It intrigued me to read both the document about a transgender man and the casta system because they seemed to contradict one another. While the journal of Catalina de Erauso tells the story of one female bodied person who is remarkably accepted by Spanish Royalty as a transgender person, the other reading proves the Spanish crown as sensitive to difference. The Casta paintings sought to clearly divide the people and capture the differences in people.
While it is positive to hear that King Philip IV allowed Catalina to continue to dresses in men’s clothing, I speculate that this was allowed due to her peninsular status: “Instead of chastising her, he gave her a papal dispensation to keep on dressing as a man-provided that she remained a virgin”. She was catholic and willing to fight the Indians. Race was a highly important factor in every aspect of life. This is clear by the way that casta paintings were accessible to everyone. They were displayed in public and they were also affordable to the lower classes.
The Casta paintings display the construction of race in the Americas. They provide evidence to support that race division and “othering” different races may not be a natural occurrence but a system that has been constructed in order to grant privilege to a select few. The Casta paintings were used to ensure that everyone knew their place in the hierarchy. It created inequality amid the smallest differences. However, the paintings also show the ideal society that the Spanish elite hoped for. Even the groups that were lower in the caste system were shown as productive laborers and consumers. In this sense, the paintings were useful.
It is interesting to bring up the historical context of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. The fact that his “discovery” occurred in the same year as the ethnic cleansing of Spain had a huge impact on the implementation of racial division in the Americas. As Jon notes, the Spanish had just “dealt” with one diversity and they are immediately faced with new differences that they are unable to even describe or classify. Maybe if Columbus’ voyage had been carried out later, class division may not have been such a big aspect of the complex identity of Latin America.
Even after the establishment of the New World, there is still a “crisis of representation”. Not only is Columbus unsure of how to classify the people of the new indies, the American people are as well.