On December 26, 1793, the ecclesiastical notary Tomás Montano informed don José Lino de Len, a vicar of the Catholic Church in Córdoba, that he had caused a scandal of paramount proportions. According to the formal accusation, don José Lino had defamed his position “with little fear of God” by partaking in a scandalous relationship with his slave, Bernabela, treating “her less like a slave and more like a concubine.” The prosecutor presented four pieces of evidence to support his accusation. First, he argued, Bernabela had a child out of wedlock.
He revealed that don José Lino had purchased Bernabela and her eight-year-old daughter for 400 pesos from don Benito Cevallos.’ Second, while a slave of don José Lino, Bernabela had another child, although the child later died. The identity of the child’s father remained a mystery, but the prosecutor suspected don José Lino. Third, Bernabela wore clothes and accessories that were prohibited prohibited by the Edicts of Good Gov-ernment. Fourth, don Jose Lino manumitted her, and she managed the household as if she were the señora (lady of the house).? Don Jose Lino had cohabitated with Bernabela for ten years, and the ecclesiastical court found him guilty. However, don José Lino proclaimed his innocence, asking “how was it possible for him to engage in such acts as he was a priest and man of the Church?”
These two paragraphs shows that in XVIII century Cordoba a priest and a slave were ready to do what was necessary to stay together. They obviously loved each other and the system was more tolerant than expected because ten years together is a long time in a capital city that was no more than a village at that point. What broke the tolerance? She dared to use the garments of the señora and that was it. Women against women in a world ruled like men.
These are topics that we cover with Erika, who seems to be in the perfect place and moment to give a balanced account of a rather “tolerant” society where love is not just what Silvia Federici believes was introduced to compensate women for dealing with social reproduction but something else. Erikas own experience in a devastated country after the economic collapse of 2001 places her passport as a US citizen at the centre of a reversal of the story of our heroine but, as she tells us, it came with a series of issues.