María del Carmen Baerga has produced a magnificent new history of race, gender, sexuality, and marriage in nineteenth-century Puerto Rico. The book is based on a meticulous and theoretically informed reading of the legal cases generated by the Royal Pragmatic on Marriage, a law designed to prevent marriages between persons of unequal social standing. After revision in 1803, the law required all Spanish subjects under the age of majority to obtain parental permission to marry. When parents refused to grant permission, children could appeal to the political authorities. Officials then investigated the claims of all parties, collected testimony from neighbors and townspeople, and decided whether to permit the match. Baerga brings these cases to life in lucid prose, comparing them with other instances in which the same authorities collected testimony about social status: petitions of legitimation and investigations into purity of blood....

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