word clouds of Quito jail visitas, 1749-1830

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog directly related to my own research on 18th- and 19th-century Quito. With help from a graduate research assistant, I’m finally getting around to transcribing more of the jail visitas (censuses) that I collected last summer at the ANE. My assistant is right now working on 1749 and 1750. Word clouds of these visitas demonstrate shifting policing priorities in pretty stark fashion. Below are a series of word clouds produced using Wordle. Click on the images to see them full size.

So, just how obsessed with sex were royal officials in the latter decades of the 18th-century, and how does that obsession compare before and after?


A quick note on the cloud above– this is raw data that hasn’t been cleaned up for half of 1749 and half of 1750. Unlike the clouds below, this one counts reasons for every single week, rather than every single individual in jail. Still, the preponderance of theft arrests are overwhelming.







And, here’s the cloud for 1829:

The shifts are visually striking. In the first, arrests for thievery/robbery so overwhelm all other reasons as to make them illegible. The second most prevalent reason for that period was debt (deuda) followed by murder (muerte). Follow that with the clouds from 1767-1789 and the shift is clearly evident, as concubinato (illicit sex between unmarried individuals) and ronda (people picked up on nightly rounds of the city, usually for drinking and cavorting) join robo (robbery/thievery). And then, again, we witness a shift in the 1820s away from sex and towards debt and slavery issues. Capitación was the short-lived name for the Indian head tax after tribute was “abolished.” Amo = master, and I should note that in the 1820s this term increasingly came to be used for not only slaves, but also for indigenous huasipongos, debt peons working on haciendas.


Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Posted in Digital History, Latin American History, Research and Writing

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Hacer juicio ú dictamen acerca de alguna cosa... significando que el objeto excita el juicio ú dictamen en la persona que le hace.

Deducir ante el Juez la accion ú derecho que se tiene, ó las excepciones que excluyen la accion contrária.

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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