Central Themes of the Honor and Shame System

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According to Ramon Gutierrez’s book When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away, in 18th century colonial New Mexico, parallels between male honor and female shame were culturally established. He analyzes how it came to be the way it is, which is a central feature in the Spanish colonial world. When referring to honor and social status, he says that there is a Spanish folktale that “tells of seduction and intrigue, of malevolence, rivalries, and a pact with a witch, of how one man took the honor of another, and most importantly, of how honor was won and lost honor avenged (Gutierrez).” To the Spanish, honor is more than just a thing on its own, it is interconnected to social status and virtue, honor and shame, men and women. If honor is lost, there will be an imbalance since the “Spanish colonists placed the value of honor at the very center of their moral system (Gutierrez).”

Honor did not have a direct correlation to status until the “presence of Indian slaves in New Mexican society (Gutierrez).” This created “negative stereotypes of the other, that is, of the defeated and fallen Indian within Hispano society and outside of it, defined the boundaries between “them” and “us,” between the dishonored and the honored (Gutierrez).” The separation of the two included a very extensive disconnection of things such as religion, ethnicity, sexual views, social status, names, all the way to skin color and so forth. “Names were marks of social status (Gutierrez).” “Children born in wedlock carried a patronym. Slaves did not and everyone knew that (Gutierrez).” Since the slaves did not participate in this tradition, it gave away their social status, therefore, putting them on a lower pedestal. “The presence of significant numbers of genizaro slaves and criados in Spanish towns and villages who had no genealogical ties to the Hispano community…generated negative stereotypes of what it meant to be an Indian (Gutierrez).” To be a Spanish conquistador in the Americas meant...
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