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Barletta, The Moriscos

Barletta, The Moriscos

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Published by: davidwacks on Sep 22, 2009
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09/21/2009

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Moriscos
Prof. David Wacks, Dept. of Romance Languages, University of Oregonhttp://rl.uoregon.edu/people/faculty/profiles/wacks/index.phphttp://www.scribd.com/davidwacks
Vincent Barletta, “About the Moriscos”
Fernando II of Aragon and Isabel I of Castile (better known to history as the CatholicMonarchs) decisively put an end to over eight centuries of Muslim rule in the IberianPeninsula in the last months of 1491. They achieved this by finally taking by militaryforce the isolated and very vulnerable Nasrid Kingdom of Granada.Despite the steadily declining political power of Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula and theoverall importance of Granada's fall in 1491, it is crucial to remember that the end of Muslim rule in the Peninsula did not mean the end of Muslim life and culture there. Atthe beginning of the sixteenth century — eight years after Granada's fall — nearly half amillion Muslims were still living under the Catholic Monarchs' power (out of a totalIberian population of roughly nine million). These mudéjar (i.e., Muslims living under Christian rule) communities were centered to a great extent in and around Granada andValencia, though there were also sizeable communities in Aragon and smaller, moreassimilated groups scattered throughout Castile.Dragged under the Christian umbrella by force, the Granadan Muslims were hardly thesort of citizens that the Catholic Monarchs sought for their burgeoning nation-state: mostwere monolingual Arabic speakers, and there were numerous cases of Granadansexpressing a common cause with other Muslim communities around the Mediterranean,including the ascendant Ottoman Turks. Yet, as evidenced by the surrender terms offeredto the Granadans in 1491, there seemed to be little official desire on the part of Christianauthorities to change the practices or allegiances of their new subjects. As had been thecustom throughout most of the long period of Christian reconquest, these conqueredMuslims, new subjects of the Castilian crown, were allowed (de iure if not de facto) asignificant amount of political, cultural, and religious autonomy.Shortly after the start of the sixteenth century, however, the fortunes of Peninsular Muslims in general began to change. Pressured by the Toledan Archbishop FranciscoJiménez de Cisneros to take measures to bring the Muslims of Granada into the Christianfaith, and aware that alleged Christian abuses had provoked an uprising in the Alpujarras,King Fernando and Queen Isabel issued an order in 1502 requiring all Muslims in Castileand Leon to convert to Christianity or leave at once. The same law would reach Navarrein 1515 and Aragon in 1525. The royal order was widely enforced (executed in large part by mass baptisms and coercive tactics), and by the end of the first quarter of the sixteenthcentury, the official Muslim population of Spain had been reduced from nearly half amillion to nearly zero.Of course the speedy, mostly nominal conversion of Iberian Muslims to Christianity (theMuslims and Jews of Portugal had been expelled from that kingdom in 1497) does nottell the whole story. Because the overwhelming majority of these conversions were
 
Moriscos
 performed by coercion and under duress, whole communities of Muslims (now nominallyChristians) continued to practice Islam as they had before, some even doing so openly.Oddly enough, even as members of the clergy were actively (and in many cases, brutally)seeking the conversion and religious instruction of indigenous populations in theAmericas, there seems to have been only sporadic and largely unsuccessful efforts tocatechize Castile and Aragon's newly converted Muslim population. Whether such effortscould ever have been successful in the first place is, of course, open to debate. In anycase, as late as 1566 Iberian Muslims continued to practice their religion and maintaintheir cultural characteristics — in some cases openly — in areas where their populationwas most concentrated, such as Granada, Aragon and Valencia.Violent and abrupt change came with the 1567 decree issued by King Felipe II. Throughthese laws, the Spanish crown went much further than it had ever gone in the past withrespect to its Muslim — or crypto-Muslim — population of Granada. In a series of specific points, this decree called for the fundamental cultural, linguistic, and religiousassimilation not only of crypto-Muslims, but of sincerely converted Christians as well.Besides other troubling points, the 1567 decree (which built in part upon a similar decree passed in 1526 by Carlos V but never enacted) called for Granada's former Muslims —  by now referred to as "Moriscos" — to cease dressing in a style different from theChristian population; to cease speaking Arabic; to hand in for inspection and translationall documents (including land titles) written in Arabic; to leave the doors to their homesopen for inspection on Muslim holy days; to marry only according to the rules andcustoms of the Catholic Church; to cease using the public baths; and many other issues.The impact of these new laws was tremendous in largely assimilated Castilian as well asGranadan, Aragonese, and Valencian Morisco communities, as it mandated not onlyorthodox Catholic religious faith and practice, but also a wholesale adoption of Castilianlanguage and culture as well.Perhaps unsurprisingly (and due largely to Castilian inflexibility) the laws of 1567 — along with new royal policies that actively sought to rob agricultural land from Moriscos — also met with more combative, violent resistance. This was especially true withinGranada and Valencia, where Arabic speech and Muslim customs had been most widely preserved.Combative resistance in fact led to open rebellion in Granada, where an army of a fewthousand Moriscos took to the hills of the Alpujarras in late 1568, gamely resistingSpanish military forces for over two years. The rebellion was violently put down by aseasoned army under the direction of Don Juan de Austria in 1571, and in its aftermaththe Moriscos of Granada — not just the surviving combatants, but the majority of the population — were forced to leave Granada and relocate to other regions of Spain, principally Castile.This mass relocation constituted a significant socio-cultural change for both thetransported Granadans and the largely assimilated Castilian Moriscos, who in fact hadvery little in common with their new neighbors. This massive internal population shift
 
Moriscos
had less of an impact on Morisco communities in Aragon, though it is safe to say that thedecree of 1567 itself, as well as the unsuccessful rebellion in the Alpujarras, made thingsdifficult for Moriscos everywhere in the Iberian Peninsula.By the turn of the seventeenth century there was a wide debate in Spain about whatshould be done in response to the "cuestión morisca." A number of Christian clericsadvocated renewed efforts to give the Moriscos the religious instruction necessary for their full assimilation into Spanish society. Aragonese and Valencian nobles, whose largetracts of agricultural land depended extensively upon Morisco labor, were oftenoutspoken advocates for patience and tolerance with respect to the Moriscos. On the other side, however, there were much louder and more powerful voices calling for theimmediate expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain.In one of the more unfortunate political coincidences of Spanish history, the public debateregarding the Moriscos heated up during the reign of the exceptionally weak King FelipeIII, who reigned from 1598-1621. King Felipe’s government was run by the ambitiousFrancisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, Duke of Lerma (1533-1625), who personally sawto it that the policies of the Spanish state reflected his will during his tenure as the king'sright hand. One of a relatively small but influential group that strongly favored Moriscoexpulsion, the Duke of Lerma convinced Felipe to sign into law the forced expulsion of all Moriscos from Castile in 1609, and from the rest of Spain by 1614.It is estimated that by 1609 there were roughly 350,000 Moriscos in Spain, making upover four percent of the total Spanish population. This percentage increases significantlyin areas such as Aragon and Valencia, where Moriscos made up a much higher portion of the regional population. Especially in Aragon, the expulsion of the Moriscos left wholevillages empty, large quantities of crops ruined, and the local economy devastated.Beyond its economic cost, the expulsion exacted a high human cost as well: having toleave Spain by sea, many people, including the elderly and children, died in the roughwaters of the Mediterranean or found themselves under attack by thieves, brigands, andeven regional authorities upon landing in North Africa.As with its expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and its policies and practices in the Americasduring the same period, Spain's treatment of the Moriscos stands as a tremendous scar onits national history. As early as the first decades after the fall of Granada, Spanishauthorities began to single out this minority population of several thousand people,harassing them to varying degrees for over a century before expelling them by force. Acruel and narrow-minded solution to a difficult but workable — and hardly novel — question of coexistence. But, as Francisco Márquez Villanueva has argued, the Moriscoexpulsion was but part of a series of policies that allowed a powerful minority to chart afuture for Spain that would transform it into the nation they desired it to be:homogeneous, resolutely Catholic, and secure from unwanted outside influences (1991).During this entire century-long period of conversion, adaptation, negotiation, and flux,Spanish crypto-Muslims did a number of things to continue practicing Islam and holdthemselves together as communities. One of these was the practice of taqiyya, a religious

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