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Hierarchy, Commerce, and Fraud in Bourbon Spanish America
A Postal Inspector's Expose

Author(s): Ruth Hill

Using El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes (the "Guide for Blind Rovers" by Alonso Carrio de Lavandera, the best known work of the era) as a jumping off point for a sprawling discussion of 18th-century Spanish America, Ruth Hill argues for a richer, more nuanced understanding of the relationship between Spain and its western colonies. Armed with primary sources including literature, maps, census data, letters, and diaries, Hill reveals a rich world of intrigue and artifice, where identity is surprisingly fluid and always in question. More importantly, Hill crafts a complex argument for reassessing our understanding of race and class distinctions at the time, with enormous implications for how we view conceptions of race and class today.

Biography of Author(s)

Ruth Hill is Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Sceptres and Sciences in the Spains: Four Humanists and the New Philosophy (c. 1680-1740) (Liverpool, 2000) as well as numerous articles.


  • A must read for scholars interested not only in El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes but also in the material reality of the Enlightenment in colonial Spanish America.
    ---Mariselle Melendez, Revista De Estudios Hispanicos
  • However, much of our critical understanding of this text will now have to be rethought in light of Ruth Hill's provocative new book. Hill's book not only brings into focus many previously unfathomed layers of Carrio's text but also provides a fascinating glimpse into the underworld of Bourbon officialdom - a world of sexual, social, and occupational intrigues in which racial and class identities were more complex than has generally been appreciated by literary critics. Hill argues that the proto-nationalist historiographic commonplace that has frequently been invoked in order to explain all of eighteenth-century Spanish American literary culture in terms of a conflict or rivalry between criollos and peninsulares is inadequate for an understanding not only of Carrio de Lavandera's text, but also for much of eighteenth-century Spanish American literature and culture more generally. Most immediately, however, there can be no doubt that Hill's new book stands as a model of scholarly erudition, historicist methodology, archival research for literary scholars and that if makes important critical interventions that will set the parameters for all future discussions of Carrio's text and stimulate critical debate beyond.
  • A study of great scope, depth and originality. It questions, challenges and surprises, and it cannot be disregarded by any contemporary scholar of Bourbon Spanish-America or of Lazarillo de ciegos caminantes.
    --Bulletin of Spanish Studies
  • Prof. Hill has delivered an extraordinarily rich piece of historical and literary scholarship. Hill offers original readings and throws new light on some of this canonical text's most hotly debated issues. Prof. Hill takes up the challenge of reading colonial writing through material culture… and she delivers masterfully.
    --Karen Stolley, Emory University
  • Richly detailed, amply documented, and wholly original, this book looks at eighteenth-century Spanish America through the dual prism of literature and history. The real focus, though, is race and class in the Spanish colonies . . . the entire field is richer and more interesting because of [Hill's] efforts.
    --The Virginia Quarterly Review