How 16 Year Old Gregoria López, Sent Her Father to Prison for Rape in the 1600s

In seventeenth-century Mexico and at the time when women were recognized as properties than as their own persons, 16-year-old Gregoria López challenged the status quo and successfully sent her father to prison for raping her.

Gregoria López was an Afro-Mexican teenager in Mexico who was born to Mateo López but was cared for by Bernarda de San Joseph, her stepmother. They all lived together in the city of Pátzcuaro, Mexico, in 1685.

One night, Gregoria López was in her room when her father, Mateo, came in and raped her. Afterwards, he threatened her not to tell anybody about the act.

Going against his warnings, Gregoria went to a neighbour and told her of the incident and this neighbour encouraged her to file charges against her father- by filing a case with the tribunal. 

When Mateo learned that Gregoria went against his instructions and told someone about what he did, he beat her up and then raped her again.

When Gregoria took the case to the criminal tribunal, many people tried to talk her out of taking her father to court. It was unheard of for a daughter to charge her own father with a crime.

However Gregoria was not discouraged, she went in front of a criminal tribunal and even though the judges consisted of an all-male tribunal, she testified against her father- and emphasized that she was not to be blamed for the incest that was inflicted upon her.

The report by shared that when the tribunal requested details about the crime from Gregoria, “she framed her argument in religious terms, describing how her honour, her virginity, had been brutally violated by her father.”

Worthy of note is that when Gregoria appeared before the tribunal to defend herself against her father, she did so without the help of any counsel.

For his defence, Mateo denied the incest charge and claimed that he was only trying to make sure his daughter’s virginity was still intact like any responsible father would do.

Towards the end of the court proceedings, Gregoria’s stepmother, Bernarda, came before the tribunal as a witness against Mateo. She corroborated Gregoria’s story that Mateo indeed assaulted her.

In the end, Mateo was sentenced to jail by the tribunal and this victory for Gregoria became a moment of history that would never be forgotten, especially by the many women of African descent who never believed they could live to witness that kind of justice.

At that time in the world, where men were considered much more superior in every way, women of African descent were never bold enough to speak out against their abusers or to defend themselves against any form of assault- so it was a big deal that a teenager would take her own father to court, plead her case and come out victorious.

Also, women of African descent were stereotyped as sexually promiscuous and always blamed for whatever assault happened to them. 

Gregoria went in front of the tribunal to prove that she was the victim, and therefore not to be blamed for the assault. And she won!

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