The Intimate Frontier
Friendship and Civil Society in Northern New Spain
Spaniards living in the isolated borderlands region of colonial Sonora were keen to develop an ideologically relevant and socially acceptable form of friendship with Indigenous people that could act as a functional substitute for civil law and governance, thereby regulating Native behavior. But as frontier society grew in complexity and sophistication, Indigenous and mixed-raced people also used the language of friendship and the performance of emotion for their respective purposes, in the process becoming skilled negotiators to meet their own best interests.
In northern New Spain, friendships were sincere and authentic when they had to be and cunningly malleable when the circumstances demanded it. The tenuous origins of civil society thus developed within this highly contentious social laboratory in which friendships (authentic and feigned) set the social and ideological parameters for conflict and cooperation. Far from the coffee houses of Restoration London or the lecture halls of the Republic of Letters, the civil society illuminated by Martínez stumbled forward amid the ambiguities and contradictions of colonialism and the obstacles posed by the isolation and violence of the Sonoran Desert.
“An innovative scholarly contribution not only to the literature on borderlands and frontier societies but also to the growing literature on emotions and colonial domination in Mexico and Latin America.”—Javier Villa-Flores, author of Dangerous Speech: A Social History of Blasphemy in Colonial Mexico
“Ignacio Martínez’s work is a must-read for scholars of the borderlands who should consider the range of ways that individuals created their communities and lived with others in civil society.”—Amy M. Porter, author of Their Lives, Their Wills:
Women in the Borderlands, 1750–1846