cover of book

The Intimate Frontier: Friendship and Civil Society in Northern New Spain
by Ignacio Martínez
University of Arizona Press, 2019
Cloth: 978-0-8165-3880-5 | eISBN: 978-0-8165-4064-8
Library of Congress Classification F1229.M365 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 972.17

For millennia friendships have framed the most intimate and public contours of our everyday lives. In this book, Ignacio Martínez tells the multilayered story of how the ideals, logic, rhetoric, and emotions of friendship helped structure an early yet remarkably nuanced, fragile, and sporadic form of civil society (societas civilis) at the furthest edges of the Spanish Empire.

Spaniards living in the isolated borderlands region of colonial Sonora were keen to develop an ideologically relevant and socially acceptable form of friendship with Indigenous people that could act as a functional substitute for civil law and governance, thereby regulating Native behavior. But as frontier society grew in complexity and sophistication, Indigenous and mixed-raced people also used the language of friendship and the performance of emotion for their respective purposes, in the process becoming skilled negotiators to meet their own best interests.

In northern New Spain, friendships were sincere and authentic when they had to be and cunningly malleable when the circumstances demanded it. The tenuous origins of civil society thus developed within this highly contentious social laboratory in which friendships (authentic and feigned) set the social and ideological parameters for conflict and cooperation. Far from the coffee houses of Restoration London or the lecture halls of the Republic of Letters, the civil society illuminated by Martínez stumbled forward amid the ambiguities and contradictions of colonialism and the obstacles posed by the isolation and violence of the Sonoran Desert.

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