Primary Source

Gender and Race in Colonial Latin America: “‘The Most Vile Atrocities’: Accusations of Slander Against María Cofignie, Parda Libre (Louisiana, 1795)”


Spain obtained the province of Louisiana from France according to provisions of the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, and effectively ruled it from 1769 until 1803. Louisiana had been part of the French colonial system since 1699, and with its acquisition the Spanish Crown found itself in a situation to which it was not accustomed: taking over, rather than giving up, American territory from another European power. For both the French and Spanish, Louisiana's value was mainly strategic. The Bourbon monarchs viewed the colony as useful primarily within the context of larger geopolitical considerations: neither wanted Britain to seize it. Although Spain, like France, considered Louisiana an economic burden, the Spanish Crown hoped to use it as a protective barrier between mineral-rich New Spain and England's increasingly aggressive North American colonies.

Founded in 1718 on the site of a long-established Native American portage point where the Mississippi River comes closest to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans was colonial Louisiana's principal urban center and port. The furs, hides, timber, and agricultural products of the Mississippi Valley region flowed through the city en route to the West Indies, the North American colonies, New Spain, and occasionally Europe. New Orleans also served as the entrepot for slaves and various goods such as flour and cloth that colonials could not supply or manufacture themselves. By the late eighteenth century "the city that care forgot"1 was a vibrant port, with people moving in and out, establishing relationships across racial and class boundaries, and generally challenging any kind of stable social order. The only nucleus to boast the title of ciudad (city) in all of northern New Spain, New Orleans had a resident population that grew from about three thousand to more than eight thousand during the era of Spanish rule, with a large transient population adding to this number. The percentage of libres (free blacks)2 rose from 10 to 20 percent of New Orleanians over the same period; the rest of the population was about evenly divided between whites and slaves, with varying numbers of indios (Indians) and mestizos (persons of mixed Indian and white ancestry) residing in and around the city.3

When Spain assumed control of Louisiana, it installed its own officials, legal codes, and governing system.4 The top administrator in the province was the governor general, and he, along with two alcaldes (judges) from the cabildo (city council), headed tribunals that heard civil and criminal cases originating in New Orleans or appealed from outlying posts. Decisions in these cases could in turn be appealed to the cabildo as a whole, and then on to the Audiencia of Santo Domingo, for litigants who were ordinary citizens, or to the governor of Cuba for those who held special privileges (fueros), such as members of the military or clergy. 5 An escribano (clerk or scribe) recorded all court proceedings. Most of the cases the governor and alcaldes heard make up a collection known as the "Spanish Judicial Records," which along with the "French Judicial Records" (those of the French Superior Council), are housed at the Louisiana State Museum Historical Center in New Orleans.6

The case of "Criminal Proceedings Pursued by don Pedro Favrot against Maria Cofignie, Free Parda, Concerning Slander,"7 most of which is translated in the following pages,8 came before the governor general, Francisco Luis Hector, el Baron de Carondelet, in June 1795. The governor usually adjudicated criminal cases, especially those in which one of the parties was favored with the fuero military (judicial privileges granted to military personnel); the plaintiff Favrot was a captain in the fixed or permanent infantry regiment of Louisiana. When Cofignie allegedly insulted and harangued his daughter and indirectly his wife, Favrot petitioned the governor's court for redress. His original petition was written in French, the language of most New Orleanians, and translated into Spanish by Public Interpreter don Juan Josef Duforest. Favrot presented the testimony of two witnesses, and based on this evidence Carondelet placed Cofignie under house arrest because there was no women's prison at the time. Cofignie in turn provided her version of the events and played on the sympathies of the court as a poor single working mother with several children to support. Eventually Favrot settled for an apology to his wife and daughter, which Cofignie reluctantly made. The Spanish judicial system thus successfully mediated between competing interests to reach an acceptable compromise, while taking into account the race, status, and gender of each party. As in the Favrot-Cofignie case, the courts typically encouraged plaintiffs and defendants to reconcile their differences and admonished them to act according to acceptable rules of conduct.

Cofignie, however, did not give up fighting for what she believed to be just causes. The same month that Favrot brought charges against her, she petitioned a tribunal for the freedom of her brother, Antonio Cofignie. Antonio was a slave of Maria's former mistress, the widow of Maria and Antonio's white father, don Claudio Cofignie. It appears that don Claudio had verbally promised to give each of his three illegitimate children (Maria, Feliciana, and Antonio), born to his slave Luison, 400 pesos to purchase their freedom. The girls had done so before don Claudio Cofignie's death in 1786, but Antonio had not, and now the widow refused to free him for that amount, demanding instead what Maria claimed to be an exorbitant sum. While Maria was in the process of seeking retribution, Antonio took matters into his own hands and ran away. His mistress then accused Maria of assisting Antonio and hiding him; ironically, Maria, who obviously placed much faith in the legal system, was thrown in jail once more, where she again called on the mercy of the court as a pobre mujer to release her so that she could support her family. Finally, a white planter in Opelousas, Louisiana, whose ties to the Cofignies are not clear, paid 1,100 pesos for the fugitive, with the promise that Maria would reimburse him that sum if her brother ever reappeared.9

As a single mother, Maria also struggled to care for her children. During the era of Spanish rule in New Orleans, Cofignie bore eight babies, the first in 1785 and the last in 1801; of these, three died in their youth. She had another daughter in 1806. The father of only one of Cofignie’s children was identified in existing documents. Her son Josef Urra, a cuarterón libre born November 1797, was described in his baptismal record as the illegitimate son of Manuel Urra and the parda libre Maria Cofignie.10

Although Cofignie repeatedly appealed for mercy based on the fact that she had to work to support these numerous children, court records and censuses do not indicate her occupation. The most common jobs for free black women in New Orleans in the 1790s were laundress, seamstress, and seller; Cofignie most likely earned her living in one of these ways.

Many of those individuals who tested the boundaries of elite-defined acceptable behavior were free blacks like Maria Cofignie. Their position within New Orleans's hierarchy was not well defined, and, in fact, most libres did not choose to be demarcated as a separate group, preferring instead to be admitted to, and accepted by, white society. Although radicalized by the possibilities for equality with whites seemingly offered in the philosophies of the French and Haitian Revolutions, free blacks in New Orleans generally wanted to reform, not overthrow, the hierarchical Spanish social system that condemned them outright for being nonwhites and that failed to recognize their worth except as measured by skin color. Their challenges escalated in the revolutionary decades of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.11

The case that follows reveals many of these tensions. In their recorded statements, the litigants raise the issue of racial discrimination and comment, often implicitly, on distinct notions of personal honor, patriarchy, family, gender roles, and the meaning of freedom. Like all libres living in slave societies, New Orleans free women of color operated from an undefined, anomalous position, the middle section of a three-tiered hierarchy in which they were not truly free or slave, often not pure black or white. Libre women were also trapped in a patriarchal so that valued males more than females but that did not afford them the paternal protection due the weaker sex because ostensibly they did not possess honor and virtue, attributes only accorded whites. But as we will see in the following testimony, Maria Cofignie and other libre women did not suffer in silence.

This source is a part of the Gender and Race in Colonial Latin America teaching module.


21.1 Petition Presented by Captain Don Pedro Favrot

Don Pedro Favrot, captain of the fixed regiment of Louisiana, with the respect due Your Honor [Governor Carondelet], states that on the twelfth day of the current [month and year, May 1795] he had the honor of being presented to the tribunal of Your Honor requesting justice for the excesses Maria Cofignie, mulata libre, committed against his daughter,12 doña Josefina, which had not resulted in imprisonment or any other penalty that could be used as punishment for her [Maria Cofignie] or another of her status.13 The exponent returns to bring this matter to the attention of Your Honor, so that with respect to it, and the attached documentation, the court will deign to give a hearing to a complaint so strongly grounded it follows that [each piece of] evidence can be checked one against the other. He states this without presuming to instruct the court.14

I request that Your Honor mete out justice according to what I ask, [and] I hope to receive favor from what Your Honor decides. New Orleans, May 21, 1795.

[Signed] Pedro Favrot.

[Margin note in Carondelet's handwriting: New Orleans, June 8, 1795. The judge advocate (auditor de Guerra) passed by [and] brought to my attention that there is no jail for women at this time.15 Signed El Baron de Carondelet]

Court clerk Carlos Ximenez states that Favrot's petition and the document that accompanies it have been translated by don Juan Josef Duforest with the customary formalities. With the assistance of the interpreter, he has also confirmed the signatures of the persons whose names appear on the document. These statements are made known to Governor Carondelet in New Orleans, June 8, 1795, and are as follows:

21.2 Statement Made by Rosalía Carlota Barré

As translated from French to Spanish by Juan Josef Duforest:

I have signed Rosalía Carlota Barré, widow of Mr. Dutisne, by reason of the verbal suit of Mr. Favrot, captain of the regiment of Louisiana, who has required that I give a statement and a detailed report of what I may have heard of the impertinences that have been directed at doña Josefina, his daughter. I declare that, [while I was] in the doorway of my house, [located] almost opposite [to Favrot's house],16 between six and seven in the afternoon, there were several children playing on the sidewalk17 of Mr. Favrot's house. I saw a small mulatto18 throwing dirt and the in the face of the young woman [doña Josefina], who repeatedly asked him to truth stop it and leave them alone. They [doña Josefina and her friends] ran after the small mulatto, who was always falling over them. He escaped and ran to his mother, called Maria Cofignie, mulata libre, who lives next to my house.19 She left in a fury and approached the young Miss Favrot and addressed her as the daughter of a whore (hija de puta), saying "you can f . . . yourself, senorita" (usted se f . . . de usted senorita).20 "I am free like you are. I well know that you want to hit my son or threaten him. Those bloody, beastly21 Frenchmen,22 because they are white, believe that we are made to be scorned and spurned. I am free and I am as worthy as you are; I have not earned my liberty on my back."23 I [Barré] declare that this mulata, Maria Cofignie, has pronounced the most vile atrocities that were as outrageous to me as those that have caused a revolution.24 I had a very strong feeling that [as] [doña Josefina’s] father and mother were absent from their house at that moment, [it] prevented an escalation [of the argument] and checked Cofignie's scandalous behavior; the parents’ absence and the child’s vulnerability proved sufficient to curb the excessive insolence that this rogue of a mulata had demonstrated. She had spoken of the whites in general with disdain and with the greatest contempt. In addition, Madame Grenot, who lives with me, could say that she had heard everything that I have just declared as she was also at the doorway of the house. Mr. Favrot's servants, who went out to quiet her [Cofignie] down, could also very well state that they had heard all of these abominations. All of which I swear to be the truth and to which I take an oath. This matter occurred on Tuesday, the second of the current [month and year] in the afternoon, and I sign this day in New Orleans, May 15, 1795. Mr. Beaupre has written this statement [and signs as a witness].

21.3 Statement Made by Dona Vitoria Amarante Bossie, [Wife of Grenot]

On this same day and year there appeared Madame Manuel Grenot, who lives in the house of the person giving evidence [Barré]. She affirms that the statement [made by Barré] is the same that she had heard from Maria Cofignie and that there was still more than what was declared if it was necessary to go into an even more substantial account. She has signed with us [the clerk and interpreter].

Clerk Carlos Ximenez certifies that this translation was made well and faithfully by the interpreter according to his trustworthy knowledge and understanding, without grievance by any of the parties, and he signs in front of me [Ximenez].

21.4 Verification of Earlier Statements by Barre and Bossie

In New Orleans, June 17, 1795, I, the clerk, assisted by the interpreter, don Juan José Duforest, went by the residence of doña Rosalia Carlota Barré, the widow Dutisne, who, by means of the interpreter, received the oath sworn before God and the cross according to the law, and was charged with pledging to tell the truth concerning whatever she was questioned. She was asked if she recognized her signature stamped on the first leaf of the document presented by Captain don Pedro Favrot, and she replied that everything was as it was supposed to be and by the letter [of the law], as construed and recognized as such. She is certain of the contents of the document written by Mr. Beaupre, and of which she, the declarant, was informed of its particularities. She responds that what she has said and declared is the truth as charged by her oath. She is fifty-five years old and signs the statement with the interpreter.

In New Orleans on the same day, I, the clerk, by means of the interpreter, received the oath of doña Vitoria Amarante Bossie, [wife of] Grenot, sworn before God and the cross according to the law. She was charged with promising to tell the truth when questioned and to state whether it was her signature stamped on the first leaf of the document presented by Favrot. She states that it is in her hand-writing and style and because of that she recognizes it. She is twenty-two years old and signs with the interpreter.

On the same day, I, the clerk, by means of the interpreter, disclosed the two signatures stamped on the first leaf of the document to don Lorenzo Beaupre, who stated that he served as witness for the certification of the two women, the widow Dutisne and Bossie Grenot, whose statements the declarant [Beaupre] took, as was his responsibility. He translated what they told him, without knowing anything about the stories that they related. He recognizes their signatures, and with respect states that this is the truth as charged by his oath as ratified by law. He is seventy-four years old and signs with the interpreter.

21.5 Governor Carondelet's Edict

In view of these proceedings, and attentive to what will result from them against the free mulata Maria Cofignie, because of the excess that she committed against doña Josefina Favrot,25 proffering slander26 and insults, I order that she be placed under house arrest27 until a new order can be issued, due to the fact that there has been no appropriate, proportionate space for women in the Royal Jail since it was destroyed by the fire that occurred in December of last year [1794]. Serve a summons on Cofignie for what she is accused and take her prisoner. And verify the expressed proceeding, as well as provide a translation to Captain don Pedro Favrot, so that he can exercise his rights and ask what is suitable to him.

Decree certified by the clerk, Carlos Ximenez, in New Orleans, July 2, 1795. On July 7, 1795, by means of the public interpreter, don Juan Josef Duforest, Ximenez made known to Maria Cofignie, parda libre, the contents of the preceding judicial decree. So informed, she expressed to the clerk that she would respect the arrest intended for her, even though there was no motive for her being burdened with the punishment given her. Ximenez made known the translation of the decree to don Pedro Favrot on July 13, 1795.

21.6 Statement Given by Maria Cofignie

Maria Cofignie, parda libre, vecina (resident, citizen) of this city, in the criminal costs proceedings that don Pedro Favrot, captain of the infantry regiment of this plaza, pursues against me concerning slander that he says I proffered against his wife and daughter, and to which I say:

It has been more than fifteen days since I suffered the distressing arrest that day. Your Honor imposed on me in the ruling made the second of this month; and in view of the fact that I am a miserable poor person28 burdened with a family of four children, without having the wherewithal to provide for my pressing needs, except for what I can personally acquire with my own labor, I humbly plead with Your Honor that you order, as an act of charity, which in this case has been lacking, that you do not believe that I should be required to serve any more of the sentence of house arrest than what I have already suffered. I naturally protest any succeeding amendment of the sentence [for a longer duration]. And I request that you reduce the house arrest, releasing me29 for the benefit of my poor family, because even though matters have been made known to don Pedro Favrot, he not done or said anything about the decree up to the present. Presented for the party [Cofignie] and signed, Antonio de los Rios, her legal representative.

Statement taken by the clerk Carlos Ximenez in the court of Governor Carondelet, New Orleans, July 28, 1795.

21.7 Don Pedro Favrot's Response

In New Orleans on this day, month, and year [July 28, 1795] I, the clerk [Ximenez], made known to don Pedro Favrot, captain of the fixed infantry regiment of this plaza, the statement of Cofignie and the decree that was ordered. And Favrot asked that I put as his response that his intention was not to enter into a judicial contest against with the mulata, for one because his position in the royal service did not permit it, and for another because of the complete poverty of the mulata. For that, he agrees that the house arrest should be relaxed, provided that in front of the tribunal the mulata give a complete apology to his wife to her satisfaction. Favrot signs.

Ximenez provided a translation of the above to Maria Cofignie, and made it known to the governor.

21.8 Cofignie Returns Again

Maria Cofignie, parda libre, in the criminal proceedings that don Pedro Favrot, captain of the infantry regiment of this plaza, pursues against me, attributing with having proffered slanderous words to his wife and daughter, and about which I state:

That I have been presented with the translated response given by don Pedro in which he will relax or loosen my arrest provided that I will satisfy his wife. Desiring to calm my soul30 and secure my freedom so that I can seek the daily nourishment of my poor family, I agree to pass by his house and leave him satisfied, even though my intention never has been to offend the senora, knowing her character and the circumstances, all in all. I beg that you order the judicial costs be adjudicated fairly as necessary. Presented for the party [Cofignie] and signed, Marcos Rivera, her legal representative.

This document was provided to the governor in New Orleans on August 8, 1795. Ximenez also made its contents known to don Pedro Favrot on the same day.

21.9 Governor Carondelet's Final Ruling

In view of and with respect to finding that Maria Cofignie has given the wife of the Captain don Pedro Favrot the apology that he solicited, as verified by the present notary, who drew up the corresponding proceedings so that it is on record, this petition concludes, preparing Maria Cofignie to get ready to pay in the future court costs associated with the case at a fair, just appraisal, with two pesos for the adviser's fee. Signed by the governor, El Baron de Carondelet, and the lieutenant governor, Nicolas Maria Vidal. Attested to by the clerk, Ximenez, and dated August 13, 1795 in New Orleans.

21.10 Ximenez Makes Sure Justice is Carried Out

In New Orleans on August 17, 1795, Court Clerk Ximenez, in fulfillment of the previous decree and assisted by the public interpreter, don Juan Josef Duforest, passed by the house of Captain don Pedro Favrot. While there he made known to Favrot's wife the previous decree and that Maria Cofignie, mulata libre, having appeared in court on her own recognizance, had asked to be pardoned and stated that she had made the necessary complete apology to the wife of Captain don Pedro Favrot. In completing this case, Ximenez has confirmation from the interpreter. He concludes the proceeding and signs that it was made faithfully.

There were no court costs adjudicated, due to [Cofignie's] insolvency. 31

1A phrase commonly associated with New Orleans because of its carefree attitude.

2I use the inclusive somatic terms "free black," "free person of color," and "libre" to encompass anyone of African descent, that is, any free nonwhite person whether he or she be pure African, part white, or part Native American. The exclusive terms pardo (light-skinned) Moreno (dark-skinned) preferred by contemporary free blacks over mulatto and negro are used to distinguish elements within the nonwhite population. Occasional references delineate further between grifo (offspring of a pardola and a morenalo, and in some cases of a pardola and an indiato), cuarterón (offspring of a white and a pardola), and mestizo (usually the offspring of a white and an indiola, but in New Orleans sometimes meaning the offspring of a pardola or morenola and an indialo).

3For an elaboration of Louisiana's and New Orleans's early history, see John G. Clark, New Orleans, 1718-1812: An Economic History (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press,1970); Gilbert C. Din and John E. Harkins, The New Orleans Cabildo: Colonial Louisiana's First City Government, 1769-1803 (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1996); and Daniel H. Usner Jr., Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1992).

4This occurred only after an experiment allowing Louisianians to continue under French law and custom had failed. When in 1768 a group of French administrators, merchants, planters, and farmers ousted the first Spanish governor, famed scientist Antonio de Ulloa, the Spanish Crown toughened its stance and ordered General Alejandro O'Reilly to take troops from Cuba and restore order in Louisiana in 1769. He firmly but fairly implemented a Spanish colonial system (Din and Harkins, New Orleans Cabildo, pp. 38-55).

5An ecclesiastical tribunal presided over by the vicar general decided disputes pertaining to issues of "morality" and the sacraments, particularly marriage, or those in which a person protected by the ecclesiastical fuero was involved.

6For further information on the judicial system in colonial Louisiana and location of documents, refer to Henry Putney Beers, French and Spanish Records of Louisiana: A Bibliographical Guide to Archive and Manuscript Sources (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1989) and Henry P. Dart, "Courts and Law in Colonial Louisiana," Louisiana Bar Association Reports 22 (1921): 17-63.

7"Criminales Seguidos por don Pedro Fabrot contra Maria Cofinie, parda libre, sobre palabras injuriosas." Spanish Judicial Records, 8 June 1795, Louisiana State Museum Historical Center. Consistent spelling was not a priority in the eighteenth century, and in Louisiana Spanish scribes found creative ways to spell the French names that predominated. In this translation I have regularized the spelling of personal names, selecting the most common usage found in the document (Cofignie, Favrot, and Grenot, rather than their variants Cofinie, Coffiny; Fabrot; Greneux, Grenaux).

8I have omitted some of the routine certifications that are repetitive and add nothing to the text, such as the translator accepting his appointment and certifying that he would provide a true and accurate translation.

9"Promovido por Maria Cofiny Parda Libre sobre que se estime su hermano Antonio Esclavo de doña Francisca Monget para su Libertad," Spanish Judicial Records, 23 June 1795, Louisiana State Museum Historical Center.

10Nonwhite Baptisms, books 3a, 4a, 5a, 6a, 7a, 8a, and 9a, 1785-1806, Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

11Kimberly S. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans,1769-1803 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997), pp. 136-62, and "Conflicting Loyalties: The French Revolution and Free People of Color in Spanish New Orleans" Louisiana History 34:1 (winter 1993): 5-33.

12This is how I have translated "pidiendo sustiese del exceso que tubo Maria Cofinie, mulata libre con la nina del suplicante," which could also be more literally translated "requesting justice for the excess [behavior] that Maria Cofignie, mulata libre, had with the daughter of the suplicant."

13"A otro de su esfera" translates literally as "another of her sphere or place."

14The original states "sin castigo," conveying the sense of "without presuming to instruct the court." I would like to thank the editors for their helpful suggestions on this and other questionable translations.

15Two large fires swept New Orleans in the eighteenth century, one in March 1788 and another in December 1794. Although the 1788 "Great Conflagration" covered more acreage, the 1794 fire destroyed more valuable property. One of these properties was the women's prison.

16According to the 1791 census of New Orleans, the widow Dutisne lived on Conti Street with one other white female and an older male slave. Maria Cofignie also resided on Conti Street with three mulatto male children and an elderly free mulata; she had no slaves. On the same street was the household of don Pedro Favrot, made up of Favrot, his wife, Josefina, two male sons, and eight male and five female slaves (Census of the City of New Orleans, 6 November 1791, New Orleans Public Library, Louisiana Division).

17The word given here is la banqueta, the Spanish rendition of la banquette, the French term for footway and used in New Orleans even to today to refer to sidewalks. Especially in the French Quarter, the banquettes serve as social spaces where young and old interact in between the busy streets and the house fronts that sit almost directly on the streets.

18This pequeno mulatto was either Juan Isidoro, who in 1795 was nine years old and who died in 1812 at the age of twenty-six, or Pedro, then five and a half years old. Court documents never state the name of Cofignie's son (Nonwhite Baptisms, book 3a, 20 July 1786, and book 4a, 19 March 1790; Nonwhite Burials, [book 5], 1 October 1812, Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans).

19As the 1778, 1791, and 1795 house-by-house censuses of New Orleans reveal, there was little residential segregation in the city, either by race or by class, with white and black, slave and free, rich and poor living next to or in the same households with one another. There was a slight tendency, however, for the wealthier, more substantial houses to be located closer to the river and around the central plaza.

20The text does not indicate what "f . . ." represents, but it most likely translates as "screw" or "fuck." In some parts where a witness is quoting a statement made by another person, the missing or underlined word is in French (such as with "fichu" below), but I have been unable to match "f . . ." with any word in French or Spanish. However, while the form of the letter most closely approximates an "f," the clerk may have intended to write a "j." If so, the missing word was likely a conjugated form of the Spanish verb "joder," which means "to screw" or "to fuck." Note that even when swearing at the young white woman, Cofignie refers to her as a senorita and uses the address "usted," both terms of respect. Perhaps, though, she said both with a tone of sarcasm.

21Text provides the word fichu, an underlined French adjective meaning blooming, beastly, rotten. It is a curse word equivalent to the English "bloody" or the American "damn."

22"Pieles franceses," literally, French skins.

23"Sobre las espaldas," i.e., as a prostitute.

24The revolution to which Barre referred was the Haitian Revolution, which broke out in 1791 and resulted in the brutal killing of many whites, free blacks, and slaves. The slaves, however, eventually triumphed and declared Haiti independent in 1804. For its effects on Louisiana, see Hanger, "Conflicting Loyalties," pp. 5-33.

25"Por el exceso que tuvo con dona Josefina" could also be translated more literally and possibly with a greater sense of neutrality as "for the excess that she had with doña Josefina."

26"Palabras injuriosas," or insulting, offensive words.

27"Procedase al arresto de su persona, el que guardara en su casa."

28"soy una pobre miserable"; miserable in this context means wretched, pitiful.

29"Poniedoseme en libertad" or putting me in liberty.

30"Tranquilizar mi espfritu."

31"No hay costas, por insolvencia"; that is, Cofignie was broke, as she had warned the court she would be if left under house arrest without any means to seek gainful employment.


Source: Hanger, Kimberly S. “‘The Most Vile Atrocities’: Accusations of Slander Against María Cofignie, Parda Libre (Louisiana, 1795),” in Richard Boyer and Geoffrey Spurling, eds., Colonial Lives: Documents in Latin American History, 1550-1850, (Oxford University Press, 2000), 269-278.

How to Cite This Source

"Gender and Race in Colonial Latin America: “‘The Most Vile Atrocities’: Accusations of Slander Against María Cofignie, Parda Libre (Louisiana, 1795)”," in World History Commons, [accessed August 7, 2022]