This thesis analyzes the profiling practices of the Spanish Inquisition and explores how comparing these to present manifestations provides us a lens for understanding the phenomenon of racial profiling today. Irene Silverblatt notes that with reference to the Spanish Inquisition in colonial Peru, certain practices of the Inquisition constituted what could be called "racial profiling" in today's terminology. This thesis revisits Silverblatt's seminal observation and extends it to current questions of racial profiling, its nature, parameters, and the most notable differences and similarities between profiling during the Inquisition and racial profiling today, even as the enforcement in question shifts from matters of religious belief to policing with ethno-cultural characteristics in view. Currently, racial profiling is a phenomenon still in search of a standard definition and comprises complex legal and emotional issues involving law enforcement impacting many ethno-racial minorities. Specifically in border control, evidence suggests that tactics of racial profiling are employed to target undocumented immigrants with a criminal background, but the wider consequences can impact a wider range of individuals, some of which may include non-criminal, non-immigrant Latinos. Understanding how racial profiling worked in the Spanish Inquisition's procedures helps us to perceive racial profiling today with keener sensitivity and awareness. Specifically, with reference to perceptions of "Mexicanness" at the U.S.-Mexico border, this enables us to see how, for both, racial profiling draws parameters for categories of suspect(s) beyond demonstrable criminality to include wider, at times inaccurate, categorical markers of appearance and behavior which may not coincide with an ethno-racial group's identity on the group's own terms.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Fisher, Tyler


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities


Modern Languages

Degree Program

Latin American Studies



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date