I, Doña Margarita Wiltz, resident of this city, present myself before Your Highness, with the best intent to say that it is my wish to affirm by purity of blood and good behavior. . . .
I, Doña Margarita Wiltz, do swear that I am a woman of pure blood and good character. . . .
My descendants on my mother’s and father’s side are all Christians from olden times and unadulterated by any inferior race, including Arabs, Jews, mulattos, Indians, or people recently converted to the religion, nor are they wanted or have they been prosecuted or convicted of crime, nor have they been sent to jail. On the contrary, we have always been of good reputation, good manners, and pure lineage. . . .
None of my ancestors on either side of my family were from inferior races. There are no Muslims, Jews, biracial people, Native people, or recent converts to Catholicism among my ancestors. None of my ancestors have ever been accused or convicted of a crime. Every one of my ancestors had a good reputation, good behavior, and pure blood.
Julia C. Frederick. “A Blood Test before Marriage: “Limpieza De Sangre” in Spanish Louisiana.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 43, no. 1 (2002): 75-85.
Spain took over the Louisiana colony at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. Their first task was to impose Spanish law and custom on the Louisiana colonists. They forbade all Spanish government officials and army officers from marrying women who could not prove their limpieza de sangre—purity of blood and good behavior. By doing this, the Spanish government assured that the ruling classes of the Spanish colonies would always be “racially pure.”
For Louisiana colonists, proving purity of blood and good behavior was no easy task. For one thing, every person born and raised in the colony was a French citizen until 1763. Many of the colonists were from Germany and Italy. White colonists in Louisiana also had a long history of relationships with free and enslaved Black and Native women, so there was a large population of free mixed-race people in Louisiana. And early in the colony’s history, the French government imported hundreds of lower-class and criminal French women to marry their colonists and boost the population. Many Louisiana colonists were descendants of convicted murderers or sex workers.
This history meant that Louisiana’s racial and social hierarchies were a great deal more complex and diverse than those of its neighboring colonies. By insisting that only women with impeccable white ancestry could marry their officials and officers, the Spanish government reinforced white supremacy.
About the Document
This is the opening statement from the 1776 limpieza de sangre trial of Margarita Wiltz. Margarita was the daughter of German immigrants and the widow of a French merchant. She was engaged to Jacinto Panis, a captain in the Spanish Army. Margarita had to prove her purity of blood and good behavior to the Spanish Minister of the Indies in order to marry him.
Margarita submitted thirty pages of evidence, including long, detailed statements from respectable witnesses. The documents claim that Margarita had no “inferior” blood or history of criminality in her family. After submitting her documents, Margarita swore an oath of loyalty to the Spanish government. This process was intended to assert the superiority of people of European descent, while also making sure any woman who married into the Spanish ruling class would bear racially pure and morally upstanding children.
The colonial government brought Margarita’s case before the king of Spain, who approved the match. Margarita and Jacinto were married before the end of 1776.
French and Indian War: A colonial war that was fought from 1754 to 1763 between the British and the French. The Spanish were allies of the British. Part of the larger global conflict known as the Seven Years War. The British triumphed, and greatly expanded their territory in North America.
limpieza de sangre: Purity of blood and good behavior.
Louisiana: Founded in 1682, this was the second North American colony claimed by the French. The territory stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. It was taken by the Spanish in 1763.
merchant: A person whose business is buying and selling goods.
limpieza de sangre: lim-pee-EH-za deh SAN-gre
Why did the Spanish government insist that all wives of government officials and army officers prove their purity of blood?
According to this document, who is considered impure in Spanish Louisiana? What does this reveal about the social hierarchy of Spanish Louisiana?
How did limpieza de sangre trials reinforce white supremacy?