Una sociedad legalista: Abogados, procuradores de causas y la creación de una cultura legal colonial en Lima y Potosí, 1540–1670

Renzo Honores, Florida International University


This study deals with the formation, reproduction, and the role in litigation of two branches of the legal profession, lawyers and procurators. They were the experts in charge of civil, criminal, and ecclesiastical litigation during the Old Regime. While the lawyers provided erudite legal advice, procurators oriented and drove the procedure as legal representatives of their clients. The European legal revolutions of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries forged a new legal culture in which the lawsuit was reputed to be the best way to settle disputes. Likewise, that legal culture conferred an important place to specialists as legal facilitators of the contending parties. When Castilians exported their legal system to the New World, they spread a complex and bureaucratic framework, contributing to the reproduction of a class of experts in urban spaces. Lima and Potosi, two urban centers created in the sixteenth century, quickly became significant ‘legal cities’. This dissertation explores how the legal markets of these cities operated, the careers of their specialists, their professional options, social images regarding them, and litigation costs. This study examines the careers of 267 facilitators and demonstrates that they constituted a class of distinctive legal professionals. Legal culture embodies the representation and use of law. The closeness of specialists with litigants, in particular of procurators familiarized the parties with litigation and its complex processes. These specialists forged dominant legal discourses and manipulated juridical order. Litigants were not passive agents of their specialists. Caciques and members of the Hispanicized communities appropriated the law in a visible way as the growing litigiousness illustrates. Colonial law (of a pluralistic basis) was an arena of assertion and discussion of rights by different social actors, encomenderos, leading citizens, widows, native chieftains, artisans, and commoners. This study concludes that this struggle and manipulation served to legitimate the role of those legal experts and gave birth to a complex legalistic society in the Andes under Spanish Habsburg rule.

Subject Area

Latin American history|Law

Recommended Citation

Honores, Renzo, "Una sociedad legalista: Abogados, procuradores de causas y la creación de una cultura legal colonial en Lima y Potosí, 1540–1670" (2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3329520.