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“Declaration of Status”

by Isabel la mulata

Isabel de Olvera was a domestic servant who joined the relief expedition to Juan de Oñate's colony in New Mexico in 1600. Before leaving Queretaro, she sought to protect her status as a free woman of color on the frontier of New Spain by filing a deposition affirming that she was a free laborer and an unmarried woman. Witnesses who knew her supported her official statement in every detail.

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Mexico or New Spain, ca. 1777“Mexico or New Spain, ca. 1777,” Theodore Kitchin (Artist)

In the town of Querétaro in New Spain, January 8, 1600, there appeared before Don Pedro Lorenzo de Castilla, his majesty's alcalde mayor in this town, a mulatto woman named Isabel, who presented herself before his grace in the appropriate legal manner and declared that “as I am going on the expedition to New Mexico and have reason to fear that I may be annoyed by some individuals, since I am a mulatto, and as it is proper to protect my rights in such an eventuality by an affidavit showing that I am a free woman, unmarried, the legitimate daughter of Hernando, a negro, and an Indian named Magdalena, I therefore request your grace to accept this affidavit, which shows that I am free and not bound by marriage or slavery. I request that a properly certified and signed copy be given to me in order to protect my rights, and that it carry full legal authority. I demand justice. Isabel.”