Dangerous Speech is the first systematic treatment of blasphemous speech in colonial Mexico. This engaging social history examines the representation of blasphemy as a sin and a crime, and its
repression by the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish colonists viewed blasphemy not only as an insult against God but also as a dangerous misrepresentation of the deity, which could call down his wrath
in a ruinous assault on the imperial enterprise.
Because of the fascinating archival material that the author has gathered, Dangerou Speech has much to offer to those interested in the study of colonial social history.
—Journal of Latin American Studies
This study helps bring another degree of complexity and sophistication to our understanding of religiosity in New Spain.
—The Catholic Historical Review
Flores gives the reader a rare look at the social forces and consequences associated with blasphemous speech among different social groups in colonial Mexico between 1520 and 1700.
Why then, asks Villa-Flores, did Spaniards dare to blaspheme? Having mined the period's moral literature—philosophical works as well as
royal decrees and Inquisition treatises and trial records in Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. archives and research libraries—Villa-Flores deftly interweaves images of daily life in colonial Mexico with
vivid descriptions of human interactions to illustrate the complexity of a culture profoundly influenced by the Catholic Church. In entertaining and sometimes horrifying vignettes, the reader comes
face to face with individuals who used language to assert or manipulate their identities within that repressive society.
Villa-Flores offers an innovative interpretation of the social uses
of blasphemous speech by focusing on specific groups—conquistadors, Spanish settlers, Spanish women, and slaves of both genders—as a lens to examine race, class, and gender relations in colonial
Mexico. He finds that multiple motivations led people to resort to blasphemy through a gamut of practices ranging from catharsis and gender self-fashioning to religious rejection and active
Dangerous Speech is a valuable resource for students and scholars of colonialism, the social history of language, Mexican history, and the changing relations of gender,
class, and ethnicity in colonial Latin America.