in these processes, in addition to scholars and certainly researchers of history from Mexico. They will be treated to a scholarly and well documented book."

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Product Details

  • 248 pages.
  • 16 images.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12120-5

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • Spain, New World, Mexico, law, justice, Catholic Church, Mendicant orders, criollos, Mexican, medieval, renaissance, Latin America, Latin American studies, religion, religious studies, ancient history, antiquity, Mexican history, colonial, colonialism, Spanish, indigenous people, material possessions, restitution, honor, punishment, Spanish America