This article analyzes three eighteenth-century sodomy cases in New Mexico to highlight the ways in which colonial authorities passed judgment on their subjects and the landscapes that they inhabited. Examining how ethnocentric outlooks shaped the ways in which Spanish colonizers interlinked sin and physical space illuminates the process by which colonial authorities made biased value judgments, deeming native peoples and indigenous spaces as sinful. The first case (1728) examines the denunciation and subsequent exoneration of a Spanish resident accused of sodomy. The second case (1731) highlights the tensions between spaces regarded as civilized and other areas removed from the purview of the Spanish state that colonizers viewed as morally suspect. The third case (1775) reveals how colonial authorities attempted to normalize local denizens’ sexual comportment in locations deemed asexual. By analyzing gender and sexuality alongside the environment, this essay problematizes descriptions of seemingly natural landscapes and elucidates the cultural construction behind pejorative tropes used to justify conquest.

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