TWO MALE SERVANTS FIGHT OVER WOMAN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SANTA FE RIVER
August 14–19, 1715, Source: SANM II #239b
Synopsis and editor’s notes: In the early eighteenth century, Santa Fe was a town with many soldiers and only a few Hispanic women. In this case, the lack of available women led to a competition between two men over one woman, or at least it was perceived as a competition, which, in turn, led to a fight in which all three were involved.
On August 14, 1715, a young woman appeared at the house of the Santa Fe alcalde, Captain Juan García de la Riva, to report a fight in a field on the south side of the Santa Fe River. She said that two men, Juan [López] Grande and Francisco Xavier de Rosa, were fighting each other over her mother, a married woman. Her mother tried to stop the fight by pulling the hair of her lover, Juan Grande, but for her pains she was hit with a stick. The alcalde took both men to the jail, and he ordered the married woman to go home. The document does not give the name of either the mother or the daughter.
In later testimony before the alcalde, Juan Grande said that he had been having an affair with the woman for six years, while her husband was out of the province. He was trying to assist her as much as he could and because of that he did not want other men to go into her home, as he felt he had certain rights. Francisco Xavier de Rosa, on the other hand, said that he was at the woman’s house to summon her son to cut some hay for the horse of their master, Captain Felix Martínez. He said that he was not interested in the mother, however, he was interested in her daughter.
After hearing the testimony, García de la Riva charged Juan Grande with causing a scandal by living with the woman (cohabitation) and by being in a fight. He separated the couple and ordered Juan Grande to travel with his master, Captain Francisco Ruiz, who had been given permission to leave the colony for other reasons. Likewise, Francisco Xavier de Rosa was admonished for fighting and was additionally ordered to serve his master, Captain Martínez; if he did not comply, Francisco was threatened with additional punishment.
In managing this rather sordid business, Alcalde García de la Riva carried out an abbreviated proceeding by interviewing the two men, but not the woman, her children, or any bystanders. While he could have ordered a fine for cohabitation, as he did in an earlier case, García de la Riva seemed more interested in restoring harmony among the complainants and keeping the peace in Santa Fe.
The document does raise several interesting points. First, the unnamed woman— who had two children and a husband who had been gone for six years (and with no sign of his return)—would have found herself in a precarious position if she without the support of her lover, Juan Grande. With his banishment from Santa Fe, she likely would have had to look again to the presidio soldiers (or their servants) to and another protector, who would give her financial support. Second, it appears that there was a jail in Santa Fe at this time, which García de la Riva describes grandly as being in the sala de audiencia (courtroom) of the casa reales (government buildings) of the ayuntamiento (local governing body). His elaborate description is curious and may reflect his time in Mexico City. At that time, the local government body was called the cabildo and the term ayuntamiento was not used in New Mexico as the term for the local government until one hundred years later, after the Mexican revolution. Also, there may have been a sala de audiencia in a wealthier province further south, but in Santa Fe court hearings were more likely to be held in a large, multipurpose room in one of the government buildings.