This well-written, exhaustively researched book is part of an emerging trend among historians of colonial Latin America to pull areas long viewed as peripheral—such as Spanish New Mexico—more centrally into their purview. Using marriage practices as the key organizing theme for his social history, Ramón Gutiérrez examines a long span of time (1500-1846) and the varying groups of people, differentiated by ethnicity, status, or class, who interacted, competed, and warred with each other in this region.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 analyzes sixteenth-century marriage practices of the Pueblo Indians. Using the work on marriage and inequality of anthropologists Jane Collier and Sylvia Yanagisako, Gutiérrez shows how Pueblo marriage customs served to perpetuate culturally defined inequalities and differential access to power, even though marriage often united households of roughly equivalent material wealth. Part 2 shifts the focus to a description of the long, drawn-out process of the Spanish conquest of the region and the institution of colonial rule during the seventeenth century. Until the eighteenth century, religious authority—in the form of Franciscan missions—held primary control. Gutiérrez’ description of Franciscan ideology and of the variation between ideals and actual practice is exceptional.

Part 3 weaves together a discussion of the imposition of strong civil authority in New Mexico with a description of an evolving class structure, in which beliefs about honor and marriage practices served to maintain inequities of class and race even as, ironically, there was a “convergence of sexual values and attitudes [that] diffused upward from the Pueblo Indians through mixed-bloods to the Spanish, and outward from Europe to the colonies. …” (p. 330).

While it is unfortunate that the book is not informed by the work on gender, marriage, and sexuality of other Latin American historians and anthropologists, such as Serge Gruzinski, Donna Guy, Asunción Lavrin, Patricia Seed, and Irene Silverblatt, Gutiérrez’ book remains a major contribution to both Latin American and Mexican American history.