Abstract

This study argues that practices sometimes referred to as “love magic” operated instead as relational therapeutics in colonial Latin America. Focusing on women's roles in Spanish Caribbean port cities from the late sixteenth through the early eighteenth century, I analyze a range of relationship remedios (or cures) ranging from divination and prayers to spells and potions by interrogating early modern Spanish Inquisition records from Mexico and Cartagena de Indias. Far from simple reflections of religious deviance, these trials show women searching within their relational networks for practical remedies to cure structural and personal problems in their sexual partnerships. Some remedies were clearly offered on a basis more transactional than therapeutic, a reflection of the inequality, violence, and trauma of life in the colonial Caribbean. People in the region drew on a range of amatory therapeutics to relieve emotional pain, soothe everyday tensions over power, and cope with economic precarity.

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