In the opening scene of this volume, we encountered twenty-
year- old Catalina de Velasco, awaiting an interview with Bar-
tolomé de las Casas after having managed to escape a kind of
house arrest in her mistress’s palace. Like dozens of other in-
dios, Catalina relied on the support of the bishop of Chiapas
and others to affirm her identity as a free vassal. Her body bore
no marks of legal branding, and she argued that she originated
from Mexico, in Spanish imperial territory. The sketchy and cir-
cumscribed tale recorded by the court notary is one of loss and
of resolve, but it also reveals larger certainties about paternalism
and bondage and what it meant to be a legal indio in an increas-
ingly globalized world. And this story isn’t just about Catalina;
it is but a fragment of a whole, a refraction of a constellation of
In this house there was another india girl thirteen or fourteen years old
who called herself María Madalena and said she was from the village
of Majes. . . . On this occasion Felipa de Vargas [her mistress] said that
the india was from Santa Cruz de la Sierra and was the daughter of Chi-
riguanas [sic] and she had been given to her by doña Inés Chirinos de
Loaysa, wife of don Alonso Mariño de Lovera, saying that [Madalena]
was the daughter of their Chiriguano indio slaves from the war zone
(tierra de guerra). And [Madalena] replied that was not so but rather,
Majes [was her place of origin].
Miguel Contreras, Padrón de los indios de Lima en 1613
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