The Enlightened Patrolman


The Enlightened Patrolman

Early Law Enforcement in Mexico City

Nicole von Germeten

Confluencias Series

350 pages
1 photograph, 8  maps, 6 tables, 1 graph, index


November 2022


$30.00 Add to Cart

November 2022


$99.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2022


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2022


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About the Book

When late eighteenth-century New Spanish viceregal administrators installed public lamps in the streets of central Mexico City, they illuminated the bodies of Indigenous, Afro-descended, and plebeian Spanish urbanites. The urban patrolmen, known as guarda faroleros, or “lantern guards,” maintained the streetlamps and attempted to clear the streets of plebeian sexuality, embodiment, and sociability, all while enforcing late colonial racial policies amid frequent violent resistance from the populace.

In The Enlightened Patrolman Nicole von Germeten guides readers through Mexico City’s efforts to envision and impose modern values as viewed through the lens of early law enforcement, an accelerated process of racialization of urban populations, and burgeoning ideas of modern masculinity. Germeten unfolds a tale of the losing struggle for elite control of the city streets. As surveillance increased and the populace resisted violently, a pause in the march toward modernity ensued. The Enlightened Patrolman presents an innovative study on the history of this very early law enforcement corps, providing new insight into the history of masculinity and race in Mexico, as well as the eighteenth-century origins of policing in the Americas.

Author Bio

Nicole von Germeten is a professor of Latin American history at Oregon State University–Corvallis. She is the author of several books, including Profit and Passion: Transactional Sex in Colonial Mexico and Violent Delights, Violent Ends: Sex, Race, and Honor in Colonial Cartagena de Indias.


"Clearly written and deeply researched, The Enlightened Patrolman offers readers several things: a nuanced history of urban policing, a social history of nocturnal Mexico City in the decades before independence, and a case study of a failed Bourbon reform. It will appeal to both specialists and undergraduate students in upper-level colonial Mexican and Latin American courses."—Christopher Albi, Hispanic American Historical Review

“Veritable intellectual dynamite—bursting with insights into colonial Mexico’s class and caste structures; exploding with new interpretations on criminality, law, poverty, and social order; and igniting new conversations on the linkages between surveillance, urban control, race, justice, and the Enlightenment. A masterwork of historical scholarship, The Enlightened Patrolman finely represents social history at its best.”—Ben Vinson III, author of Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico

“A richly textured reconstruction of the lowliest agents of late colonial order. . . . Combining small stories and a broad perspective, Germeten offers the first chapter of Mexico’s long history of resistance and negotiation of police power.”—Pablo Piccato, author of A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico

“An outstanding book that will help to reshape our understanding of early modernity in the Spanish New World as well as the social and cultural history of race and gender in one of the great urban centers of the time.”—William B. Taylor, author of Magistrates of the Sacred: Priests and Parishioners in Eighteenth-Century Mexico

“A groundbreaking examination of the roles of policing in its incipient forms in late colonial Mexico City.”—Sharon Bailey Glasco, author of Constructing Mexico City: Colonial Conflicts over Culture, Space, and Authority

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Light
2. Men Walking the Beat
3. To Protect and Serve
4. Nightlife
5. Guards in Trouble
6. Guards under Attack
7. The Night Watchmen, the Military, and Insurgency
Afterword: Mexico City Law Enforcement after Independence

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