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Description:

This presentation connects “unnatural” sex, spectacle, and desire as mediated by historical archives of the sixteenth-century Iberian Atlantic world.1 My analysis hinges on a 1563 document, in which a fourteen-year-old Maya boy in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Pedro Na, is documented having “carnal access” with a turkey in early colonial Mexico. I show how crimes such as bestiality came to be permanently archived through the very attempt of colonial authorities to suppress such iterations of sex and desire. This observation is pertinent to all ex-European colonial and post-colonial societies that enforce legal sanctions against those acts defined as contra naturam (“against nature”).2 Critical attention to the genealogy and construction of the category of “Nature” shows how the concept is imbued with multiple, overlapping, and contradictory meanings.3

Case of Pedro Na, 1563
Slide from Zeb Tortorici's case presentation at "The Manufacturing of Rights" on May 16, 2015.

Accusations:

Na fully confessed his crime, and colonial authorities made an example of him for Mérida’s recently converted indigenous population. On February 14, 1563, the court sentenced Na to be publicly castrated and permanently exiled from the provinces of Yucatán. Adding to the grotesque nature of this ritualized spectacle, the court further specified that the corpse of the turkey (who died from wounds inflicted during the sexual act) would be hung around the perpetrator’s neck as he was led to the plaza, shamed, and punished. Finally, so as to obliterate all memory of the act, “after the said sentence is executed, the turkey shall be burned in live flames and turned into ashes.”

"Profanation of a cadaver," Mexican case, 1810
Ibid.

Reference:

Zeb Tortorici, “Against Nature: Sodomy and Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America,” History Compass 10:2 (Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2012): 161-178 and Archivo General de Indias, Justicia, leg. 248 (microfilm reel #191).


text

  • Zeb Tortorici

date

  • 1563

location

  • Mérida, Mexico

is an historian who writes widely about such subjects as the construction of archives, affect, and the spectacularization of public punishment for cases of sodomy and bestiality. In connecting sexuality to religiosity and erotics in colonial Latin America, his myriad references include archival theory, human-animal studies and concepts of viscerality. He is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University.

— ARTICLE: Case #10: Unnatural Bodies, Desires, and Devotions
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights
More information: Webpage at New York University

is an historian who writes widely about such subjects as the construction of archives, affect, and the spectacularization of public punishment for cases of sodomy and bestiality. In connecting sexuality to religiosity and erotics in colonial Latin America, his myriad references include archival theory, human-animal studies and concepts of viscerality. He is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University.

— ARTICLE: Case #10: Unnatural Bodies, Desires, and Devotions
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights
More information: Webpage at New York University

1. Joscelyn Gardner, Trichilia trifoliate (Quamina), 2011
Hand-colored lithograph on frosted mylar
36” x 24”
2. Zeb Tortorici speaks about "Genealogies of Contre Naturam" at "The Manufacturing of Rights" conference on May 16, 2015
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