Skip to main content Accessibility help

Notaries of Color in Colonial Panama: Limpieza de Sangre, Legislation, and Imperial Practices in the Administration of the Spanish Empire

  • Silvia Espelt-Bombín (a1)


On July 20, 1740, King Philip V of Spain was given paperwork regarding a dispute over the adjudication of a notarial office in Panama City and, as usual, he was expected to make a decision. The king also had in hand recommendations from the Cámara of the Consejo de Indias. The king would have handled the case in a relatively straightforward manner, but for one fact—the two notaries involved in the public bid were of African descent.



Hide All

I would like to thank Diana Paton and Keith Brewster for reading and providing suggestions on very initial versions of this text, and Jean-Sébastien Balzat for reading the latest version. Reviewers for The Americas, both the anonymous reviewer and Ann Twinam, provided invaluable criticism and commentary. The discussion with Twinam and my reading of Chapter 5 of her forthcoming book from Stanford University Press, provisionally titled Erasing “American Defects,” [cited herein as “Twinam, forthcoming”] has proved fruitful and enlightening. Funding from the Federation of Women Graduates Charitable Foundation, the AHRC Doctoral Award, and the Society for Latin American Studies Post-doctoral Travel Grant (UK) made possible the archival research.

1. King Felipe V, San Ildefonso, July 20, 1740. Archivo General de Indias, Gobierno, Audiencia de Panamá, leg. 119 [hereafter AGI, Panamá]. I quote personal names as they appear in the primary sources, without modernizing or correcting them, thus Joseph instead of José, Gomez instead of Gómez, and the like.

2. I have opted to translate escribano público as ‘notary (public),’ following the work of Lockhart and Burns. Lockhart, James, Spanish Peru, 1532–1560: A Colonial Society (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), p. 68 ; Burns, Kathryn, Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), glossary on pp. 205206 . Other authors have preferred ‘scribe,’ but this term does not necessarily encompass a knowledge of legal formulas or terminology. See for example Scardaville, Michael, “Justice by Paperwork: A Day in the Life of a Court Scribe in Bourbon Mexico City,” Journal of Social History 36:4 (Summer 2003), pp. 9791007 . However, the present article does not deal with notarios (ecclesiastical notaries). Muñoz, Jorge Lujan, Los escribanos en las Indias Occidentales, y en particular en el Reino de Guatemala (Guatemala: Instituto Guatemalteco de Derecho, [1964] 1977), pp. 1415 .

3. As evidence of the occasional use of dispensa ‘de calidad’ instead of ‘de color,’ see note 83.

4. King Felipe V, San Ildefonso, July 20, 1740, AGI, Panamá, 119. All remaining translations are mine.

5. This is the first article to study notaries of color in Panama systematically, although they have also been analyzed by Calvo, Alfredo Castillero, “Color y movilidad social,” in Historia General de Panamá, Calvo, Castillero, ed. (Panama: Comité Nacional del Centenario de la República, 2004), vol. 1–1, pp. 303306 ; ibid., “Los negros y mulatos libres en la historia social panameña,” Lotería 164 (July 1969), pp. 86–88; ibid., Los negros y mulatos libres en la historia social panameña (Panama: Comisión de Estudios Interdisciplinarios para el Desarrollo de la Nacionalidad, 1969), pp. 28–30; Argelia María Tello de Ugarte, “Panama en la segunda mitad del s. XVIII. Factores de unión y separación con el virreinato de Nueva Granada” (Ph.D. diss., Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1977), pp. 216–217; Alberala, Samuel, “Panamá au XVIIIème siècle (1739–1810): évolution économique et sociale d’une zone strategique de l’Empire Espagnol” (Ph.D. diss., École Pratique des Hautes Études-Université de Paris X, 1975), p. 279 ; and Pérez Calderón, Aida M., “Política y sociedad en Panamá en la primera mitad del s. XVIII” (Ph.D. diss., Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1985), pp. 271275 .

6. Twinam, forthcoming.

7. See among others Seed, Patricia, “Social Dimensions of Race: Mexico City, 1753,” Hispanic American Historical Review 64:2 (November 1982), p. 574 ; Vinson, Ben III, Bearing Arms for His Majesty. The Free-Colored Militia in Colonial Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), p. 4 ; Mangan, Jane E., “A Market of Identities: Women, Trade, and Ethnic Labels in Colonial Potosí,” in Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America, Fisher, Andrew and O’Hara, Matthew D., eds. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009), p. 63 and p. 78 note 5; and Martinez, Maria Elena, Genealogical Fictions. Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008).

8. Vinson, Bearing Arms, chapt. 3 and pp. 226–227.

9. See Burns, , Into the Archive; ibid., “Notaries, Truth, and Consequences,” American Historical Review 110:2 (April 2005), pp. 350379 ; ibid., “Making Indigenous Archives: The Quilcaycamayoc of Colonial Cuzco,” Hispanic American Historical Review 91:4 (November 2011), pp. 665–689; Lockhart, , Spanish Peru, pp. 6876 ; Scardaville, , “Justice by Paperwork; Herzog, Tamar, Mediación, archivos y ejercicio: los escribanos de Quito (siglo XVII) (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1996); Jiménez Gómez, Juan Ricardo, Un formulario notarial mexicano del siglo XVIII: la instrucción de escribanos de Juan Elias Ortiz de Logroño (Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, 2005); and Muñoz, Lujan, Escribanos.

10. Gómez, Jiménez, Formulario notarial, pp. 18, 396397, 405411 ; Muñoz, Lujan, Escribanos, pp. 6575 . Both authors include a list of books owned by notaries.

11. Lockhart, , Spanish Peru, pp. 7374 ; Herzog, , Mediación, p. 47 . I am following Burns, Into the Archive, pp. 206–207, in the choice of the English translation of the terms ‘oficial’ and ‘oficial mayor.’

12. The selling of public offices had been a common practice in Spain as a way of augmenting the royal treasury, and the office of ‘royal and public notary’ was the first to be sold in the Spanish-American colonies, in 1559. The system structure implied that the king had to approve appointments to public office, but by 1581 these posts became not only vendibles (saleable) but also renunciables (the owner could transfer it to someone else). This meant that the owner of a post could make clear his preference for a suitable successor, although a public auction sometimes contradicted his choice, as in Jorge Geronimo Perez’s case introduced at the beginning of this article. del Castillo, Guillermo Céspedes, “La organización institucional,” in Historia de America Latina, Calvo, Alfredo Castillero and Kuethe, Allan, eds. (Paris: UNESCO, Editorial Trotta, 2000), vol. III–I, pp. 4445 ; Muñoz, Lujan, Escribanos, p. 29 ; Herzog, , Mediación, chapt. 9; and Francisco Tomás y Valiente, La venta de oficios en Indias (1492–1606), (Madrid: Instituto Nacional de Administración Pública, [1972] 1982), chapt. 1.

13. Don Felipe II, año de 1566, Novísima recopilación de las Leyes de España Dividida, 6 vols. (Madrid: 1805), Book 7, Title 15, Law II.

14. Lujan Muñoz, Escribanos, pp. 25–29.

15. For irregularities in the designation of notaries during the early years of the conquest, see Muñoz, Lujan, Escribanos, pp. 2024, 2935 . In Mexico, the selling and handing over of notarial offices could be confirmed by the viceroy (Jiménez Gómez, Formulario notarial, p. 16), but for Panama such transfers always had to be confirmed by the Consejo de Indias and the King. Thus, conflicts arose when the governor decided to take the initiative as in the case of Gaspar de Aguilar discussed in this article.

16. Lujan Muñoz argues that with the lapse of time, the handing over office to another person became a simple formality, but in Panama this was not the case. Competition for the posts existed. Lujan Muñoz, Escribanos, pp. 35–40, especially pp. 36–37.

17. Ibid., pp. 40–45.

18. On the clients’ influence on the final document, see Burns, Into the Archive, pp. 79–83. For an example of difficulties a notary might face when drafting documents, see the governor of Panama’s 1768 accusation against the escribano mayor for misleadingly interpreting a law in his own interest. Tello de Ugarte, “Panamá,” p. 84.

19. Zeuske, Michael and Martínez, Orlando García, “Estado, notarios y esclavos en Cuba,” Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos, Débats (April 2, 2008), (accessed April 8, 2014).

20. Partida Tercera, Title XIX, Laws 1 and 2. Las Siete Partidas del Rey Don Alfonso el Sabio. Cotejadas con varios códices antiguos por la Real Academia de la Historia, Tomo II, Partidas Segunda y Tercera (Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1807), pp. 633–634.

21. Gómez, Jiménez, Formulario notarial, p. 19 ; Muñoz, Lujan, Escribanos, pp. 2029 ; Herzog, ,Mediación, p. 59 ; Burns, , “Notaries,” p. 362 . On the legitimacy requirement for notarial aspirants, see also Twinam, Ann, “Honor, Sexuality, and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America,” in Sexuality and Marriage in Latin America, Lavrin, Asunción, ed. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), p. 124 note 11.

22. See Martinez, , Genealogical Fictions ; Martinez, Maria Elena, “The Black Blood of New Spain: Limpieza de Sangre, Racial Violence, and Gendered Power in Early Colonial Mexico,” William and Mary Quarterly 61:3 (July 2004), pp. 479520 ; Twinam, Ann, Public Lives, Private Secrets: Gender, Honor, Sexuality, and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), pp. 4150 ; and Sicroff, Albert A., Los estatutos de limpieza de sangre: controversias entre los siglos XV y XVII (Madrid: Taurus Ediciones, [1979] 1985).

23. It was the city council of Toledo that banned conversos from being notaries or holding public office. The royal pragmatic of 1501 banned those who did not comply with the limpieza de sangre requirement from holding a public office or civil post. Twinam, Public Lives, pp. 45—46.

24. See for instance a case in 1436 Barcelona: David Nirenberg, “Mass Conversions and Genealogical Mentalities: Jews and Christians in Fifteenth-Century Spain,” Past and Present 147 (2002), p. 24; and Henry, Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition. An Historical Revision (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), especially chapt. 3.

25. People of African descent were also banned from becoming lawyers or doctors, carrying arms, and wearing certain clothing and jewelry, among other prohibitions.

26. Recopilación de leyes de los reynos de las Indias (Madrid: Iulian de Paredes, 1681), vol. 2, Book V, Tit. VIII, Law XXXX, p. 167r.

27. Panama was under the jurisdiction of the viceroyalty of Peru until 1739, and then under the viceroyalty of New Granada. For the decrees, see Konetzke, Richard, ed., Colección de documentos para la historia de la formación social de Hispanoamérica, 1493–1819, 5 vols. (Madrid: CSIC, 1953–1962). See in particular vol. 1, p. 498 (1576), p. 567 (1586), and pp. 555–556 (1584); Vols. 2–1 and 2–2, p. 61 (1599), p. 85 (1602), p. 100 (1603), pp. 259–260 (1621), and p. 280 (1623); and Vol. 3–1, p. 247 (in the text, 1626). For 1576 Venezuela and 1603 Guatemala, see Muñoz, Lujan, Escribanos, p. 26 notes 33 and 34. Castillero Calvo cited the years of 1584, 1599, 1602, 1603, 1621 and 1623, arguing that 1584 was possibly the first date in which laws were issued restricting mulattos, libertos (freedmen), and mestizos. Castillero Calvo, “Color,” p. 303. However, I have identified 1576 as the first date for the restrictive legislation and also located the 1586 decree.

28. The 1750 royal decree is found in Konetzke, Colección, vol. 3–1, p. 247. A royal decree denied a dispensation of color to Jerónimo Quesada in his attempt to become a public notary in 1692, ibid., p. 19. For the 1730s, see the discussion of the two notaries from Panama in the following paragraphs. It is possible that other royal decrees were issued, but I have not located them.

29. Carroll, Patrick J., Blacks in Colonial Veracruz: Race, Ethnicity, and Regional Development (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991), p. 113 ; Herrera, Robinson A., Natives, Europeans, and Africans in Sixteenth-Century Santiago de Guatemala (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), pp. 101105 .

30. People of indigenous descent were indeed notaries in their own villages and communities, and frequently wrote not only in Spanish but also in their native languages, for instance Náhuatl or Yucatec Maya. There is a large body of literature discussing those notaries, but they are not within the focus of this article. See for instance: Burns, Into the Archive, pp. 6–11 and bibliography; ibid., “Notaries,” pp. 363–365. 31. Herzog, Mediación, pp. 60–62.

32. Ibid., pp. 60–61 and note 108. The document is dated 1730 (see note 33).

33. Cámara de Indias, May 4, 1730. Archivo Histórico Nacional (Madrid), Códices, 758, no. 99, fols. 286–288. For the Camara’s resolution, see fols. 287r-288r.

34. Castillero Calvo, Negros, p. 30; Pérez Calderón, “Política,” p. 272.

35. Ibid. On Bartolomé de Salazar, a cuarterón notary who obtained his fiat in 1758 and provided this argument to defend his case, see the Consejo, July 8, 1758, and the decree of the King, August 20, 1758, both in AGI, Panamá, 120; and several documents of 1754 and 1758 in AGI, Panamá, 155.

36. Twinam, forthcoming.

37. Competition did exist. People of color did not occupy notarial offices “almost by default” as was suggested by Calvo, Castillero, La sociedad panameña. Historia de su formación e integración (Panamá: Comisión de Estudios Interdisciplinarios para el Desarrollo de la Nacionalidad, 1970), p. 102 , and incorporated by Bowser, Frederick P., “Colonial Spanish America,” in Neither Slave nor Free: The Freedman of African Descent in The Slave Societies of the New World, Cohen, David W. and Greene, Jack P., eds. (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, [1972] 1974), p. 49.

38. Francisco Nicolas de Aizpuru to Governor, February 13, 1777, AGI, Panama, 284; and Tello de Ugarte, Panamá, 81–82.

39. Only a few times were candidates’ petitions for a fiat or notarial office denied in Panama, and those coincided in time and are discussed in the following paragraphs. On the gracias al sacar, see among others King, James F., “The Case of Jose Ponciano de Ayarza: A Document on Gracias al Sacar,” Hispanic American Historical Review 31:4 (November 1951), pp. 640647 ; and Twinam, Public Lives.

40. Despite some temporary provisions for local authorities to legitimize people, the Consejo de Indias had the right to the last word on legitimizations. Twinam, Public Lives, p. 52. For legitimizations of Spaniards between the late fifteenth and mid sixteenth centuries, see Public Lives, pp. 50–51. For conversos whose origins were obliterated by the King, see Public Lives, pp. 42—43. Twinam discusses the 1773 decree of gracias al sacar for Spain in her forthcoming book.

41. Twinam, Public Lives, pp. 246–261, 290–297 (for the 1795 decree).

42. See Seed, Vinson, and Mangan among others listed in note 7.

43. Frederick P. Bowser, The African Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524–1650 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974), p. 314; Bowser, “Colonial Spanish America,” p. 48.

44. Bowser, “Colonial Spanish America,” p. 48.

45. Lujan Muñoz, Escribanos, p. 26 note 36 (dates not specified).

46. Ibid., p. 27. The fact that he was addressed as ‘don’ might suggest that he was not of African descent, but evidence from Panama might raise doubts about this assumption (see the discussion of the Aizpuru family in this article).

47. “Bartholomé de Salazar, vezino de la ciudad de Portobelo …,” 1736, AGI, Panamá, 152.

48. People of indigenous descent might also have been notaries in Panama, but so far only one mestizo descendant of “Indians from Quito” has been found to have been granted the fiat in Panama, in 1705. See Pérez Calderón, “Política y sociedad,” p. 280 note 86.

49. During my research period in Panama, the Archivo Nacional was moving its notarial records. I was thus able to access the 1790s records only on printed versions of very low-quality digitized images that made reading them extremely difficult. Regarding documents in Seville, I refer to AGI, Panamá, 246, which includes register books with minutas for the second half of the eighteenth century; AGI, Panamá, 247, with partial lists of notaries mosdy for the eighteenth century, including the only reference to a dispensa; and Expedientes de confirmación de oficios vendibles y renunciables, vol. II: audiencias de Guadalajara, Guatemala, Filipinas, Panama y Lima (Seville: Archivo General de Indias, 1993).

50. For 1647, see Súplica de la Ciudad de Panama al Rey vista en el Consejo, July 1, 1647, AGI, Panamá, 31, N.49. For 1774, see Tello de Burgos, “Panamá,” pp. 82–83. The 1607 description for Panama City stated that there were 25 notaries, which might have been an exceptional circumstance: “Descripción de Panama y su provincia sacada de la relacion que por mandado del Consejo se hizo y embio a aquella Audiencia,” 1607, Biblioteca Nacional Madrid, Manuscritos, sig. 3064, Descripcion de Indias, vol. 1, fols. 53–82; and “Descripción de Panamá,” fol. 64r.

51. Alonso de Torres (or Alonso de la Torre) had his fiat confirmed on September 7, 1615. See AGI, Panama, 56, N.3, as listed in Expedientes de confirmación, vol. II, p. 258.

52. Joseph Nuñez de Prado had his fiat confirmed on February 6, 1619. AGI, Panamá, 56, N.23, as listed in Expedientes de confirmación, vol. II, p. 262.

53. AGI, Panamá, 101, N.124a, fol. 532r. On April 6, 1650. He did not pay a dispensation of color despite being mulatto from his mother’s side. Sometimes he is mentioned as Grilo.

54. Juan Franco, vecino of Panama City and cuarterón (specified as son of español and mulata) was granted the notarial office in 1661, only to be questioned and confirmed in his post by the governor of Panama in 1670. He did not pay for the dispensation of color but made clear that he was a cuarterón. AGI, Panamá, 101, N.124a, fol. 533r.

55. His fiat as notary was confirmed on September 12, 1661. AGI, Panamá, 57, N.77, as listed in Expedientes de confirmación, vol. II, p. 287. Castillero Calvo, “Color,” pp. 305–306, argues that Leguizamo’s witnesses highlighted his fair skin as a positive trait.

56. He had bought a notarial office but did not receive a dispensa for his defecto of cuarterón de mulato. However, he was later (1670) made to pay 75 pesos for the dispensation of color. AGI, Panamá, 101, N.124a, fol. 533r.

57. Son of Manuel Botacio Grillo, he obtained the notary office in 1689, and paid 200 escudos for the dispensation of color (“la mezcla de mulato”). AGI, Panamá, 101, N.124a, fol. 533r. See also AGI, Panamá, 60, N.7, as listed in Expedientes de Confirmación, vol. II, pp. 299–300.

58. Joseph de Avellaneda had his fiat and the position of receptor of the audiencia of Panama confirmed in 1691. AGI, Panamá, 60, N.8, as listed in Expedientes de confirmación, vol. II, p. 300. He is also mentioned in Testimonio de los Autos sobre la postura que hizo Jorge Gerónimo Pérez, AGI, Panamá, 153; King to audiencia of Panama, July 20, 1740, AGI, Panamá, 119; and “Petición de fiat de escribano y notario por Eusebio Joseph Gomez,” May 24, 1747, AGI, Panamá, 154.

59. Miguel Perez to Don Gaspar de Medina, April 9, 1691, AGI, Panamá, 101, N. 124b, fol. 536r. He obtained the notary office, and also paid 100 pesos for the dispensation of color (“el color de mulato que tiene por parte de madre”) in 1692. AGI, Panamá, 101, N.124a, fol. 532r. For 1688, see AGI, Panamá, 101, N. 124c 539r-542v. He had also been ecclesiastical notary in Portobelo.

60. His fiat was confirmed on June 9, 1694. See AGI, Panamá, 60, N. 15, as listed in Expedientes de Confirmación, vol. II, p. 301, r.4814.1 have attested him in 1705, 1707, 1719 and 1730. “El testimonio del nombramiento que se dio por el Superior Gobierno a Jorge Gerónimo Pérez escribano de la visita del Reino,” 1739, AGI, Panamá, 154.

61. “Bartholome de Salazar, vezino de la ciudad de Portobelo,” 1736, AGI, Panamá, 152.

62. “Sobre el escribano publico de Cabildo de Santiago,” 1738, AGI, Panamá, 153.

63. Bartholome de Salazar, vezino de la ciudad de Portobelo, 1736, AGI, Panamá, 152.

64. Twinam, forthcoming, argues that he was a notary of African descent. I have been able to attest him as receptor and notary throughout the 1750s. See for instance AGI, Panama, 254, document listing receptores in Panama City (1734–1754).

65. He was a notary of the Cabildo de Los Santos. Bibiano Torres Ramírez, Juana Gil-Bermejo García and Enriqueta Vila Vilar, eds., Cartas de Cabildos Hispanoamericanos. Audiencia de Panama (Seville: EEHACSIC, 1978), p. 384, doc. 691 (year 1778).

66. “Testimonio del expediente sobre dispensa de calidad,” May 31, 1778, AGI, Panamá, 284.

67. AGI, Panamá, 246, “Inventario de minutas de despachos desde 1760–1781,” fol. 295r. It is stated that it was with a dispensa de color for a pardo, and this is the only mention of dispensas in the register book.

68. Twinam, forthcoming, cites the case of Luis Joseph de Paz in AGI, Panama, 286, N.4. On his move to Panama City, see AGI, Panamá, 254, document listing notaries in Panama City, February 14, 1796.

69. AGI, Panamá, 254, document listing notaries in Panama City, March 4, 1786.

70. Ibid.

71. Alberala, “Panamá au XVIIIéme siècle,” p. 279.

72. Ibid; AGI, Panama, 254, document listing notaries in Panama City, November 27, 1795, and January 20, 1812.

73. The incomplete demographic data available suggests that Panama had a relatively high proportion of free people of African descent by the late eighteenth century (about 55 percent in Panama in 1789, and 65 percent in Panama City in 1790). In contrast, the proportion was very small in the early seventeenth century, about 11 percent for Panama City in 1607. It does not seem that such a small proportion had a significant effect on the early emergence of notaries of African descent, although by the eighteenth century, demography may have ensured a pool of candidates, at least in Panama City. In any case, Panama City does not seem to have had more than 8,000 inhabitants at any one time in the early modern period. For a discussion, see Silvia Espelt-Bombín, “A Free Coloured Elite? Trade, Identity and Social Mobility in Panama City, 1700–1770” (Ph.D. diss., Newcastle University, 2011), pp. 39–58.

74. Castillero Calvo, “Color,” p. 304.

75. Ibid., pp. 304–306.

76. Ibid, pp. 304–305; Castillero Calvo, Negros y mulatos, p. 30.

77. Castillero Calvo, “Color,” pp. 304–305.

78. His fiat was confirmed on March 18, 1650. See AGI, Panama, 57, N.56, fol. 1, regarding the parents. He is also listed in Expedientes de confirmación, vol. II, p. 284.

79. “Por ser de padres y abuelos hombre noble y bien nacido,” Madrid, June 1646, AGI, Panamá, 49, N.90; AGI, Panamá, 57, N.56a, fol. 1.

80. “De moderado color no obstante que es mulato.” Castillero Calvo, “Color,” p. 305

81. Ibid., pp. 305–306.

82. Alonso de la Torre had his first fiat confirmed on September 7, 1615. See AGI, Panamá, 56, N.3, as listed in Expedientes de confirmación, vol. II, p. 258. Joseph Nunez received his fiat as royal scribe and notary on February 6, 1619. See AGI, Panamá, 56, N.23, Expedientes de confirmación, vol. II, p. 262.

83. “RC [Real Cédula] Que los mulatos no puedan ser escribanos,” October 15, 1623, in Konetzke, Colección, vol. 2–1, p. 280 doc. 180.

84. Juan Martinez de Leguizamo was born in 1629, put into apprenticeship when he was 13 (c. 1642), and obtained the fiat in 1660. His case is discussed by Castillero Calvo, who does not however mention the implications regarding career prospects for children of African descent. See Castillero Calvo, “Color,” pp. 305–306.

85. “Súplica de la Ciudad de Panama al Rey vista en el Consejo,” July 1, 1647, AGI, Panamá, 31, N.49.

86. See the two reports in AGI, Panamá, 49, N.90a and N.90c.

87. Bernardino de Espinosa was confirmed as notary public of the council of El Callao on January 21, 1626. AGI, Lima 185, N.24, as cited in Expedientes de Confirmación, vol. Il, p. 439.

88. “Usar mal de la mano que les da el oficio y su natural es cruel y muy temido de los indios.” Indigenous people were considered unable of acting and reasoning {“gente incapaz y desventurada”). Madrid, June 1646, Fernando de Saavedra, AGI, Panamá, 49, N.90a.

89. June 1646, AGI, Panamá, 49, N.90c.

90. 1650, AGI, Panamá, 101, N.124a (fol. 532r).

91. Francisco Escartin to King and resolution from the Consejo, both September 1, 1735, AGI, Panamá, 152. Pérez Calderón, “Política,” p. 273, refers to him as Francisco Escartin de Lort.

92. The Consejo denied his request for fiat on March 11, and again on November 9, 1736. He had submitted the petition in the late 1720s. “Bartholome de Salazar, vezino de la ciudad de Portobelo …,” 1736, AGI, Panamá, 152.

93. Consejo, 1754–1758, AGI, Panamá, 155; Consejo, July 8, 1758, and the King, August 20, 1758, AGI, Panamá, 120.

94. The King, October 14, 1753, AGI, Panamá, 120; Pedro Díaz de Mendoza, 1753(?), AGI, Panamá, 154; Suplica de Manuel Joseph Lopez, Consejo, September 12, 1753; En la Ciudad de Panama, September 28, 1754, AGI, Panamá, 155. See also the King, October 19, 1754, and April 16, 1755, AGI, Panamá, 120.

95. El fiscal en vista del memorial de Manuel Joseph Lopez, April 1755, AGI, Panama, 155. See also Consejo, April 26, 1755, and the King, May 18, 1755, both in AGI, Panamá, 120. The case is mentioned briefly in Castillero Calvo, “Negros,” p. 96 note 78.

96. The King, November 29, 1779, AGI, Panama, 284.

97. 1754–1756, AGI, Panamá, 155, N.1-N.7.

98. Castillero Calvo, “Color,” pp. 305–306; Bowser, “Colonial Spanish America,” p. 48.

99. Ciriaco Hipolito Correoso, copy of baptismal certificate, December 16, 1773, AGI, Panama, 283.

100. Likewise, Francisco Escartin, born in 1708, must have sent his petition for fiat to the King around

101. Certification of Francisco Nicolas de Aizpuru on November 10, 1768, as found in document of December 16, 1773, AGI, Panamá, 283.

102. See Twinam, Public Lives, pp. 36—41, 126–157. Scarlett O’Phelan Godoy resorts to the “Leyes de Toro,” which considered illegitimate the child born or conceived when one or both parents were not free to marry. O’Phelan Godoy, “Entre el afecto y la mala conciencia. La paternidad responsable en el Perú Borbónico,” in Mujeres, familia y sociedad, en la Historia de América Latina, siglos XVIII-XXI, O’Phelan Godoy and Margarita Zegarra Flórez, eds. (Lima: CENDOC, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Instituto Riva-Agüero, Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, 2006), p. 38.

103. Consejo, November 25, 1778, AGI, Panamá, 283; and the King, November 29, 1779, AGI, Panamá, 284. For the 1808 reference, see Medrano, Fidel Aguirre, Historia de los hospitales coloniales de Hispanoamérica, vol. 1 (Caracas: Editorial Arenas, 1992), pp. 352362 , doc. 10 (July 1808).

104. “Testimonio del expediente sobre dispensa de calidad,” Viceroy of Santa Fé to King, March 31, 1778, AGI, Panamá, 284.

105. Consejo, May 21, 1755, and the King, June 22, 1755, both in AGI, Panamá, 120.

106. Tello de Ugarte, “Panamá,” p. 217 note 327.

107. “Testimonio del expediente sobre dispensa de calidad,” Viceroy of Santa Fé to King, March 31, 1778, AGI, Panama, 284.

108. He was the notary of Santiago de Veragua’s cabildo in 1764, 1770, and 1778. Torres Ramirez, Gil-Bermejo, and Vila Vilar, eds., Cartas de Cabildos, pp. 366–368, docs. 666–668. For confirmation of the fiat, see AGI, Panamá, 264, Book 3, fol. 247v.

109. For sixteenth-century white notaries in Santiago de Guatemala, Herrera has identified father-to-son and uncle-to-nephew transmission of the notarial office, and argues that this was convenient not only for the family but also for the clients. He does not mention people of African descent working as notaries. Herrera, Natives, Europeans, and Africans, pp. 101–105. See also Burns, Into the Archive, pp. 83–93, for the relationships established over the years between notaries and individuals or convents. I thank Twinam for bringing to my attention Juan Evaristo de Jesus Borbua (personal communication, October 2013).

110. “Miguel Perez pide a Su Majestad que se le conceda el título de notario de las Indias,” 1692, AGI, Panamá, 154, N.124a-ebis, fols. 529r-543v. For fee paid, see ibid., fol. 532r (“100pesos aplicados”). See also AGI, Panamá, 101; and the actual royal decree confirming the concession of the dispensa and the amount paid (“100 pesos escudos de a diez de plata”) in “Muy poderoso Señor, Miguel Perez…,” AGI, Panamá, 154.

111. Consejo, November 14, 1736, and March 2, 1742, AGI, Panamá, 153; May 24, 1747, AGI, Panamá, 154; four “Testimonio de los Autos” in the case of Jorge Geronimo Perez, 1750s, AGI, Panamá, 154.

112. Consejo, February 8, 1749, and the King, March 14, 1749, AGI, Panamá, 120.

113. “Año de 1760,” fol. 53v, and Raymundo and Gabriel Gomez to Governor Montiano, December 1754(>), Archivo Histórico Nacional, Madrid, Consejos, 20627 [hereafter AHNM-C-20627].

114. Copy of baptismal certificate of Antonio de la Serna, May 24, 1747, AGI, Panama, 154. Consulting the same source, Angeles Ramos Baquero proposes that Miguel Perez and Jorge Geronimo were Eusebio’s great-grandparents. Pérez Calderón understands, as I do, that they were his grandfather and uncle respectively. Neither of these authors mentions Juan de Dios Orencio Perez. Angeles Ramos Baquero, “Platería y plateros en el arte colonial,” in Historia General de Panama, Alfredo Castillero Calvo, ed., vol. I—II, p. 280; Pérez Calderón, “Política,” p. 272.

115. Consejo, May 6, 1747, and the King, June 12, 1747, AGI, Panamá, 120.

116. Puyo to Viceroy Solís (undated, c. 1756–1759), “Año de 1760,” fol. 83v, copy of July 7, 1759, AHNM-C-20627.

117. For 1713: Fray Pedro Franco de Ynostrosa declaring in favor of Juan Ignacio de Aizpuru, November 23, 1713, AGÍ, Panamá, 152. For 1777: Francisco Nicolas de Aizpuru to the governor, February 13, 1777, AGI, Panama, 284.

118. I do not know if his post was ever confirmed. Torres Ramírez, Gil-Bermejo and Vila Vilar, eds., Cartas Ac cabildos, p. 165 doc. 313 (year 1716); p. 182 doc. 344 (year 1730); p. 183 doc. 346 (year 1731).

119. “Testimonio de la causa criminal que se sigue … contra Francisco Nicolas de Aizpuru,” September 17, 1746, AGI, Panamá, 137.

120. Juan Ignacio Aizpuru to the King, 1735, AGI, Panamá, 152.

121. For the confirmation of the fiat and notarial office, see the King, December 23, 1742, AGI, “Panamá,” 119; and “Expediente sobre la confirmación despachada en el año de 1742 a Don Francisco Nicolas de Aizpuru del oficio de escrivano de camara de la audiencia de Panama,” 1742, AGI, Panamá, 153.

122. In 1768 he acted as witness and presented himself as owner of both posts. Francisco Nicolas Aizpuru, December 16, 1777, AGI, Panamá, 283.

123. By 1777 his income had decreased with economic downturn in the Isthmus. In addition, he had not been paid for the services provided to the militia, and he complained that he could not provide for the maintenance of his extended family. Francisco Nicolas de Aizpuru to the governor of Panama, February 13, 1777, AGI, Panamá, 284.

124. “Información a V. M. con la Acusacion anonima contra la familia de los Aizpuru,” June 16, 1754, and on a bitter dispute between notary Albear and Aizpuru, in which the latter was accused of being mulato, between 1751–1755, AGI, Panamá, 155. The two oidores were Juan Perez Garcia and Juan Bautista Bahamonde. Report by the governor, September 29, 1746, AGI, Panamá, 137.

125. On passing and public and private recognition, see Twinam, Public Lives, pp. 140–157.

126. For the primary sources of the discussion on Francisca, see Don Francisco Nicolas de Aizpuru, escribano de Gobierno, 1753–1755, AGI, “Panamá,” 155; and “Testimonio de la causa criminal que sigue,” September 1746, AGI, Panamá, 137.

127. Fray Pedro Franco de Ynostrosa, November 23, 1713, AGI, Panamá, 152.

128. AGI, Panamá, 254, document listing notaries in Panama City, March 4, 1786.

129. “Testimonio del expediente sobre dispensa de calidad …,” Viceroy of Santa Fé to the King, March 31, 1778, AGI, Panamá, 284. Confirmation of notarial office in 1778: “Inventario de minutas de despachos desde 1760–1781,” fol. 286v, AGI, Panamá, 246.

130. The King, November 29, 1779, AGI, Panamá, 284.

131. On the request to erase Santos de la Peña’s illegitimate birth, see Twinam, Public Lives, pp. 259–260. The quoted lines are from p. 260. The identification between the two seems clear.

132. Confirmation of fiat “Inventario de minutas de despachos desde 1760–1781,” fols. 249v and 251r, AGI, Panamá, 246. On 1774, see Tello de Ugarte, “Panamá,” p. 217 note 327, and p. 82 note 111.

133. 1803, AGI, Panamá, 293, exp. 3.

134. Twinam, forthcoming, cites AGI, Panamá, 276, N.3, 1767.

135. Twinam did not discuss this case in Public Lives.

136. Pardo is frequently used on its own in documentation but also as alternative adjective word in place of cuarterón or quinterón, although I do not mean that they were synonyms.

137. Ben Vinson III, Bearing Arms, chapt. 3 and pp. 226–227.

138. In only one instance did I find evidence that a notary of African descent chose to marry a woman of color. He was Miguel Angel de Rivas, natural son of a mulata and an unknown father, who worked in the cabildo of Santiago del Alanje in Panama. In 1766 there were complaints about his lack of ability as notary. “Testimonio del expediente sobre dispensa de calidad,” May 31, 1778, AGI, Panamá, 284.

139. Vinson, Bearing Arms; Douglas Cope, Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994), chapt. 3, especially pp. 49–57; Stewart R. King, Blue Coat or Powdered Wijj: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 2001); Kimberly Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769–1803 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1997).

140. Twinam, “Purchasing Whiteness: Conversations on the Essence of Pardo-ness and Mulatto-ness at the End of the Empire,” in Imperial Subjects, p. 160.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed