Colonial for women prior to the end of the

Colonial
times in Latin America is defined as a period in Latin American history from
the years “1492-1810” (Minster). This period in Latin American history is an
interesting one. It is an era marked by the “discovery” by Columbus and other
conquistadors. It was an era in which the land changed from being inhabited by
natives, to a bustling and more “civilized” place. I use the word “discovery”
when discussing the event of Europeans arriving here and claiming it for their
own. However, it was merely discovered by Europeans. It was actually already
home to millions of people. Those people, who were removed from their homes, were
basically forced into slavery, or “domestic service” as it was termed. Women
were more forced into this than the men were.    

“Domestic
servants have always been important to Latin American society and its economy”
(Domestic Service).  There were some who
willingly signed up to work in domestic service for pay. “Spanish and
Portuguese law mandated that women be maintained in a position of tutelage,
which implied that most employment options for women prior to the end of the
nineteenth century were domestic in terms of where the work was executed, and
the type of labor demanded “(Domestic Service) This shows that some women
willing signed up for this sort of work, since this was the only opportunity
available to them for pay. “In sixteenth-century Latin America domestic
servants were found not only in the houses of encomenderos but also in the
houses of merchants and artisans, with the former having as few as one”
(Domestic Service).  So, this was a
commonplace occurrence.

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Then,
there were those who were forced into slavery against their will. Most women
were kidnapped and forced into domestic service. They were sold or traded to
Spanish explorers. “Hundreds of thousands of native women… many under the age
of fourteen were enslaved or placed into permanent bondage as naborias
(life-long servants) removed from their homelands and shipped to sundry ports
throughout Latin America and Iberia” (van Deusen).

Life
for the women who worked as domestic servants was not always easy. Rape was a
common occurrence for these women. “…sexual violation was an inherent aspect of
female enslavement, indeed a right exercised by masters…” (van Deusen). The
masters thought that since the domestic workers were their “property” they
could do with them as they wish. “Although indigenous slaves openly gave birth
to and baptized children with their owners, they were still considered
property, without the basic rights to draw up legal documents, establish
bequests for their children, or move freely from one place to another” (van Deusen).
This shows that even though the women were mothers to their master’s children,
they were still simply known as “property” as if they were just an object to be
thrown around at their master’s will. There were even women who owned domestic
servants, even these women forced their slaves into prostitution. This isn’t
something we can imagine women doing. Most of the time when people imagine
female slave owners, they picture a master with a gentler nature. This wasn’t
always the case.

Then,
there were those women who were treated with respect by their masters. Those
women who entered into a sexual relationship with their masters willingly and
not forcibly. “…Consensual sexuality between masters and female slaves gave the
latter a form of agency in their short-and long-term dealings with masters” (van
Deusen). Their lives were easier than those forced into sexual relationships.
These women were more than likely treated better and had better lives than
those who were forced.

Of
course, not all domestic servants were forced into a sexual relationship or
engaged in a relationship other than a servant/master relationship. There were
those domestic servants who simply were just that, servants. They did the
housekeeping, cooking and other household chores. The pay was meager, but
enough to survive on. “…The lowest positions of cleaning house and serving “in
whatever they are told to do” done by castas, indigenous (many of them
immigrants from Chile) and slave women, with non-slaves earning a substantially
lesser amount of 12 pesos a year. The pay included housing, food, medicine,
Christian doctrine and one cotton dress per year” (Francois)

Some
women, no matter how they were treated, did not let their conditions get the
best of them. Some made the best of their bad situation. “Some who lived far
from their place of origin pick up the pieces when their Spanish master left
and became servants in other households” (van

Deusen). “In 1501, the
Spanish crown official sanctioned marriages between Amerindians and Spaniards…”
(Peterson-Kather). This now gave women an advantage. If they were given the
opportunity to marry, they were put in positions they were unaccustomed to. If
their husbands owned property or were wealthy, then the domestic servants (now
wives) were to inherit money or property upon the husband’s demise. “Her
inheritance enabled her to exercise economic power with her household and in
the community to a degree that was proportionate to the size of her
inheritance” (Peterson-Kather). 

So,
as you have seen, life was difficult for most of the women. Most of these women
were taken from their homes and lives that they were once so happy with. These
women were forced into a life of servitude or basically used as a sex-slave.
Their lives were drastically changed. However, like I have also explained, some
of these women went into domestic service willingly. They weren’t all forced
into this life of service, some were paid for their services. Then, those women
who had it best were once slaves that were able to marry their Spanish masters
and when their husband died, they were given amazing lives as masters
themselves. They inherited great fortunes or land. All in all, life was harder
for most women in Latin America, not unlike women in the United States. Women
here also had to fight for their rights. 
d to fight for their rights.