“Who will find a strong woman? She is worth more than pearls.”
Proverbs 31: 10
“The wife of the Cacique of Tinta manifests a supermasculine will.”
Archivo General de las Indias: Audiencia de Lima Legajo 1042, Report of Father Juan de Ruis Pacheco, Cuzco, January 10, 1781
Research on women in colonial Latin America is a complex and often frustrating task, in part because the data base is narrow, especially as one descends the social ladder, which often restricts the subject to women from the elite sectors in urban settings. Too often writing on colonial women is based on a “Great Woman” approach to history in which modern concerns about feminism and women's liberation are imposed on traditional, patriarchical historical epochs where these precepts have little meaning or application. There are indications, however, that this orientation is changing. A recent collection of studies about women in colonial societies, for example, compares the economic, political, and social roles of women in twelve different colonial situations, including Peru and New Spain, and considers the changes wrought by European civilization. From an anthropological and historical perspective, the authors compare the position of women in various premodern societies prior to the emergence of the world capitalist system in an effort to determine the historic origins of inequality and subordination.