This Article explores seventeenth-century annulment litigation involving mixed status couples in which the free partner alleged mistaken identity - error de persona. While much research on annulment addresses the ways that ecclesiastical courts regulated intimate relationships between unequal couples at the behest of resistant elders, this Article examines the dissolution of marital ties by the partners themselves. I examine one annulment suit at length in which the petitioner alleged error de persona, using this suit to illustrate a common set of arguments deployed by litigants in the ecclesiastical legal forum. The annulment cases provide a rich archival source for understanding the diversity within urban slave communities in colonial Latin America and highlight the tensions over race, honor, and status among members of the lower castes. More broadly, they illustrate how men and women's experience of inequality affected their intimate relationships. Finally, the proceedings show the more complex relationship between whiteness and freedom in a society with both significant numbers of freed people of color, and those coded as white (given their ambiguous phenotype and uncertain parentage) but who remained enslaved.
Michelle A. McKinley,
"Such Unsightly Unions Could Never Result in Holy Matrimony": Mixed-Status Marriages in Seventeenth Century Colonial Lima,
Yale J.L. & Human.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlh/vol22/iss2/2