In his book Fatal Love: Spousal Killers, Law, and Punishment in the Late Colonial Spanish Atlantic
(Stanford University Press 2016), Victor Uribe-Urán
compares the cases of Spain, and the late-colonial societies of Mexico and Colombia, in a historical moment characterized by corporate patriarchy and enlightened punishment. Focusing on crimes of spousal murders, Uribe-Urán asks intriguing questions: who were the men and women that committed these crimes, and what were their reasons for doing so? How did the law, both royal and ecclesiastical, responded to such murders? In which instances did the monarch decide to forgive or show leniency, and when did justice opt for harsher punishment?
In answering these questions, Uribe-Urán challenges some traditional notions of how honor is supposed to work in Iberian societies. Also, he contributes to a growing scholarship that demonstrates that far from being secluded in their homes, women in colonial Spanish America had active public lives. This book is a fascinating read for those interested in Atlantic history, and also, for those who want to understand the long history of domestic and gender violence. As Uribe-Urán tells us by the end, domestic violence is the most widespread human right’s violations today; histories of this phenomenon, widespread and pervasive, are necessary for our contemporary quest for truly making domestic violence the serious crime that it really is.
Lisette Varón-Carvajal is a PhD student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. You can tweet her and suggest books at @LisetteVaron.