Archivo de la categoría: Sonya Lipsett-Rivera

Mesa sobre “Masculinidades Novohispanas” en el II congreso de ALIHS, 2 de marzo

Entre el 1 y el 3 de marzo  de 2017 tendrá lugar en  Buenos Aires el II Congreso de la Asociación Latinoamericana e Ibérica de Historia Social (ALIHS), Del programa de la reunión (que puede consultarse aquí) se aprecia que los participantes  han retomado la ya antigua tradición de la historia social, al tiempo que adoptan nuevos temas, puntos de vista y lenguajes. Entre las mesas hay una que indirectamente proviene de una de las iniciativas que ha impulsado nuestro grupo. Trata sobre “Masculinidades novohispanas” y participan Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, Felipe Castro Gutiérrez e Isabel M Povea Moreno, con comentarios de  Verónica Undurraga Schüler.

Aunque como puede verse el tema es específico de uno de los “mundos indianos”, la iniciativa ha convocado a participantes de Canadá, México, España y Chile. Y efectivamente, siempre ha sido una de nuestras intenciones trascender los límites de las historiografías locales, de modo de asociar, comparar y contrastar diferentes perspectivas.

La información sobre participación y asistencia al congreso puede verse aquí.

Mesa: Masculinidades novohispanas: entre el honor, el  respeto y la exuberancia.

  • Sonya Lipsett-Rivera (Carleton University, Canadá). “Hombría y exuberancia: Los accesorios emotivos de la masculinidad novohispana.”

  • Felipe Castro Gutiérrez (IIH-UNAM). “Masculinidades subordinadas: ser hombre y plebeyo en la Nueva España.”

  • Isabel Povea Moreno (Universidad de Granada). “Entre el honor y el libertinaje. Una mirada sobre la masculinidad en los reales mineros del México colonial, siglo XVIII.”

Comenta: Verónica Undurraga Schüler (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile).

2 de marzo de 2017 , Campus de la Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento, Los Polvorines, Sala  del Microcine, 10 a 12 hrs.

Imagen: Pintura del beneficio de la grana cochinilla en México, ca. 1775
The Edward E. Ayer Collection; cortesía de Newberry Library

Seminario: Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, “Risa y rango: Las dos caras de la sociabilidad masculina en la Nueva España”

(Esta entrada se refiere a una pasada actividad)

El seminario Sociedad Indiana
del Grupo sobre Historia Social de los Mundos Indianos, establecido en el
Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas de la UNAM

invita a su segunda sesión, en la que se presentará a discusión el texto de

Sonya Lipsett-Rivera
(Carleton University, Ottawa, Canadá)

“Risa y rango: Las dos caras de la sociabilidad masculina en la Nueva España”

Lugar: Salón Académico del segundo piso del mismo Instituto
Fecha: Viernes 19 de febrero de 2016, 10 – 12 hs.

Si está usted piensa asistir, envíe un mensaje a para recibir previamente el texto en discusión.
Es posible seguir esta actividad mediante skype. Si le interesa, comuníquese asimismo a la dirección arriba indicada.

Felipe Castro Gutiérrez          –         Isabel Povea Moreno,

S. Lipsett-Rivera, A New Challenge: Social History and Dogs in the Era of Post-Humanism

A New Challenge: Social History and Dogs in the Era of Post-Humanism

Sonya Lipsett-Rivera
Carleton University

Since the early days of the Annales School, contemporary concerns and the interests of those who practice social history have transformed its contours. The initial emphasis on peasants has given way to an understanding that life, both past and present, is more complex. Past societies need to be examined as a whole—both rich and poor, powerful and weak—in order to gain a more global knowledge of the past. The ways that historians analyze the past have also been transformed because of our own contexts—that is to say the preoccupations that dominate the world around us. Gender, culture, space, body, and many more strands have become second-nature to social historians. Without imposing an ahistorical view on past societies, these modern concerns provide us with alternate lenses through which to consider earlier times. Nevertheless, it has been an unspoken truth that social history is also human history—reflecting the prevailing attitudes towards the divide between humans and everything else. Viewpoints about animals are changing radically in our times and have led to new research paths in philosophy in which the post-humanist approach rejects human exceptionalism and argues for the inclusion of non-human animals within the context of society.[1] In the sciences—both social and hard—anthropomorphism, previously a dirty word— no longer prevents researchers from seeing animals with a human lens. Increasingly, scientists are observing the psychological states of various animals in ways that are analogous to human mindsets: empathy, a sense of justice, and even mental illness.[2] Elizabeth Marshall Thomas revolutionized social anthropology by changing focus to a study of the social life and culture of dogs,[3] but the post-humanist approach demands the end of a compartmentalization of our studies. [4] The anthropological concept of “co-being” provides a way into a new approach to social history, one in which the divide between human and non-human animals is erased.[5] In contemporary studies, this line of inquiry highlights the complex ways in which human and non-human animals interact, bond, and cooperate. If applied to the past, the idea of “co-being” can shed light on the ways that humans interrelated with non-humans. When humans achieved this state they seemed to be communicating with their animals, at times without any obvious signs, and this silent exchange was very disturbing for people who did not share in it. The “co-being” between dogs and humans as well as with other animals probably brought forward other insecurities in New Spain where people often spoke indigenous languages that were not always comprehensible to those in charge or even simply to those around them.

                Of course, non-human animals have not been absent from our discipline, but historical approaches have tended to approach them as distinct from human society—objects but not actors.[6] Robert Muchembled provides an early exception to this rule; in his first study on village society in Artois, France, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, he briefly, but evocatively, mentions how dogs were bound up in individual male egos. He writes that dogs frequently were a type of stand-in for men; others sometimes attacked a man’s dog instead and this abuse, if tolerated, reflected poorly on the dog’s person. Thus Artois men often reacted with great violence when their dogs were harmed.[7] In Mexican history, dogs too have garnered some interest especially for their role in the conquest of the Aztecs.[8] More recently, the post-conquest place of canines in Mexican history has attracted the attention of some researchers.[9] In a recent anthology, Martha Few and Zeb Tortorici challenge historians of Latin America to “center animals” in their work. I would like to add to that challenge asking fellow scholars to think of animals not just as vectors of environmental change or source of food and wealth but also as social participants in the fabric of daily life. Judicial documents of the colonial era provide a rich source of detail on the interactions of individuals but also their dealings with many non-human animals.[10] Using a few episodes taken from these materials, I want to show how an analysis that takes a post-humanist approach can enhance our understanding of colonial Mexican society.

Dogs and Mexican Society

Many animals play important roles for humans but dogs share a particular history with us. In fact, some scientists believe that humans co-evolved with wolves. As these animals gradually became dogs, they had an impact on human conduct and maybe even altered the brain structure of early humans.[11] Dogs, perhaps more than other domesticated animals, exist on the frontiers between human and non-human society.[12] The boundaries between dog and human often become blurred and, according to Alan M. Beck, both influence the other so much that they operate within a shared ecology.[13] In past societies, dogs roamed free to a great extent but, even when they were not attached to any particular human, they served the common good of human society in many ways. Feral dogs provided humans with cleanup; they ate garbage, excrement and the dead animals that littered many city streets.[14] They also barked alerting people within the community to intruders. Although this constant noise annoyed some people, it served its purpose and some cultures valued the baying of dogs especially at night.[15] Whatever roles that dogs played in human communities, they existed in close proximity to humans. This closeness generated alliances that spanned the boundaries of species but also produced a culture that, at times, crossed these same lines.

                The history of dogs in colonial Mexico unfolded in tandem with the conquest narrative;

Fuente: Wikimedia Commons

Xoloitzcuintle. Fuente: Wikimedia Commons

Mesoamerican dogs were slowly but surely displaced by European interlopers until they have become exotic pets in our days. Like many other introduced animals, non-Mesoamerican dogs multiplied exponentially and very rapidly became a problem for all concerned. By 1532, feral dogs in Mexico City began to attack livestock and also people. The cabildo ordered residents to keep their dogs tied up.[16] Regulation did little to control the growth of Mexico City’s canine population; dogs were everywhere but they favored locations where they could scrounge food. They flourished in the markets but also in the Plaza Mayor and in the area around the Viceregal Palace because of the markets in these areas.[17] Dogs dallied around places with food. In Tlalmanalco, when José Antonio Rivas y Carrera went to the butcher’s—not so much a shop but a house that served as a business—he found it unattended and decided to cut himself some meat. As he worked, a female dog came in; one witness explained that the dog would lick the place where the meat had been cut. Rivas y Carrera described her as the dog who always barked at him; he threw the knife at the dog but missed and hit a child.[18] None of those who testified in this case seemed to think that the dog’s presence was extraordinary—dogs were just part of the urban setting of New Spain.

                By the late eighteenth century, street dogs were part of the fabric and landscape of Mexico City; officials estimated their population to be around 20,000.[19] Dogs were so ubiquitous that the city employed “perreros”—officials whose duties were limited to the thankless task of trying to keep dogs out of the Cathedral, churches, convents and monasteries. Clearly, these canine residents infiltrated all types of spaces. They also dominated the sound landscape with their barking both day and night. The cleric don Nicolás Garavito complained a lot about noise—that of his neighbors but also that of dogs. He accused his neighbors of tying up dogs outside his window when he was trying to sleep—a kind of sound nuisance campaign.[20] Street dogs made different choices about survival—some tried hard to find a household that would adopt them. In 1802, María Guadalupe described how a dog snuck into her room and curled up at the foot of the bed. Her father ordered her to eject it.[21] The presence of dogs also offended because of their lack of modesty; in 1797, a priest complained to the Viceroy that dogs mated openly in the streets upsetting the sensibilities of the faithful and providing a poor example to all passersby. Officials also believed that dogs served as lookouts for criminals, warning the outlaws when the ronda was coming.[22] For all these reasons, various colonial governments began mass killings of the street dogs.[23] The accounts of the attempted extermination of these street dogs are chilling; although it is clear that the canines caused many problems and their overpopulation was not viable, not all Mexico City residents were comfortable with the policy. Some plebeian residents objected to the killing of street dogs as unjust but they were even more upset when their own dogs, perhaps mistaken for feral, were exterminated.[24] Many histories of animals would have us believe that people in the past had no attachment to animals; that they believed them without sensibility or even capacity for pain.[25] Certainly, those who advocated for the mass extermination of street dogs in Mexico City seem to fit into this model. But colonial Mexican attitudes and conduct around dogs were actually much more contradictory.

                The role of dogs in colonial Mexican society was also variable and inconsistent. While in the countryside, dogs performed important tasks usually guarding homes as well as herding and protecting livestock, their roles in urban society were not as clear cut. Among the middle and upper classes, men and women kept dogs as pets. They lavished these animals with attention and in some cases, collars encrusted with jewels and pearls.[26] Not all residents agreed with this affectionate behavior. In 1685, someone denounced Fernando de Lezcano to the Holy Office because he said that his many dogs were his children; he ate and slept with them and showered them with love.[27] Other Mexicans organized mock ceremonies for their dogs including baptisms, weddings and even funerals. [28] These rituals were imitations of those practiced for humans; because of this fine line between simulation and heresy, they shocked some colonial Mexicans. Within the Inquisitorial investigations around the dog ceremonies, some interesting details emerge. Many of the witnesses dismissed these events as harmless fun that was very common in Mexican society. But, the accounts also reveal that these animals were cherished, lavished with fancy clothes and collars and given names that reflected their place in the family: Vireno, Clavellina, Pusiana, Niña, and Señorito.[29] These animals were clearly kept as pets, for companionship and amusement not for their usefulness as guardians or workers. The strong bond between human and canine was clear as pet-keeping became more common.[30] These accounts of pampered and celebrated pets seem to be limited to groups within Mexico who were wealthy or at least financially comfortable, but such groups were not unique in their affection for dogs.

                It is much harder to gauge the place of canines in plebeian society except as a nuisance and a permanent auditory backdrop. Yet, despite the many reports of cruel behaviors and contempt for dogs, some indications show that many member of Mexico’s lower class, like those people who engaged in the mock ceremonies, also felt great affection for their canine companions. When they set up altars to honor those family members who had deceased in previous years for the occasion of the Day of the Dead, some people included pictures of dogs. [31] Among the poor, who lived in run-down jacales and among the indigenous population, families commonly kept dogs, if not as pet, as companion animals.[32] It is unlikely that these dogs had jeweled collars or perhaps any kind of collar at all, but clearly some residents identified them as belonging to them. During the various campaigns of extermination, the night watchmen sometimes killed these dogs causing consternation and anger among those who considered them to be “pets.” [33] If those tasked with killing the street dogs could not tell the difference clearly these were not the pampered dogs of the mock ceremonials. Undoubtedly, like their people, these dogs spent much of their time out of doors and thus could easily be conflated with a street dog. It is much harder to evaluate the relationships between plebeian men and women and the dogs they claimed as theirs perhaps because these canines did not wear the attributes of ownerships: collars, costumes or names. But, despite such absences, ownership and connections were understood by those involved (both human and non-human) and they acted on these links in ways that are sometimes captured in the documents of the judicial system.

Plebeians and their Dogs

Many of the early histories of dogs in New Spain have concentrated on the problems they caused for plebeians, especially the indigenous population. One common trope has been canine attacks on native peoples both early in the post-conquest period and at various times during the colony. A highly graphic manuscript from the sixteenth century shows a Spaniard with a chained dog attacking an indigenous man—probably a ruler or priest.[34] In the post-Conquest era, attacks on indigenous men did occur. When the indigenous man, Juan Ignacio, delivered some corn to the town of Tulhyehualco, in the area of Xochimilco, a ferocious dog attacked him; he believed at the owner’s urging. The circumstances seem to reinforce the stereotype—the dog’s owner was Spanish whereas the victim was indigenous. It conjures up the Conquest-period image of Spaniards using dogs to attack the indigenous population. But despite the accusation of intentionality and the apparent lack of any attempt to stop the dog from attacking, such incidents were not terribly common in the eighteenth century.[35] Attacks using horses were much more frequent although perhaps less ferocious. [36]

                But dogs did get out of control, maybe not always deliberately, at the behest of their human; nevertheless, they did attack outside of this scenario of Spanish dominance over indigenous peoples. As seen above, despite early prohibitions against dog ownership, indigenous peoples adopted the new dogs in great numbers.[37] Not all the dogs in the plebeian world were street dogs; many canines worked with men in their various occupations. Pasqual Antonio, a young indigenous boy of fifteen or sixteen years of age, was responsible for herding sheep in the village of Santa María Mazatla, in the area of Tlalnepantla. His allies in this task were three dogs who protected both him and the sheep and especially took charge if he had to sleep. On December 22, 1780, he had to visit his employer in the village; it was the early evening, and his father later explained, the dogs were unsettled because they were outside of their usual environment. As the boy and dogs were passing through the settlement, an even younger boy, José, eight years of age, came out from behind his aunt’s house; his sudden appearance alarmed the dogs and one bit him. The young boy was not very eloquent but he believed that Pascual Antonio had made sign to his dogs before the attack.[38] This episode can be dismissed as a dog out of control but the father shows what an understanding of how mutually supportive his son and the dogs were; their roles were intertwined and the boundaries between the intentionality of dog and boy was hard to discern. The father’s testimony is also very interesting because he asserts this bond between boy and dog and an understanding of the dog’s psychology. Herding dogs operate in a liminal space, according to Donald McCaig, they are part animal and part work companion;[39] sentiments that echo the words of Pascual Antonio’s father several centuries previously. In his study of dogs among the First Nations of Canada, Denys Delâge reports a similar situation; early missionaries commented that because First Nations people depended so much on their dogs, it was hard to discern the boundary between human and canine.[40] Daniel Roche also remarks on the kind of silent communication that eighteenth-century English peasants had with their horses in the countryside that was totally incomprehensible to outsiders.[41] The interconnection between people and animals that were constantly in contact and worked together could be extremely strong—an emotional connection and a language that came from their “co-being.”

                People in the countryside were probably more proficient in dealing with animals because livestock and other animals were part of their daily lives. Many boys and girls grew up herding goats or sheep and some began to work with cattle at a very young age, [42] but not all could control their dogs. In 1806, José Vicente Medina was herding sheep and cattle in the area around San Agustín de la Cuevas. Manuel Mendoza, an indigenous man from Coyoacán, walked by on his way to the Ajusco to sell a large quantity of candles that he had made. Mendoza was very worried that his merchandise could be stolen and so he was accompanied by his nephew but also by some dogs. As his little group moved past Medina’s sheep, the dogs ran after the livestock and, scaring them, made them run. Witness descriptions of the dogs varied; they were either small and harmless, or big and fierce. One witness, a young boy, described the dogs’ actions as their “natural inclination”—he understood that urge of dogs to give chase, perhaps even more so when there was more than one dog. [43] This episode made it into the documentary record because the Medina and Mendoza got into a fight over the control of these dogs. Both men had property to protect—candles or livestock—but they also fought because the dogs provided an excuse for insult and for a challenge to each other’s masculinity. Just as Muchembled intuited for Artois, this incident went beyond just some rambunctious canines and scared sheep. Medina used to the occasion to profoundly offend a passing stranger whose competence with animals he felt comfortable disputing. Consequently, Mendoza responded with violence; in fact, the injuries that he inflicted on Medina eventually killed him. The insults to the dog, the imputation that he could not control his dog were clearly serious accusations.

Urban Dogs in Plebeian Neigborhoods

In the cities and villages of New Spain, dogs were ubiquitous; many of them were of the street but some were attached to households and to individuals. The middle and upper classes who lavished attention on their pets through the mock ceremonies seen above were not only residents to have pets. But, for plebeians whose economic situation was more precarious, dogs were expendable in bad times. When there were crises either financial or environmental (floods, epidemics), many Mexicans abandoned their animals.[44] Despite the nuisance that dogs caused, many people were attached to their canines. Even the night watchmen, whose

Claudio Linati, Trajes, civiles, militares y religiosos de México. (1828) Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM, 1956.

Claudio Linati, Trajes, civiles, militares y religiosos de México. (1828) Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM, 1956.

duty it was to kill street dogs, often broke the rules and did their rounds accompanied by their own canine.[45] The customs house guards also kept dogs to alert them to miscreants. In 1790, on a Sunday night, when Pedro Martín was passing by the customs house of Tacuba, a dog came out barking and threatening to bite him. In an age-old and still current strategy, he lifted a stone to threaten the animal. The guard, Mariano Martínez came out in a state of undress to reproach Martín for his conduct. The guard’s account was very different; it was late at night, between ten and eleven pm when he first heard his dog barking. His senses were alerted because he had some livestock in a small corral behind the building. Shortly afterwards, he heard a low voice calling his dog by its name—clearly trying to seduce the canine guardian. He went out and saw Pedro Martín and his father-in-law Manuel de la Trinidad carrying some large bundles. The two men threw rocks at the guard and his dog.[46] The attachment of plebeians to their dogs cannot be measured in jeweled collars or lavish ceremonies but it was not less real. But what the documents reveal, however, is also the interactions of canine and human and just rarely, allow the historian a small insight into the dog’s perceptions.

                Dogs could be a substitute within the struggles that men had over their place and social standing but they also seem to have inspired considerable affection and protectiveness. These emotions came to the forefront in 1795 in a Mexico City neighborhood when many residents were walking about on January 1st undoubtedly in an atmosphere of celebration. The city still had many canals and thus bridges, often narrow ones, were frequent. [47] Two groups of friends encountered each other at the Puente de Tecolotes at around 8 o’clock pm. One group crossed the narrow bridge first and then as the second one started to go over, a small dog, associated with the first group cut in front. Pedro Albarado kicked the dog fiercely causing it to fall into the canal or on the ground. If the people involved had no emotional attachment to this dog, or they thought Albarado’s action was normal and acceptable, nothing more would have occurred. Instead, José María Morales, an español employed at the Royal Tobacco Manufactory, along with two women and two men, began to attack Albarado and his companions. One of the fight participants described Albarado’s action as a “maldad” and others scolded him for it before attacking him.[48] From the point of view of a post-humanist social historian, this episode is rich in information. From the human perspective, it is possible that Albarado was simply a brute but he may have been responding with the ideas about hierarchy that prevailed. The dog had cut in front of him—an action that was rude; it would have been an insult to his standing if a human had done it and maybe he conflated the categories. What about the dog? Donna Haraway posits that respect and courtesy is not that different along the human-canine divide. [49] This anonymous canine has probably strayed from his humans, perhaps lured away by some garbage or a good smell and needed to catch up to his humans.  From a canine perspective, the hierarchy that was important was that within his pack; the dog responded from his own logic not a human one.

                The dogs that lived as part of a household seem, at least in good times, to clearly be part of the unit. It was for this reason that men and women were protective of their pets and objected to any overt or implied criticism of their animals as they would with any other household member. In the late evening, a Mexico City man, Alexo Hernández was seated in his doorway when his wife, Jacinta Flores, came out along with their little dog. A young boy from the neighborhood, Josef María Villanueva was walking by on his way to fetch water for his mother. The dog barked at him and he responded by kicking the dog. Later, Villanueva tried to justify his actions by saying that he was scared of being bitten. But, in the moment, when Flores reprimanded him, he burst out with extremely rude insults. He did not accept her authority nor that kicking a dog was wrong. Both husband and wife agreed that if their dog had bitten Villanueva, he would have been justified in his actions but barking was normal, a part of the urban experience and did not excuse such an act.[50] The young boy was rude on so many levels not just to the household’s dog but also by talking back to a married woman and then wounding Hernández when he tried to restore some order. Such scuffles between neighbors were common but generally they were not over a dog’s behavior. Clearly, however, this Mexico City couple like the group of friends seen above did consider their dogs to be part of the household and worth protecting.

                Urban dogs had to try to decipher the body language of humans; they depended on people to a great extent and, if they were lucky, had a human protector. Confusion over human actions led a Chalco dog to get entangled in problems. One night in 1776, two friends, don Luis Álbares and Ignacio Selis, were fooling around at the door. They were play fighting and had grabbed each other by their kerchiefs. No doubt, they were boisterous and loud in their joking but they were very good friends and their jostling was, for them, clearly in fun. A neighbor, Augustín de los Ríos walked by, probably returning from a tavern because he was somewhat tipsy. His dog, described as “brave,” was by his side. Augustín stopped to observe the two friends when suddenly his dog jumped at Selis, grabbing his cape. Was the dog joining in the fun? More likely, this canine misunderstood the body language of the two friends; he missed the cues of laughter and jollity and only perceived a fight and a threat to his person. Selis grabbed a measuring stick from a nearby counter and he began to hit the dog. But Augustín, protecting his dog, got in the way infuriating Selis who then hit Augustín. Selis also accused Augustín of egging on the dog rather than pacifying it. [51] The connection and perhaps “co-being” between Augustín and his dog was very strong. The dog, most probably was trying to protect his human, but when in danger, it was the person who was able to safeguard the canine. Later, in his testimony, Augustín continued his defense of his dog by trying to minimize its actions; he claimed that his dog had only barked at the two friends. In this episode, dog and human seem to be extension of each other; they had achieved the kind of connection that comes from long association.

                In both these cases, the dogs in question had particular humans with whom they associated. It is also possible that they might felt a sense of belonging to groups such as the occupants of a vecindad. Dogs sometimes used their wiles to entertain residents in the streets probably ingratiating themselves for food or shelter.[52] When they were successful, their sense of belonging may have led them to attack strangers. When don José Goenaga, an español and gachupín[53], was walking in the calle de Chiconautla in Mexico City, he passed by a vecindad. A man came out of the building along with a dog; shortly after this dog grabbed Goenaga by the cape and bit him several times. Eventually someone helped him and pacified the dog but when he commented on the dog’s aggression, the crowd who had assembled seemed to find the incident amusing. They asked him if he had been a bullfighter on other occasions probably referring to the dog’s attack on his cape.[54] Goenaga was livid over this incident; first he sent his wife to the alcalde of the cuartel with a note of complaint and when the local officials did not jump into action, he vociferously and loudly demanded justice. He had no witnesses to the dog’s actions but many came forward to recount his interactions with the alcalde. They all noted that he sounded European and in various indirect ways, that he was obnoxious. The fact that so many witnesses emphasized Goenaga’s status as outsider is intriguing; did the dog pick up on the human reaction to the gachupín? Clearly, the vecindad residents found the dog’s conduct very amusing but perhaps the canine was simply fulfilling their own desires. Again, it seems possible that the dog was an extension of human wishes and in a state of “co-being.” How much did dogs intuit from their close association with humans? They have an uncanny ability to read the body language of those humans with whom they live and associate so it is not so unlikely that this dog might have picked up on the cues unconsciously given by the vecindad residents that Goenaga was a stranger and assumed therefore that he was a threat.


Judicial archives are an incredibly rich source for information about the daily lives of New Spain’s residents; they have been underutilized compared to the equally valuable inquisitorial collections. The difficulty in using court documents for social history rather than more obvious topics such as legal or court history is that the cases are not catalogued in a way that makes such topics easily accessible. The episodes that form the core of this article were not archived in a series devoted to dogs but rather to human activities such as homicides, wounds and insults that just happen to include dogs. Unfortunately there is no magic solution for this dilemma, researchers wishing to use judicial archives for the history of animals can only rely on finding aids so much—the rest is hard. But the rewards are great when uncovering incidents that go beyond human history. The interactions that happened between people and dogs or other animals provide a way to embark on a post-humanist history. In the case of New Spain, it is clear that dogs were very much a part of society; their history as agents in a relationship of “co-being” with humans needs to be written. My challenge for social historians is to explode the boundaries between human and non-human animals.


Cite este artículo como
Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, “A New Challenge: Social History and Dogs in the Era of Post-Humanism”, en Sociedad indiana, en linea el 12 de agosto de 2015, consultado el ….en


[1] Donna J. Haraway, When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008, 11. In a variant on the approach I am advocating, Able Alves. Brutality and Benevolence: Human Ethology, Culture and the Birth of Mexico. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996, uses sociobiology and the insights of animal behavior to shed light on the actions of humans in the context of the conquest and colonization of Mesoamerican peoples of Mexico.

[2] There is a huge literature on this topic. Here are a few gems: Stephen Shennan. Genes, Memes and Human History, Darwinian Archaeology and Cultural Evolution. London: Thames and Hudson, 2002; Frans de Waal. The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. New York: Harmony Books, 2009; Laurel Braitman. Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recover help Us Understand Ourselves. New York, Simon and Schuster, 2014.

[3] Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Hidden Life of Dogs. Boston: Mariner Books, 1993 and The Social Lives of Dogs. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000. See also: Alan M. Beck. The Ecology of Stray Dogs: A Study of Free-Ranging Urban Animals. Baltimore: York Press, 1973.

[4] Tim Ingold, “From Trust to Domination: An Alternative History of Human-Animal Relations”, in Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives. Edited by Aubrey Manning and James Serpell. London: Routledge, 1994, 1, writes that animals have a history but their narrative is harder to write.

[5] See: Anita Maurstad, Dona Davis and Sarah Cowles. “Co-being and intra-action in horse–human relationships: a multi-species ethnography of be(com)ing human and be(com)ing horse”, Social Anthropoloy/Anthropologie Sociale August 2013, 21 (3): 323; Lucilla Bugallo y Jorge Thomas, “Crianzas mutuas. El trato a los animales desde las concepciones de los pastores puneños (Jujuy, Argentina)”, Revista Española de Antropología Americana 2:1 (2012): 206, also talked of a relation of “co-being”; Chris Pearson, “Dogs, History and Agency”, History and Theory, 52 (December 2013):128-148, proposes that “agency” is not limited to human but also applies to dogs; Juliet Clutton-Brock, “The Unnatural World: Behavioural Aspects of Humans and Animals I the Process of Domestication” in Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives. Edited by Aubrey Manning and James Serpell. London: Routledge, 1994, p. 29-30, says that domestic animals adapt to their context but also to the culture of those humans with whom they live.

[6] Some important early works address the history of animals in Latin American history include the contexts of the environment and the economy: Alfred Crosby, The Columbian exchange; biological and cultural consequences of 1492. Westport: Greenwood, 1972; Elinor Melville. A Plague of Sheep: Environmental Consequences of the Conquest of Mexico. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994; Eric Van Young, Hacienda and Market: The Rural Economy of the Guadalajara Region, 1675-1820. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

[7] Robert Muchembled, La violence au village: sociabilité et comportements populaires en Artois du XVe au XVIIe siècle. Turnhout: Editions Brepols, 1989, 144j, 150-154.

[8] John Grier Varner and Jeannette Johnson Varner, Dogs of the Conquest. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983.

[9] See: Laura Rojas Hernández, Muerto el perro, se acabó la rabia. Perros callejeros, vacuna antirrábica y salud pública en la ciudad de México, 1880-1915. MA thesis, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011 (winner of the 2012 Marcos y Celia Maus Prize); Jesús Salvador Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos. Ensayo sobre los perros de la ciudad de México, siglos XVIII y XIX”, PhD thesis, Universidad Iberoamericana, 2007; and Zeb Tortorici. “`In the Name of the Father and the Mother of All Dogs`: Canine Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals in Bourbon Mexico”, in Centering Animals in Latin American History. Edited by Martha Few and Zeb Tortorici, Durham: Duke University Press, 2013, 93-119; Arnaud Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos y matanzas de perros en la ciudad de México (siglos XXI-XVIII)”, Relaciones: Estudios de Historia y Sociedad 35:137 (2014): 91-111; Frank ‘Trey’ Proctor III, “Amores perritos: Puppies, Laughter and Popular Catholicism in Bourbon Mexico City”, Journal of Latin American Studies 46:1 (February 2014):1-28.

[10] For insights into the conduct of the dogs described in the documents, I used my own long experience with dogs but also the information from books such as: Stanley Coren, How Dogs Think Understanding the Canine Mind. New York: Free Press, 2004; Gisela Håkasson and Jennie Westander, Communication in Humans and Other Animals, Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishing Company, 2013.

[11] Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Animals in Translation; Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior (New York: Scribner, 2005), p. 303-306.

[12] Denys Delâge. “‘Vos chiens ont plus d’esprit que les nôtres’ : histoire des chiens dans la rencontre des Français et des Amérindiens.” Les Cahiers des dix 59 (2005): 213.

[13] Alan M. Beck. The Ecology of Stray Dogs: A Study of Free-Ranging Urban Animals, 16.

[14] Delâge. “‘Vos chiens ont plus d’esprit que les nôtres’”, 187; Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 96; Luis González Obregón. La vida de México en 1810. Mexico City: Editorial Innovación, 1979 (first edition 1911), 13.

[15] Baasanjav Terbish. “The Mongolian Dog as Intimate ‘Other’”, Inner Asia 17 (2015):143, notes that within Mongolian culture, amongst nomads, a dog that barked throughout the night was valued. Antonio Rubial García, Monjas, cortesanas y plebeyos: La vida cotidiana en la época de Sor Juan. (Mexico City: Taurus, 2005), 63, comments that dogs began to bark in Mexico City as soon as the sun set.

[16] Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos”, 31.

[17] Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 96.

[18] Archivo General de la Nación (AGN), Criminal, vol. 1, fol. 377-391, Tlalmanalco, 1808.

[19] Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 92, 95.

[20] AGN, Criminal, vol. 672, fol. 100-103v, Mexico City, 1759.

[21] AGN, Criminal, vol.40, fol. 452-487, Zacualtipan, 1802.

[22] Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos”, 63, 76, 62, 68.

[23] Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 92.

[24] Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 108.

[25] Abel A. Alves. The Animals of Spain: An Introduction to Imperial Perceptions and Human Interaction with Other Animals, 1492-1826. Leiden: Brill Books, 2011, actually provides a corrective for this perspective. Although there certainly were some who espoused these views, plenty did not.

[26] Frank ‘Trey’ Proctor III, “Amores perritos: Puppies, Laughter and Popular Catholicism in Bourbon Mexico City”, 5.

[27] Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos”, 42-43.

[28] Several historians write about these ceremonies: Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos”; Zeb Tortorici. “‘In the Name of the Father and the Mother of All Dogs’: Canine Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals in Bourbon Mexico”, 93-119; Proctor, “Amores perritos”, 1-28.

[29] Proctor, “Amores perritos” 5, 12-13, 23. Baasanjav Terbish. “The Mongolian Dog as Intimate ‘Other.’” 148, relates that the nomadic Mongols gave male dogs names that were the same as those of boys.

[30] The rise of pet-keeping in the Western World seems to occur anywhere from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.

[31] Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos”, 44.

[32] Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos”, 116.

[33] Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 108.

[34] Lori Boornazian Diel. “Manuscrito del aperreamiento (Manuscript of the Dogging): A ‘Dogging’ and Its Implications for Early Colonial Cholula”, Ethnohistory 58:5 (Fall 2011): 585-611, argues that the purpose of this manuscript was not to document the cruelty of this act but to support the conversion of those indigenous people who peacefully converted to Christianity. Nevertheless, it shows the existence of such acts.

[35] AGN, Criminal, vol. 235, fol. 17-18v, Xochimilco 1780; Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 100, also makes reference to this case.

[36] I make this statement based on my research using criminal documents; the references to the use of horses to intimidate, provide a vantage point for a beating and even for trampling men and women are extremely numerous.

[37] Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos”, 116.

[38] AGN, Criminal, vol. 177, fol. 401-407v, Tlalnepantla, 1780. In another similar case, I also found this notion of giving a sign to the dogs described as “totear”, See: AGN, Criminal, vol 1, fol. 1-10, Chalco, 1776, fol. 4v.

[39] Cited by Haraway, When Species Meet, 55.

[40] Delâge. “‘Vos chiens ont plus d’esprit que les nôtres’”, 199.

[41] Daniel Roche, “Equestrian Culture in France from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century”, Past & Present. May 2008, vol. 199, issue 1, p. 131.

[42] AGN, Criminal, vol. 266, fol. 146-152v, Tacuba, 1790. This case revolves over an unjust punishment to an eleven-year-old boy who had trouble cutting bulls out of the herd.

[43] AGN, Criminal, vol. 232, fol. 243-307, Coyoacán,1806.

[44] Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 95.

[45] Ávila González. “Voces y ladridos”, 96.

[46] AGN, Criminal, vol. 265, fol. 219-223v, Tacuba, 1790.

[47] R. Douglas Cope. The Limits of Racial Domination; Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994, 28.

[48] Tribunal Superior Judicial del Distrito Federal (TSJDF) (Colonial) Alcaldes Ordinarios, Serie Criminal, caja 33A, exp. 3, Mexico City, 1795.

[49] Haraway, When Species Meet, 25-26.

[50] TSJDF, Colonial. Alcaldes ordinarios, Criminal, caja 35A, exp. 21, Mexico City, 1785.

[51] AGN, Criminal, vol 1, fol. 1-10, Chalco, 1776.

[52] Exbalin Oberto. “Perros asesinos”, 96.

[53] A well-known slang term for Spaniards more commonly found in the judicial documents towards the end of the eighteenth century.

[54] TSJDF, (Colonial) Alcaldes Ordinarios, caja 32 A, exp. 66, Mexico City, 1790.