Irving Leonard has likened the historical evolution of settler society in colonial New Spain to a high medieval drama. For Leonard, the ‘strange ethnic conglomerate of almost kaleidoscopic diversity’ and the elaborate societal façade of ‘intricately ornate design’ that made up New Spain were best encapsulated by the artistic sensibilities of the Baroque.1 This was a flamboyant society; on the one hand, it was rigidly structured and hierarchical, on the other, it was turbulent and full of contradictions. It was a society that developed sixteen different racial categorizations in order to preserve what historians have called a pigmentocracy, rule by the light-skinned, and yet allowed those with darker skin to purchase certificates of whiteness (cédulas de gracias al sacar), granting them access to status, honor and prestige – crucial elements in a society obsessed with all three.2