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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Exploring Sexuality, Religiousity, and Desire in Colonial Mexico

  • Author(s): Tortorici, Zeb
  • et al.

On January 23, 1621, a Spanish priest and commissary of the Holy Office of the Mexican Inquisition in Querétaro came forth to denounce the twentyyear- old Agustina Ruiz, a woman who had, according to him, never completed the confession that she had begun with him on the eve of Pascua de Reyes (Feast of the Three Kings) a few weeks earlier. He told the Inquisition that Ruiz had begun to confess her sins to him in the church of the Carmelite convent of Saint Theresa, asking for mercy and forgiveness, and then declared that since the age of eleven she had carnally sinned with herself nearly every day by repeatedly committing the act of pollution (polución)— masturbation. Most unsettling to the priest, however, was not the act of masturbation itself but rather the vivid, obscene, and sacrilegious descriptions that went alongside her masturbatory fantasies. According to the priest’s denunciation, Ruiz confessed that she had spoken “dishonest words” with Saint Nicolas of Tolentino, Saint Diego, and even Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and that they had carnally communicated with her in a variety of sexual positions: “They join themselves with her [Ruiz] in different ways, with her underneath them, and from the side, and her on top of them, and also with her lying facedown while they conjoin themselves with her through both of her dishonest parts,” meaning both vaginally and anally.1 Given that the primary aim of the Mexican Inquisition—established in 1569 by royal decree of Phillip II of Spain and founded in 1571—was to extirpate heresy, it is no surprise that the Mexican Inquisition would take a strong interest in Ruiz. She was eventually sentenced to spend three years in a convent in Mexico City.

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