Chapter Seven


What do you want me to say, do you want me to say that I have been a Muslim? I know nothing . . . I admit that the truth is whatever your graces say.

Teruel, 1581

AT THE END OF the 16th century the story of the Inquisition describes a circle. In Spain, the peak of the converso and Lutheran threat was past.*1 For a moment, though, we should remember the conversos of the 15th century, these miserable souls thought of as Jews by the Christians and believed Christians by the Jews. A hundred years later it was the turn of the moriscos, the descendants of the converted Muslims, to be seen as the greatest threat to national security in Spain. A category was ready and waiting for them: the Old Christians in Spain thought them Muslims: many of the Muslims of North Africa considered them Christians.

What of the Christian opinion of this fated remnant of Iberia’s Muslim civilization? The bishop of Segorbe in the kingdom of Valencia compiled a report in 1587 summarizing the general view. The moriscos never confessed their sins. They married as many women as they could support. They believed that if they killed a Christian they would be saved. They circumcized themselves. They observed the Muslim fasts such as Ramadan and ignored all the Christian fasts. They never ate pork or drank wine.1 They were not Christians.

Other reports of the time were just as scathing. The moriscos had to be dragged by bailiffs to church. Once inside they always wore their worst clothes with filthy collars. They sat with their backs to the altar. They covered their ears with their hands when sermons were preached. They made obscene gestures when the priest raised the host. Many of them ploughed their fields and sewed their crops on Sundays and Christian feast days.2

Many prominent churchmen had seen at first hand how the moriscos retained their faith in Islam. When the bishop of Tortosa visited the morisco settlement of Vall de Artos in Aragon in 1568 the moriscos angrily told him that Philip II oppressed them by forcing them to be Christians. When the bishop jokingly replied, ‘Are you telling me you’re all Moors?’ some of them replied, ‘Yes we are!’ and when he asked them, ‘Are you speaking just for yourselves?’ they answered, ‘We all say the same’. At that the whole town erupted and yelled with the few outspoken ones, ‘We all say the same!’3

As we shall see, attempts at evangelizing these folk had been worse than useless. They had been abandoned to their lot in the hills. Here the more rotund emissaries of the national religion preferred not to tread, so there had been few wholehearted attempts to integrate these new sheep in the larger flock. Thus it was that the Islamic threat had been ignored until it was time to turn on it as evidence of the perils of this world.

TYPICAL OF THE WAY in which the new fear of moriscos manifested itself were events in Teruel. It had been here, we may recall, that the Inquisition had first come to Aragon in 1484, when Juan Garces de Marcilla’s personal hatred of his in-laws had brought him to play his part in the institution’s history.*2 Now once again this small town high in the hinterland between the Mediterranean coast and the Castilian steppe proved to be a bellwether for the forces at work in Spain; almost one hundred years after Marcilla’s purge of his enemies, there would be little to suggest that the motivations of the participants in the inquisitorial dance of resentment and revenge had changed.

In Teruel much of the original Muslim population had converted to Christianity and adopted Christian customs voluntarily in the 1400s.4 This process had continued in the early 16th century when again Muslims in the town had converted voluntarily,5 and long before the violent forced conversions of the 1520s. These events made it clear that moriscos in Teruel had initially come freely to Christianity. Such was their sincerity that they were even known by all as Old Christians.6

There can therefore be no doubt that these converts should have been welcomed by the church, yet the problem for the moriscos was to be the same as that the conversos had faced the century before: conversion turned them into an ambiguous social group which could easily be targeted at times of unease. Thus the sincerity of the conversions in Teruel did not prevent the Inquisition from bearing down in the 1580s and investigating the town’s moriscos. No one had previously doubted that these people were Christians; the task was to discover how it was that such apparently genuine converts had been led back towards Muslim apostasy. Could it be the case that none of this morisco class could be trusted, and that all of them bore the seeds of heresy in their hearts?

In June 1581 evidence began to be received in Teruel against one Diego de Arcos. Arcos lived in the neighbourhood of San Bernardo along with the other moriscos whose families had converted voluntarily over 150 years before.7 Arcos’s sister Luisa Caminera came to tell the inquisitors that ‘she had always had the fantasy [sic] and intention to come to discharge her conscience before the inquisitors but had not dared to come before for fear of the moriscos of the street’. Almost all the residents of San Bernardo, she said, lived as Muslims. The moriscos of Teruel had two aljamas (communities), one for those who were single and one for those who were married. Arcos prayed in the Muslim fashion and fasted during Ramadan.

The following year another of Diego de Arcos’s siblings, his somewhat ironically named brother Joan de Arcos,*3 denounced him. By now Diego had been arrested, and Joan said that he had told his brother many times before his capture that he should convert properly to the Christian faith and leave Islam, since ‘this was the true path to save his soul and his property’ – of the latter, at least, there could be no doubt.

Slowly, the evidence built. Joan announced that the entire community lived as Muslims and that they had all sworn to one another to deny it even if they were seized by the inquisitorial authorities. Then Gil Pérez of the town of Gea de Albarracín described how in 1577 large numbers of moriscos had come from Teruel to celebrate a wedding at Gea. There they had eaten turnovers and honey and figs and raisins, and listened to an alfaqui (Islamic scholar) from Teruel give high praise to Islam.

With such clear evidence of this Muslim conspiracy further delay would have been dangerous. The authorities arrested the renegade moriscos and threw them into the inquisitorial jail in Valencia. Now investigations could proceed apace, and evidence of the conspiracy be collected.

However, when they investigated Diego de Arcos, the inquisitors had a bit of a shock. Arcos declared himself to be an Old Christian; indeed, he said that all the people of Teruel were Old Christians. He was able to cross himself. He could say the paternoster and the Ave Maria in Latin. He clearly came from the group of converts in Teruel who were seen as Old Christians, and had a decent knowledge of Christianity.

None of this, however, discouraged the inquisitorial prosecutor, who formulated fifteen charges against Arcos. He had consulted an alfaqui in Gea de Albarracín. He was renowned as the most dangerous Muslim of Teruel. He alone was responsible for the fact that many of the moriscos of the town were not good Christians. He used halal butchers and had plotted to kill another morisco who had made denunciations to the Inquisition. He kept the fast of Ramadan and dressed smartly for Muslim festivals. He mockedmoriscos who had become devoted Christians. Last of all, although he was a morisco he had the temerity to claim that he was an Old Christian.

It might be expected that such a terrible apostate would show little sign of Christian grace. Arcos denied everything and was tortured. Put into the potro, he was given an extraordinary twelve turns of the rope as his leg was dragged through the gap in the rungs of the table. But in spite of appalling agonies, Arcos repeatedly protested his innocence: ‘He said: he is a Christian and has lived as a Christian and does not know anything more’. Asked to tell the truth so that the torture would not continue, he said: ‘I have already told it, Illustrious Gentlemen’. He said: ‘I will say everything which you tell me to’. He said: ‘I am already dead and I will say everything you want me to’. and ‘I will condemn myself to whatever you want’. As the jars of water were poured down his throat, he said, ‘What do you want me to say, do you want me to say that I have been a Muslim? I know nothing . . . I admit that the truth is whatever your graces say’. Eventually he said, ‘Ay, I am dying here’.

As the torture continued, the inquisitorial officials probed the extent of Arcos’s knowledge of Arabic. This consisted of one word which he had overheard two moriscos mention in Teruel. Here was proof of his origins in the Old Christian community, since Arabic was the common language of the overwhelming majority of moriscos who had converted in the 1520s. But of course in the agonies of the potro Arcos eventually did confess. He said that he had been converted to Islam by his wife; yet this confession of his secret apostasy was littered with phrases such as ‘By the body of the Christian God!’

The Inquisition burnt him as a dogmatizing Muslim heretic in an auto in Valencia.

A careful reading of the inquisitorial cases against moriscos in Aragon and Valencia during these years reveals a disturbing picture. As in the case of Diego de Arcos, morisco heretics often confessed to their sins only after they had been tortured.8 The precise number tortured into confessing what they had never done, or who after being mistreated determined to turn to the Islamic faith, can never be known, but was surely considerable. Thus, as with the conversos in the 15th century, the Inquisition began by torturing false confessions out of some and pretending that some cases of secret apostasy were akin to a movement.

Arcos’s case was one among many of the supposedly sincere Islamic converts to Christianity in these years. In Teruel, if some of these old converts had reconverted to Islam, it was not owing to their inherent seditiousness but rather the hostile atmosphere in Spain. They were pushed towards rebellion and rebellion was then held up as evidence against them.

In creating an enemy to destroy, the fantasies of the villagers of Spain were crucial. We should not forget that Diego de Arcos’s sister Luisa de Caminera had said that ‘she had always had the fantasy’ of denouncing the moriscos of Teruel, and her brother, to the inquisitors. Minor squabbles during play in the dusty streets of this remote town could be dramatized on a grand religious stage. In this theatre of the imagination that which was insignificant appeared of lasting importance. Those who knew their Bible and the story of Cain and Abel, or of Esau and Isaac, knew that family rivalries had always shaped the religious history of the peoples of the Book. It was one of the social roles of the Inquisition to breathe life into this sad human tradition, and to give the petty and the unjust a veneer of righteousness and justice.

IN 1566 A CONGREGATION of churchmen met in Valencia to discuss the condition of the moriscos in Spain. Forty years had passed since the decree had been finalized that all remaining Muslims should convert to Christianity. Nevertheless, as the evidence from the Congregation showed, progress in evangelizing the new morisco flock had been, to say the least, halting.

The Congregation noted that since 1526 the moriscos ‘have not been taught any Christian doctrine either publicly or privately, they have not been visited or punished by the bishops or by the ministers of the Inquisition’.9 This absence of inquisitorial attention derived from the amnesty granted by Charles V in 1542,*4 but also from a general lack of interest by the Church hierarchy in its morisco charges.10 While in the first years after the general conversion 213 mosques were consecrated as churches in Valencia, and many others in the Aragonese districts of Tortosa and Orihuela, enthusiasm soon waned. There were few preachers who spoke Arabic and could communicate with the moriscos. The new rectories in the morisco settlements soon fell into debt. The abysmal state of the evangelizing effort was confirmed by the Cortes of Aragon in 1564, which demanded that mosques be converted into churches and that the Korans, trumpets and Muslim ritual objects be taken away forty years after Islam had supposedly been abolished in Spain.11

Meanwhile, even those mosques which had been made into churches were falling into disuse by 1566. The Congregation of Valencia admitted that ‘in many cases it will be necessary to build new churches and in others to repair them, and in all places there is a great need for ornaments and communion cups and crosses’.12 There were many moriscos who had simply not been baptized.13 Most could only speak Arabic and lived in remote mountainous places where the bishops and preachers and inquisitorial commissaries were hardly ever seen.14

Moreover, the few priests who did live among the moriscos set a terrible example.15 These shepherds were so suspicious of their flocks that, as the Spanish ambassador to Paris Francés de Álava noted, in the Alpujarra mountains near Granada they would often turn around suddenly when raising the host to the communion cup to see if the moriscos were on their knees and then let rip ‘horrendous, vituperative and arrogant words’. These priests lived in the towns disposing of ‘absolute power and arrogance over themoriscos, continually picking quarrels’.16

Thus many moriscos knew little or nothing about Christian practice, while those that did know something often learnt to hate it. Typically, moriscos did not know how to cross themselves and could not recite any Christian prayers.17 Yet such ignorance was not, at least in the early years, necessarily a matter of choice.

In 1570 the moriscos of Valencia repeatedly petitioned the local authorities to be taught Christian doctrines. They wanted to be given priests and have churches built for them. Otherwise, as they quite reasonably pointed out, ‘[we] will never be good Christians’.18In the village of Altzira, for instance, the moriscos demanded visitors and people to teach them the articles of the faith.19 How could they possibly adhere to Christianity if no one deigned to teach them its principles?

That after the Church’s abject failure to evangelize or impart doctrine these ‘Christian’ converts should be subjected to an Inquisition into their religious practices seems obscene. What becomes apparent is that there were many among the priestly hierarchy who, perhaps unconsciously, had no desire to see the moriscos join the faithful. Humiliation and distrust do not encourage others to share your beliefs – as Francés de Álava moderately put it ‘this certainly seemed to me a bad way of teaching them Christian doctrine’20 –and yet this was the recipe concocted by the priests ‘of bad example’ who went among the moriscos.

The reality was that nations, like all clubs, defined themselves by excluding others as well as through more affirmative means. Now that the ‘Jewish’ conversos had been dealt with, the role of sacrificial lamb was to be assumed, with perhaps even more suffering, by the seditious, dangerous, heretical moriscos.

Granada 1566–70

HERE WERE THE LAST remnants of one of the great civilizations of the medieval period. The Alhambra burnt red nightly in the gloaming. The city’s 200 mosques, still active in the first years after the Spanish conquest,21 were naked of their original adornments. Reconsecrated, a new sacral language echoed in the empty buildings.

Moorish Granada had not lasted long after the conquest of 1492. Following the intolerant behaviour of Cisneros in 1500,*5 in 1502 the Muslims had been forced to convert or leave. While at first there was no inquisitorial tribunal in Granada, by the time of the forced conversions in Aragon and Valencia in the 1520s attitudes were changing. A tribunal was established in Granada in 1526, and that same year a religious Congregation met and adopted a series of repressive measures against the moriscos: they were prohibited from speaking Arabic; their bath houses had to be run by Old Christians; they were not to practise circumcision or marry under Muslim rites; they were not allowed to bear arms or kill animals according to Muslim ritual.22

The 1526 Congregation of Granada was effectively a declaration of assimilation by force. These foreigners within the national body would have to learn to speak like ‘us’, behave like ‘us’, and become like ‘us’. And yet such demands, backed up by force, revealed a searing tension in the minds of policymakers between the desire to assimilate and the desire to exclude. Something of the state of mind among even those who were supposedly the most enlightened members of the Congregation is revealed by the friar Antonio de Guevara, who was a famous writer and humanist thinker: Guevara wanted personally to shear off the hair of the morisco women living in the land of the marquess of Cenete, and to scrape off their henna with his bare hands.23

The desire to inflict such physical humiliation revealed the passions which were disguised in the blueprint for the spiritual transformation of the moriscos. Here, in all its fear and guilt-ridden contradictoriness, was the tortured psychology of these holy men, who wished others to submit (to conversion), and yet at the same time could not escape the desire for that submission to come by force; the incompatibility of logic and desire would mean that the most refined theological and political thought was always undone.

The sole respite for the moriscos of Granada in the decrees of the 1526 Congregation was that they managed to forestall their implementation, paying 80,000 ducats in return for a forty-year postponement. While this protected them for a time, there was a steady erosion of their freedom to live as they had always done. Gaspar de Ávalos, archbishop of Granada from 1529 to 1542, banned them from performing their traditional dances, the zambras.24 By 1560 the Inquisition was renewing its interest in them: sevenmoriscoswere burnt in two autos in 1560, two more in 1562 and again in 1566, while over seventy moriscos were being reconciled each year in these autos.25 Then on 1 January 1567 the 1526 Congregation of Granada was enforced, in spite of renewed appeals from themoriscos.26 Again, the Inquisition was a key arm of the state in enforcing the new policy, and in the auto of 2 February 1567 in Granada four moriscos were burnt alive and sixty reconciled.27 The stage was quite naturally set for rebellion.

The Alpujarra mountains had long been a centre for cultural resistance. On Christmas Eve 1568 the moriscos of these beautiful mountains rose against their Christian masters. At first the rebellion was restricted to a few isolated spots, but gradually it spread throughout Andalusia. Contingents of supporters came to help the moriscos from North Africa.28 By the end of 1569 there were 20,000 Spanish troops fighting 26,000 rebels, and more reinforcements were needed as the moriscos attempted to gain revenge for seventy years of suffering:

They robbed, burnt and destroyed the churches, stoned the images of veneration, destroyed the altars, and grabbed hold of the priests of Christ . . . dragging them naked down the streets and through the squares to great public scandal. They knifed some and burnt others alive, and made many suffer a range of martyrdom. They were equally as cruel to the lay Old Christians who lived in these places, and there was no respect from neighbour to neighbour, fellow godparent to fellow godparent, friend to friend . . . they looted their houses, and those who took refuge in towers and forts were trapped inside and surrounded by a ring of fire.29

These violent assaults naturally confirmed the Old Christians in their belief that the moriscos were dangerous foes. A new internal enemy was at hand, and needed to be dealt with in the same manner as the Lutherans of Valladolid and Seville. Yet the reality was that the Islamic credentials of this rebellion were at best partial. For while the rebels destroyed the churches and recited some Muslim prayers, they also engaged in activity which was hardly consonant with Muslim practice and ritual:

The married women stripped off and exhibited their breasts, and the virgins their heads; and with their hair falling around their shoulders they danced publicly in the streets, embracing the men as young boys pranced before them waving their handkerchiefs in the air, shouting loudly that now the time of innocence had arrived.30

There was no belief here in the need for women to cover their heads and conceal their flesh. What existed was hatred of their humiliators and a desire to cast off decades of cultural and sexual repression. The violence with which they murdered their priests was a mirror to the violence which had originally been directed at them. In effect, the persecution of the ‘Muslim’ fifth column had fomented the revolt.

The Alpujarra insurgency marked a turning point in the history of the moriscos of Spain. Some 80,000 troops were assembled to extinguish the rebellion.31 After their final defeat in 1570, 80,000 moriscos were expelled from the region and dispersed throughout the rest of Spain, leaving just 10,000–15,000 in the old capital of Moorish Spain.32 Just as the Jews had been expelled from Andalusia in 1483, so now it was the turn of the moriscos. Purge and purify; in Iberia the past returned inexorably, together with the errors of the past.

The expulsion created more problems than it solved. The moriscos of Granada were not – unlike their counterparts in Aragon and Valencia – Hispanicized.33 The refugees had no intention of being amenable in the land of their breaking. Their new neighbours started making scandalized depositions to inquisitors about moriscos who declared papal bulls to be ‘not glory but shit’,34 or about morisca widows who dug up the bodies of their husbands after their Christian burials so as to bury them with Islamic rites.35 Thus the solution to the morisco problem of Granada exacerbated tensions in Castile and further divided the moriscos who lived there from the Old Christians.36

Of course the Inquisition was not the sole cause of these problems. It was not the Inquisition which enforced the expulsion of moriscos from Granada or defeated the Alpujarra revolt of 1568–70. Nor was it the Inquisition which came up with the original proposals of the Congregation of Granada. The Inquisition was, rather, an enforcer, the agent of ideological repression in what was then the most powerful country in the world. And thus it was to the Inquisition that Philip II turned as the atmosphere hardened against the moriscos in the late 1550s. It was the Inquisition which seized all the weapons of the moriscos in organized searches in Aragon (1563) and Granada (1565).37 And it was the Inquisition which the moriscos would come to blame for their misfortunes.

Valencia 1587

WITH THE DISPERSAL of the moriscos of Granada, attitudes began to harden nationwide. The courts of the Inquisitions of Valencia and Zaragoza – now the areas with the largest numbers of moriscos in the country – were thick with denunciations leading to torture, reconciliation and ‘relaxation’. A curious relationship developed between the year of the Islamic heresy and the actual spread of that heresy itself: just as with the theoretical implications for physics of Schrödinger’s cat, so in history and politics – the perception of danger and enemies contributed decisively to the reality.

In the hinterland of Valencia the morisco surgeon Damián Acen Dobber was arrested by the Inquisition in 1572 and reconciled for being a crypto-Muslim. In 1587, as the atmosphere of hostility sharpened, Dobber was arrested again. Five witnesses came forward to say that it was public knowledge in the town of Buñol that Dobber was an alfaqui. On many Friday nights the men and women of the morisco community of Buñol would gather at his house in their finest clothes, which led to gossip among the other residents of the town. One Friday night the five witnesses decided to catch the heretics red-handed.38

That night the main door of Dobber’s house was locked but the five good citizens of Buñol found another door in the side of the house. Bursting in, they came upon Dobber seated with a lute in his hands and without his shoes, reading and chanting from a book which another morisco had opened before him. Dobber was surrounded by about fifty moriscos in an open courtyard encircled by four pillars. On each side there was a stone bench which functioned as a sort of altar, on which were large shells filled with water and a blue cloth. The courtyard, the witnesses said, was reminiscent of the mosques which they had seen in the kingdom of Granada. The women were sitting on clothes and pillows with the men around them on stone benches.39

For the Inquisition this was the equivalent of a smoking gun. Here was Dobber caught by five upstanding citizens leading Islamic prayers. However, Dobber denied the charges. The moriscos of the town had come to him because he was the public scribe and accountant. There was nothing Islamic about the meeting at all.40 Indeed, when one thinks about what the witnesses had actually seen, doubts surface as to what had gone on. Dobber had been seen playing a musical instrument and reading a book; there had been shells with blue cloths and water which the witnesses saw as ‘altars’. But there is little notably Islamic about these objects, which could have been decorative. The building ‘looked like the mosques of Granada’, but it was natural for the architectural heritage of Islamic Spain to live on in the aesthetic choices of the moriscos. There were fifty moriscos at the meeting, but a large gathering of friends is not necessarily a sign of heresy.

The Old Christians of Buñol would probably have been suspicious whatever they had found. Dobber was one of the richest moriscos of the town, and this in itself marked him out as a leader of the community. Thus perception and preconception played its part in the denunciations that were made against him. Of course, it is possible that there was some substance in the accusations, but the lack of clear evidence shows just how far the atmosphere made it difficult to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

Dobber, for one, knew that it would be impossible to get a fair trial so while he was incarcerated in the inquisitorial prison of Valencia he attempted to escape. He broke open his window and tried to jump to freedom using a rope strung together from his bed sheets. The sheets became unknotted and he fell to the street, breaking his leg. At this, the Inquisition proceeded apace with his trial. He was tortured. He continued to deny everything. Unable to break him down, the Inquisition sentenced him to 400 lashes and ten years in the galleys.41

In many ways the Dobber case epitomizes the condition of the moriscos in Valencia and Aragon as the 16th century came to an end. The fear and suspicion felt by Old Christians was matched by the prejudices of the moriscos: any meeting of moriscos was seen as Islamic and Dobber was ready to risk his life escaping rather than continue his incarceration.

BY THE END OF the 16th century the Inquisition had become the most effective means of repressing the moriscos.42 Between 1545 and 1621, a total of 232 moriscos were ‘relaxed’ across Spain, with the greatest concentration in Zaragoza.43 By the late 1580s there were so many moriscos under arrest in Cordoba that they could not all fit into the inquisitorial jail.44 Moriscos constituted three-quarters of the inquisitorial caseload in Valencia between 1570 and 1614, and 56 per cent of the caseload in Zaragoza.45 Their arrest and potential ‘relaxation’ fostered fear, but even more central to the dissemination of hatred among the moriscos was the Inquisition’s use of torture, which became completely routine in these years.

Reading through the cases of moriscos in the inquisitorial courts of Valencia and Zaragoza of the time, it is sobering to see that of the majority it is said ‘diligences [of torture] were made’. Frequently, it was only in the torture chamber that a morisco would confess ‘to having been a Muslim all their lives’. Not infrequently, these ‘Muslims’ would revoke their confessions once out of the potro;46 however, this was a mistake since a retraction could often lead to their being tortured again.47 Of course, as we saw in Chapter Three, some moriscos were spared torture because of their physical condition or age, but nevertheless the fact that most moriscos arrested by the Inquisition at this period were tortured speaks for itself. Although the Inquisition could not deal with the vast number of apostate moriscos which they believed to exist48 and was only capable of trying a small proportion of the total, the indiscriminate use of torture was decisive in creating hatred of the Inquisition among all moriscos.49

To this use of torture was allied a sort of routine humiliation. When Beatriz Padilla, wife of Francisco Maestro, a basketmaker from Arcos, brought her husband in the inquisitorial jail of Cuenca a clean shirt, she was put on a donkey and paraded naked from the waist up through Arcos with a preacher crying out her crime, before being given one hundred lashes.50 And when in 1579 the convicted morisco of Murcia, Martin Varuni, broke his sentence of banishment to come back and see his wife and children, the Inquisition ordered him to begin his enforced exile all over again.51

Cases such as Varuni’s reveal that the Inquisition did not merely torture and ‘relax’; it broke up families even with relatively minor penances, shattering the community.52 Often entire villages would be destroyed when the Inquisition descended, as at Cuenca in 1585, when thirteen of the twenty-one prisoners came from the small settlement of Socuéllamos, and Valencia in 1589, when eighty-three moriscos from Mislata were punished.53 Such events inspired fear and hatred, and indeed one came directly from the other; as the chronicler Pedro de Valencia wrote around 1607, the moriscos were worse enemies than the Moors of North Africa ‘as they fear that they will be seized by the Spanish Inquisition which will burn them and confiscate their goods . . . [the moriscos] know that they live with these risks, and that if they were uncovered as Muslims they would suffer these things, and so they hate us just as they would people who want to kill them’.54

It was, therefore, fear of the Inquisition brought about by the Inquisition’s own actions which was recognized by Valencia as the source of the hatred. This fear was so intense among moriscos that they would not intermarry with Old Christians in case this led to denunciations.55 Moriscos suspected of having denounced someone were sometimes murdered.56 Instead of seeing punishment by the Inquisition as a shameful thing, moriscos took to viewing it as a badge of honour, applauding those who were forced to go through the theatre of a public auto and the sanbenitos.57 The macabre ballet of fear and hatred thus reached its zenith in the relationship between the moriscos and the Inquisition.58 This Muslim ‘fifth column’ was terrified of ‘being deprived of our lives, property and children, and that in a moment we can be plunged into a dark cell . . . there to spend many years using up our property and seeing our little children being taken away to be raised by others’.59

Yet the attempt to squeeze rebellion out of the Muslims through cruelty and overwhelming force again had the opposite effect. The moriscos were more drawn towards heresy than before. They learnt to scorn the Inquisition that symbolized their oppression. Far from achieving its aim of crushing opposition, the use of the Inquisition against the perceived Muslim enemy only made matters worse; while it did not ‘relax’ as many moriscos as it had done conversos in the 15th century, the Inquisition was crucial in building up the hatreds which led inexorably to the great morisco tragedy.

THERE WAS, INDEED, a cruelty and a pleasure in the Old Christian treatment of the moriscos, rather like a cat breaking off the wing of a bird and playing with it before biting its head off.

The story moves to the Ebro valley in Aragon, where in the mid-1580s there were repeated clashes between Old Christians and moriscos. Following several violent stand-offs with morisco militias, in 1585 some Old Christians decided to murder a morisco in revenge. They apparently believed that murdering a morisco would be pleasing to God, and that if they died in the process they would gain eternal salvation.60 This belief in the glory of martyrdom derived directly from the ideology of the crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries. It was as old, and as (dis)reputable, as the hills and it was not surprising that the authorities found it difficult to put down the violence. The skirmishes lasted for three years, and in one assault by Old Christians, on the village of Pina, perhaps 700morisco men, women and children were killed.61

With events such as this increasingly commonplace, communities of moriscos and Old Christians had become almost entirely separated. One Dutch traveller with the party of Philip II in Aragon in 1585 noted that in the small town of Moel, where there was a thriving ceramics industry, there were only three Old Christians in the whole place. The moriscos ate no pork. They drank no wine. The church was almost always empty. When the royal party left the town they broke the plates they had used in disgust.62

The mutual loathing of moriscos and Old Christians had become so deep that they mocked one another openly in the inquisitorial jail of Cuenca rather than find some fellowship in their shared fate. The Old Christian prisoners cooked bacon ostentatiously in front of the moriscos, tossing it around in frying pans greased with lard, while the moriscos made crosses from straw and proceeded to stamp on them.63 Outside the inquisitorial jail it was commonplace for Old Christians to offer moriscos plates of pork, knowing full well that this was both a threat (if they declined they could be denounced to the Inquisition) and a humiliation (through the power of the Old Christians to possess such a threat).64

The chasms in the community were becoming impossible to bridge. The Muslims of North Africa resented, as Pedro de Valencia put it, ‘that a large number of their own kind are – as they see it – oppressed and tyrannized into servitude in Spain, with dishonour and disdain, forced by violence to leave the Mohammedan faith, and for this reason imprisoned and deprived of their property and of their lives, whipped and burnt, as they hear every day from the accounts of those very same Spanish moriscos’.65 This chronicler had a lofty position in the court of Philip III; there is no reason to doubt his account of the daily humiliations visited on Spain’s moriscos.

Communication broke down. The first rule of morisco life was when among the Old Christians to say nothing, since a word out of place would all too easily lead to the Inquisition. With silence came distrust, and with distrust mutual loathing could only grow.66The real tragedy of the developing ghettoization was that it did not have to happen. The Portuguese had often found that their colonists became Muslims. In 1585 the inquisitors of Goa complained about the Old Christians who had gone to live among the Moors and converted.67 In 1623 Amador Lozado, the captain of the fort at Arguim off the Mauritanian coast, was accused of being a secret Muslim, living with Muslim concubines and oppressing all the Christians in the fortress.68 These were not isolated cases; the archives of the Portuguese Inquisition are filled with stories of people living in North Africa who apostatized.

In Spain, too, it was not unknown in the 16th century for Old Christians to be attracted to Islam. Several Old Christians were penanced by the Inquisition for becoming moriscos in the 1560s69 and in one case an alfaqui managed to convert some friars to Islam.70Though such stories continue to be found in the 1580s,71 they are somewhat rarer, something which reveals the growing separation between the two communities. There was little dialogue any longer. Propaganda was winning. Where people still lived among one another there was some mutual respect, but where they existed in mutual isolation they all too easily came to despise each other.

This separation allowed increasingly fantastical stories of the other community to gain currency. There was nothing to stop all manner of idiocies being believed. Thus soon even reasonable Christians believed in the archetype of the seditious crypto-Muslim and came to believe that these fanatics had to be stopped before they could succeed in their plan of destroying the nation and its way of life.

HOW DID ONE distinguish these seditious, dangerous people? In his treatise on the moriscos Pedro de Valencia let slip a remarkable fact about the objects of his study: ‘One must consider,’ he wrote, ‘that all these moriscos, as far as their natural complexion is concerned . . . are just as Spanish as the rest of the people who live in Spain’.72

There was no racial distinction between the moriscos and the rest of the Spanish population.73 Indeed, after they were expelled from Spain, many moriscos returned to Aragon, Murcia and Granada, and were concealed by members of the local population. Those who returned to Granada often sought out new villages to live in, and they were such proficient speakers of Spanish (and so indistinguishable from the rest of the population) that they were easily able to pass themselves off as Old Christians.74 It would therefore have been very easy to integrate the morisco population into the Spanish nation.75

In fact, the principal differences between the moriscos and the rest of the population were cultural. Yet Old Christian culture itself was an extraordinary mixture of the Christian and the Muslim,*6 which ought to have meant that fusion with the moriscos was possible. The difference in the 16th century was the new culture of intolerance, of which the Inquisition was both the symbol and the spearhead; thus it was that customs which were purely cultural and not religious came to be seen as Muslim and as indicators of heresy.

This cultural intolerance began slowly. In the first years after the conquest of Granada, although Cisneros burnt Islamic books, habits such as taking baths and the wearing of distinctive clothes were not seen as Islamic practices.76 This approach hardened, and by the time of the Congregation of Granada in 1526 it was proposed that the use of Arabic and the wearing of certain styles of clothing should be banned as indicators of Muslim apostasy.

However, the intolerance of the Congregation of 1526 was not as yet universal. In the same year Charles V agreed with a petition from the Moors of Valencia which noted that some recent converts to Christianity would not know how to ‘depart from somemorisco ceremonies which they will keep more out of habit than because they wish to be Muslims or to offend the Christian faith’.77 The good sense of this view is shown by the fact that the moriscos themselves did not view their clothes as something Muslim, but rather as a regional costume.78

The moriscos therefore saw themselves as a population with a distinctive culture just as culture within Christian Spain varied from, say, Galicia to Extremadura. There was no racial difference between them and the Old Christians, and in Aragon and Valencia their ancestors had lived peaceably under Christian rule for centuries. The enmity which existed by the end of the 16th century had therefore had to be created, and in order to do this a stereotype had been required of the ‘Muslim enemy’. Stereotypes of the enemy are fed by paranoia, and following the bonfires of Valladolid and Seville of 1559 there was no shortage of this in Spain.

Thus in August 1582 the archbishop of Toledo wrote to Philip II with a notable piece of advice. As the venerable archbishop pointed out, if the Turkish navy were to take advantage of the fact that it could pick up 50,000 morisco infantrymen in Valencia alone the kingdom would be in serious peril, especially if such a force were to join forces with the Huguenots and other heretics. This was clearly intelligence of a considerable threat and moreover it was not an isolated piece of information. Five months earlier the inquisitors of Zaragoza had written with certain knowledge that the plot was for the duke of Orange and Philip II’s rival to the Portuguese crown Dom Antonio to join forces with the Muslims of Morocco through the good offices of Portuguese traders (usually crypto-Jews) andmoriscos, and that meanwhile the moriscos of Aragon would link up with the prince of Berne while those of Valencia awaited the Turkish navy, and the French were planning to smuggle gunpowder to them so that they could destroy the Spanish fleet.79

Intelligence of new plots was always being received. The danger was, as the evidence clearly showed, mounting all the time. The extraordinary acuity of the enemy knew no bounds; the plots against Spain were such that no longer was your enemy’s enemy your friend – your enemy’s enemy was also, by some strange quirk of mutual complicity and loathing of the Spanish, their friend as well.

In such circumstances moriscos ceased to be seen as individuals. They were a generalized mass, ‘the enemy’,80 a stereotyped evil which had to be destroyed.81 By the 1580s it was assumed that all moriscos were, without exception, secret Muslims.82 Old Christians would often denounce entire villages for the same crime, as if there could be no nuance to behaviour.83 In Mislata in the region of Valencia the labourer Francisco Corzo was denounced in part because ‘it was generally said that all the people of Mislata were Moors’.84 Juan de Ribera, an archbishop of Valencia later declared a saint, wrote to Philip III early in the 17th century that ‘the hatred and obstinacy [of the moriscos] against the Catholic faith is as one in all of them [uno en todos]’85 – it may take someone who cannot differentiate individuals among their enemy to perceive this trait in others.86

In actual fact, however, the situation was complex. Just as some Old Christians had been attracted to Islam in the 16th century, there were innumerable cases of moriscos who genuinely wanted to be Christians. Christian members of morisco families would frequently denounce their relatives for Islamic practices, which alone shows that moriscos had widely differing approaches to Christianity.87 That assimilation was possible was revealed by cases such as that of Juan de Soria, denounced in Toledo in 1596 by his twenty-year-old daughter for expressing doubts regarding Christianity which she, as a good Christian, found deeply offensive.88 The way in which religious practice was anything but uniform across morisco families was revealed in 1602, when the wife of Miguel Arapel denounced him for Islamic behaviour; all was clearly not rosy in their marital home, since she professed shock and scandal at his apostasy in spite of the fact that he was circumcized.89

Such a litany of cases of family members denouncing one another to the Inquisition feels wretched. The Inquisition is, after all, a better ossuary of memory than most institutions to the interdependency of love and hatred. The ministers of the Inquisition professed love for their prisoners; they treated them with hatred. One intense emotion was, after all, so easily transformed into another.

Segorbe 1608

IN THIS ANCIENT TOWN on the plain of the Palancia river tensions had always run high between the morisco community and Old Christians. The great port of Valencia – and the tribunal of the Inquisition – were not too far distant, while the town lay between two sierras dotted with isolated morisco communities. It was inevitable that as tensions grew, they would break out in Segorbe, for there was little time left before the terrible decision taken by Philip III to expel all moriscos from Spain.

In 1608 the widow Maria Xaramfa, a morisca of about forty years old, was denounced to the Inquisition in Valencia.90 Her accuser was a fellow morisco who had already confessed to crypto-Islam to the inquisitors of Barcelona and was seeking to give evidence of the sincerity of his reconciliation to the Catholic Church. Beyond all the cant and sparkling consciences, motivations could never be entirely pure in the most vengeful court in the land.

Maria Xaramfa’s large and comfortable house, the witness said, was used by the moriscos of Segorbe as a mosque. Various alfaquis met there. It was here that they preached to the moriscos, reading from the Koran which was placed on a bench before them. The oldest and most learned among them wore head-coverings (tocados) fringed with gold and silk, and held staffs in their hands as if they were bishops. They taught the moriscos how to perform their ritual ablutions, how to pray and which festivals they should keep. And as they read aloud, the gathered moriscos would respond, in the manner of a priest and his congregation.

The anonymous witness was able to give such a graphic description since he himself had attended these prayers in Segorbe on several occasions. Xaramfa, he said, derived great personal benefit from these events. The community of Segorbe paid her thirty ducats to hire her home. They provided her with three poor women to help with cleaning and whitewashing it for the four major festivals of the year. Xaramfa had also been given some mats woven in black and white which had been blessed by the alfaqui, and Islamic symbols had been painted upon them.

Maria Xaramfa, naturally, denied all the charges. While it was true that numbers of moriscos did come to her house, there was nothing Islamic about this. The accuser was merely trying to gain the favour of the inquisitors. The inquisitors gave her defence short shrift, however. With the gathering evidence against her entire community, they clearly could do nothing but accept the evidence of large numbers of moriscos attending her ‘mosque’ each Friday, having performed their ablutions in their homes. After eighty years of what they saw as sincere attempts at evangelization, there was a despair at the recalcitrance of the Muslims and at their refusal to integrate with the national culture.

By this time there was no doubt that increasing numbers of moriscos were indeed actively turning to Islam. In the village of Buñol, the priest Damián de Fonseca wrote just four years later that if twenty children were born in a short space of time the parents would get together and choose one of them to be baptized twenty times, switching his name each time with the priest unable to do anything about it.91 Meanwhile, Fonseca claimed, there were many moriscos condemned to be ‘relaxed’ by the Inquisition who refused to accept Christian confession so that they could be garrotted before being burnt: ‘and as soon as they declared [in the auto] “You are all witnesses that I die in the law of Muhammad” the executioner leapt off the stairs in two bounds and covered himself up, for fear of being stoned to death [by the mob, along with the morisco]’.92

On top of resistance to Christian rites, Fonseca wrote, there was an active Islamizing movement. Many moriscos kept Ramadan, wandering about for the month-long fast ‘thin and pale, hardly able to stand up, trying to divine the heavens without being astrologers, and looking longingly up at the sky until they caught sight of the first star in the evenings, at which they all disappeared as one from the squares and streets’.93 Circumcision was routine,94 as was the use of Muslim funerary rites, with corpses being wrapped in clean linen with silk headdresses decorated with gold thread and black silk.95 At weddings people danced and prayed and ate as Muslims.96

This was an intolerable situation for Spanish society, which defined itself through its adherence to the Catholic religion. The bishop of Segorbe – where Maria Xaramfa kept her mosque – held in 1595 that the ‘moriscos are apostates and live according to the Muhammadan law’.97 This was not something that Spain and the Inquisition could countenance, and nor was the growing physical aggression displayed by moriscos. In Belchite in Aragon moriscos attacked ministers of the Inquisition with swords, lances and guns whenever they arrived to try to arrest someone.98 In 1591 the moriscos of Gea de Albarracín – one of the haunts of Diego de Arcos of Teruel – attacked the jail of the Inquisition, wounding some inquisitorial officers and helping one of their friends to escape.99 In 1608 the investigator Gregorio López Madera found eighty-three corpses in the region of Hornachos killed by local moriscos for denouncing them or collaborating with the Inquisition.100

The situation had become grave. The Turks continued their activities in the western Mediterranean, threatening Spanish shipping and supplies, while in Spain they had a contingent of allies, all of whom would jump at the chance to destroy the state. In April 1609 the Spanish crown took the decision that it had no alternative but to expel all moriscos from Spain.

Valencia 1609

And [the moriscos] came out of their houses and made to embark . . . and along the way they sold and gave away everything they had, selling wheat at two or three reales a bundle, which is an incredibly low price [in Valencia] . . .

And many were found dead in the hills, some of hunger after they had surrendered, others having killed themselves voluntarily [sic] so that they did not have to leave . . .

Many people have been led to extremes in their desire to stay, offering their throats to a knife rather than leave . . . others have hid and fled so as not to leave, making vigorous demonstrations of their Christianity and choosing rather the condition of slavery than departure from Spain . . .

There was one fifteen-year-old girl in particular who made great efforts to stay . . . and God was served in giving her a serious illness which could save her, as, seeing herself threatened by the illness she called a Christian who was passing her home and asked him to bring her a confessor, as she wanted to die as a good Christian, and this was done so that the girl was able to confess and give her soul to God . . ..101

THE DECISION TO EXPEL the moriscos was a political one, taken by the crown and not by the Inquisition, yet the Inquisition provided critical support to the decision through its databank of trial evidence which ‘proved’ the universal apostasy of the moriscos102 and its fomentation of the hatred which the moriscos felt towards the rest of society. It was also a popular decision. When the edict of expulsion was published on 22 August 1609 ‘such was the crowd of ordinary people that came to hear the pronouncement, that people knocked one another down amid the general applause and happiness’.103

This banishment of a significant part of the population had been gestating for decades. It had first been mooted at the Council of Lisbon in 1582 when virtually the entire ecclesiastical hierarchy had favoured it.104 Thereafter it had been raised as a possibility by various inquisitors and royal councils until a council of January 1602 led by Philip III’s chief minister the duke of Lerma planned virtually every detail of the expulsion.105 The final push came out of fear: the Council of State wrote in April 1609 that ‘the fear of the Moors . . . is considerable, and even the duke of Lerma believes that they might be able to conquer Spain’.106

What had gestated with the political will to expel the moriscos was the psychological conditioning of the population. The Old Christians now felt essentially different from people who were physically identical to themselves. Under the rigid ideology of the Inquisition the mass of Spanish people had been indoctrinated into believing that signs of cultural difference were signs of treachery and of a desire to destroy them. Numerous chroniclers created stereotypes of moriscos as ugly, abnormal, different.107 Slowly, people had come to see the residues of Spain’s Muslim population in this light. Slowly, the groundwork had been laid for the enemy’s destruction.

The final decree of expulsion was nothing if not pragmatic. The moriscos of Valencia were dealt with first, in 1609. Six in every one hundred morisco households were ordered to remain to instruct incomers to their lands on agricultural techniques of which they were the masters. Fixed morisco property was to be given to their feudal lords in order to compensate them for the loss of their workforce. The moriscos were given only three days to leave their homes and clear all their goods.108 These were people who were no longer deemed worthy of consideration.

Once the Valenciano moriscos had been dispatched, it was the turn of the Aragonese. In the spring of 1610 the moriscos there had ‘stopped all their dealings and labour in the land and [had] sold everything that they owned, right down to beds, plates and bowls’.109 On 16 April Miguel Santos de San Pedras, inquisitor of Zaragoza, declared that what little the Aragonese moriscos had left would be gone in a few days and that ‘famine and epidemics are bound to come among them . . . and seeing themselves starving they are bound to rob and kill Christians and commit atrocious crimes’.110 Philip III signed the expulsion order on 29 May 1610, precipitating a free-for-all between the moneylenders and the feudal lords of the Aragonese moriscos, who suddenly found themselves without any rents with which to pay off their debts.111 Chaos and stagnation loomed.

In total, perhaps something over 300,000 moriscos were forced from Spain between 1609 and 1614.112 Most went to North Africa. In Oran (modern Algeria) over 116,000 arrived between 2 October and December 1609. Many were robbed and assaulted by bandits, as were many of those who went to Tremecen and Fez in Morocco.113 While in Tunisia the 50,000 moriscos who arrived were treated well, the rest suffered misery, poverty and death. They were frequently suspected of being renegade Christians by the Muslims of North Africa.114

Maybe it was in anticipation of this miserable fate that the banished were so reluctant to depart a country which had come to hate them. When the expulsion order was issued ‘the lamentations were such that in all the morisco settlements one could hear nothing but sobs and tears’.115 The processions of people down to the chosen ports of exile were as something out of biblical times, ‘exhausted with pain and tears . . . the men loaded down with their wives and children, and by those who were ailing, and old, and young, full of dust, sweating . . . some on foot, broken and badly dressed, shod with one shoe and one sandal . . . all of them greeting those who watched them, or met them, saying to them: “May the Lord watch over you . . . Gentlemen, may the Lord keep you.” ’116

Thus it was that the last vestiges of the Islamic population which had lived in Spain for 900 years departed, ‘tired, filled with pain, lost, oppressed, sad, confused, chased, furious, corrupted, annoyed, bored, thirsty and hungry’.117

IT IS DIFFICULT to erase the memory of a great civilization. The conquistadors tried this in Mexico, destroying the temples of the Aztecs, burning the idols which they found, complicit in destroying precious libraries of Aztec codices. Even today, however, ruined temples which have lain undetected for centuries re-emerge from five centuries of sleeping sediment; when part of the subway system of Mexico City was being built in the 1960s the great temple of the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan emerged into the tunnels of the modern underground.

And when the Spanish came to build the churches which would replace the temples of Mesoamerica in Mexico, a notable thing happened. In Tlaxcala, for instance, a church was built which can still be seen today, with a precious wooden ceiling in themudejarstyle which Spain had inherited from its Islamic past via Muslim craftsmen. The official ideology which went with imperial expansion averred that there was only one path which could be followed, yet that path was itself a mixture of Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions.

What, finally, is one to make of a society which makes every effort to destroy a part of itself and to impose unity of belief when so much of its strength and power had come from its diversity? It seems like an exercise in self-mutilation, even an unconscious form of self-hatred.

Where paranoia triumphs, every fact can confirm the paranoiac’s prejudices. There were, it was true, strong geopolitical reasons for the Spanish to be wary of Muslim sympathizers: there had been repeated battles between the Spanish and the Turks in the 1570s which emphasized the potential dangers of a Muslim enemy.118 Yet as we have seen the marginalization of the ‘fifth column’ at home merely made it more aggressive and impossible to assimilate.

While the Inquisition was not directly responsible for the tragedy of the morisco expulsion, it was the enforcer of pariah status for moriscos in the late 16th century. Far from effecting a reconciliation between moriscos and Old Christians, it merely promoted extremism on both sides. The Muslims, or mudejares, who lived in Spain before 1492 had been Hispanicized and acculturated;119 they ought therefore to have been on the road to assimilation and integration. With its torture, its taxes on every morisco in Aragon and Valencia and its punishments, the Inquisition, far from ensuring their conversion to the fold, merely made them obstinate and more ready to turn to Islam.120

Just as with the conversos in the 15th century, therefore, the Inquisition’s activities provoked the very heresy which it claimed to be attempting to extirpate.121 Whereas in Portugal, after the reconquest of the 13th century the Moorish population integrated thoroughly into society,122 in Spain in the 16th century the Inquisition made this an impossibility.

At last! All the marginalized and ambiguous groups in Spanish society had been dealt with. But victory was temporary, bitter, a harbinger of failure. With all its obvious enemies destroyed, the hunt for the enemy would become increasingly difficult to sustain and increasingly fractious.

¡Ay, los moriscos! Seen as Muslims by the Christians and as Christians by the Muslims, theirs was indeed a miserable fate. Neither Catholic Spain nor Muslim North Africa could countenance this ambiguous and potentially seditious group in their midst.123 In spite of everything that had happened to them, many preserved their Christian faith in the most trying of circumstances in exile. By 1613 news had reached Minorca that rich moriscos were living as Christians in Algiers.124 Some dived off the ships where they worked and swam ashore so that they could return to Spain and live openly as Christians.125

The moriscos were not, and had never been, all Christians or all Muslims. Just like the conversos individuals among them professed a wide range of beliefs. But nuances of belief were not something the Inquisition could understand. Thus was it one of the principal forces in their obliteration.

In Seville departing Christian moriscos made offerings to churches and one of them gave 4,000 ducats to the Virgin of Iniestra. Others left bequests so that prayers could be said for their souls in the churches where they had always worshipped and attempted to find solace on their troubled voyage towards God.126 Their tragedy ebbed out of their lives along with the ballad which they sang as they left the banks of the Guadalquivir:

And the morisca women

Wringing their whitened hands

Raising their eyes to the heavens

Crying out through their tears:

Ay, Sevilla, my home!

Ay, Church of San Pablo

San Andrés, Santa Marina

San Julián and San Marcos! . . .

Crying out for the help

Of the Virgin of the Rosary

And of the Virgin of Bethlehem:

Let her protect us

As much with her feelings

As she does the babes in arms

Whom she raised at her breasts,

And with her milk brought them lamentation.127

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