Military history

CHAPTER FIVE

Eternal Spain

THE YEAR 1492, THE TRIUMPHANT MOMENT IN GRANADA WHEN THE Christians finally “recovered” the last acres of Spain, appeared differently to each generation. The writers and painters of the nineteenth century found it especially enticing. Four centuries after the event, both Washington Irving and his near contemporary the history painter Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz romanticized the event. In Irving’s description of the celebrations, Ferdinand and Isabella

at last … saw the silver cross, the great standard of this crusade, elevated on the Torre de la Vela, or great watch tower, and sparkling in the sunbeams … Beside it was planted the pennon of the glorious apostle St. James; and a great cry of “Santiago! Santiago!” rose throughout the army. Lastly was reared the royal standard, by a knight at arms, with the shout of “Castile! Castile! For King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.” The words were echoed by the whole army … At the sight of these signals of possession, the sovereigns fell upon their knees, giving thanks to God for this great triumph. The whole assembled host followed their example; and the choristers of the royal chapel broke forth into the solemn anthem of Te Deum laudamus.1

Then the whole procession moved forward toward the citadel, on the way meeting the last emir leaving the city for the final time. This was the event immortalized by Pradilla y Ortiz, with Boabdil holding the keys to the citadel and Ferdinand leaning slightly forward on his stallion, his hand outstretched to receive them. But it is the queen, Isabella, resplendent on a pure white palfrey, who dominates the image.

However, it was the first artist to depict this scene who came closest to the central meaning of the Reconquest and Isabella’s role in it. The Burgundian painter Philippe de Vigarny had been employed in Spain since 1498. He had with others created the magnificent polychrome altar in the cathedral at Burgos, and was involved in the first plans for the Chapel Royal in Granada in 1505. When Emperor Charles V had his grandparents’ resting place built on a grand scale, Vigarny was largely responsible for the great altarpiece of carved and painted wood. He knew the message that Ferdinand had wished to convey and it is reasonable to assume that this monument to the glory of God accurately presented the aspirations of the Catholic Kings. The altar was shaped like the portico of a Renaissance church, and through a set of elaborately carved and painted tableaux presented the crucifixion, the saints and martyrs of the church, the evangelists, who all rose in tiers to the holy dove and God himself at its apex. At either side knelt Ferdinand and Isabella, angled not toward the central focus of the altar, but facing each other. From this the spectator was perhaps intended to infer the great and holy love they had for each other.2

Beneath them, on the base, or predella, of the altar, was another tableau of carved panels, on which the whole superstructure (literally and metaphorically) rested. It told the story of the capture of Granada. Below Ferdinand’s effigy was related the war and the triumphant entry to the city, with the queen to the fore. Under Isabella were two reliefs that depicted the crowning moment of the conquest, the queen’s ardent desire, which was the conversion of the Muslims to Christianity. This was the act of “overthrowing the Mahomatan sect” that was inscribed on their tomb, and marked the true culmination of the Reconquista.

It has long been debated whether the dominant partner was Ferdinand or Isabella. The iconography suggests Isabella, but the question could be asked in another way, and to that the answer is beyond question. Was the victory Castile’s, or Aragon’s? Castile led, and Isabella was the embodiment of the long tradition of Castilian political ideology. Ferdinand inherited the same tradition: John I of Castile had been greatgrandfather to both of them. Indeed, the very closeness of their genetic connection had posed a considerable problem. When they married they did so without the essential papal dispensation that allowed a union between cousins. They had relied on a document that had been forged. So it was not a matter of Isabella representing the values of Castile and Ferdinand those of Aragon. They were heirs to a common heritage.

But there was a distinction between them. Ferdinand had been born in Aragon, while Isabella was a child of Castile, born at Madrigal de las Altas Torres, close to Medina del Campo. She was also the king of Castile, direct inheritor of the long monarchical tradition of Castile and Leon, of Asturias and the near-legendary Visigothic kingdom. Moreover, the idea of home and birthplace, of the land that Spaniards call the patria chica (untranslatable, really, but the closest is perhaps “home ground”), was at the heart of the “Spain” that both of the Catholic Kings fought to restore. The concept of restitution, taking complete possession of a land stolen from “Spaniards” and from Christendom by the Muslims (and their allies, the Jews), existed regardless of the political realities of the Iberian peninsula.

The plans that Ferdinand and Isabella began to put in place during their few months of residence in the Alhambra in 1492 were founded in the ideas and aspirations of history. But they were also suffused with a new spirit of opportunity. The old accommodations and equivocations of the past were no longer necessary. They expected that the Muslims would convert en masse, as the Jews had done during the earlier part of the century. Isabella’s own confessor, Hernando de Talavera, was appointed archbishop of Granada, and he immediately began to implement plans to explain the truth and right of Christianity to leading Muslims in the city. Conversion had to be genuine and not forced if it were to be solid and sincere. However, the problems with this policy had already emerged in the case of the Jews. Those who had converted were, according to the Inquisition, likely to “relapse” into their old customs and habits of life. The existence of both practicing Jews and New Christian converts within Spain suggested the impediments in the godly path to conversion. The answer to so-called Judaizers, who undermined the New Christian faith of converts, was to remove these tempters from the soil of Spain.

The process began in Granada on March 31, 1492, when the victorious Ferdinand and Isabella decreed the definitive expulsion of Spain’s believing Jews. A forewarning of the monarchs’ attitude had been contained in the deed of capitulation signed with the Muslims of Granada in November 1491. This had envisaged the “transfer of the Jews of Granada to North Africa.” Two decrees, issued simultaneously in Castile and Aragon, were unambiguous:

The said Jews … of our kingdoms [are] to depart and never to return or come back to them … Jews … of whatever age they may be … with their sons and daughters, manservants and maidservants, Jewish familiars, those who are great as well as the lesser folk, of whatever age they may be, and they shall not dare to return to those places, nor to reside in them … under pain that they incur the penalty of death and the confiscation of all their possessions.

The grounds were that the Jews’ continued presence would corrupt the re-Christianized peninsula. The decree was finally promulgated in April 1492, and it did not apply to Christians of Jewish origin: the option of conversion remained open. In May, Ferdinand instructed the inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada not to impede any Jew who expressed a wish to become a Christian and return to Spain. Even after the expulsion was completed, Ferdinand issued a further decree from Barcelona so that any Jew who had left could return (contrary to the ordinance) provided they could produce evidence of conversion.3

But perhaps 50,000–80,000 were expelled from Castile and Aragon, some to North Africa and many taking ship to Italy or Constantinople. The conditions were onerous. Wealthy merchants were not permitted to take any gold or silver, and although they were allowed to sell their property, anything left unsold would be claimed by the crown. In effect, it was a confiscation of all save their most movable property. This contemporary report of their arrival in Genoa en route farther east expresses the extent of this human tragedy.

No one could behold the sufferings of the Jewish exiles unmoved. A great many perished of hunger, especially those of tender years. Mothers with scarcely strength to support themselves, carried their famished infants in their arms and died with them. Many fell victims to the cold, others to intense thirst … they arrived in Genoa in crowds, but were not suffered to tarry there long by reason of the ancient law which interdicted the Jewish traveller from a longer residence than three days. They were allowed, however, to refit their vessels and to recruit themselves for some days from the fatigues of their voyage. One might have taken them for spectres, so emaciated were they, so cadaverous in their aspect and with eyes so sunken … Many fainted and expired on the mole [of the harbor].4

But while the Catholic Kings’ objective was a unitary Christian Spain, made up of Old and New Christians, the opposite tendency toward a Spain divided by origin was growing ever stronger. In the last year of the campaign for Granada, considerable efforts were being made to fabricate evidence that Jews and converts both posed a mortal threat to Spain. Between 1490 and November 1491, no effort was being spared by the Inquisition (including repeated bouts of torture) to prove that ten men had kidnapped a child from the village of La Guardia near Toledo, crucified him, then cut out his heart and drunk his blood. Despite the fact that no child was ever found to be missing from the village, the accused were eventually found guilty and burned alive. Accounts of the trial were published and widely circulated. In content the allegations differed very little from other propaganda and false accusations directed against the Jews in other parts of Europe. The episode was strikingly similar to the case of Simon of Trent, which took place in northern Italy in 1472. There, unlike in the affair of La Guardia, a young child did disappear and the corpse was found in the river a few days later. However, there was no evidence whatsoever of any Jewish connection to his death. Nor is there any suggestion that other, more plausible alternatives were considered.

However, the grotesque tales and accusations that quickly developed around Simon of Trent soon followed a pattern that was later recognizable in Spain.5 The same elements, such as crucifixion, circumcision, and bleeding, repeatedly appeared in the cases made against Jews. Simon of Trent became a popular subject for gory woodcuts, as did the imaginary infant of La Guardia, later named Crístobal, a “Christ child.”6 After the events at La Guardia, social panic over the conversos became general, and as Yosef Yerushalmi has observed, “the traditional mistrust of the Jew as an outsider now gave way to an even more alarming fear of the converso as an insider.”7 Many in Spain believed that the “taint” of Jewish birth could never be eradicated. Stories like this suggested the strength of the popular mood. Increasingly the name now widely used for converts was marrano, meaning “pig,” playing contemptuously with the Jewish prohibition against eating pork. The word for Jewish women who converted, marrana, came to mean a whore or slut.8

The fires that consumed the Jews and conversos in La Guardia were barely cold before the terms were agreed for the surrender of Granada in January 1492, and it was in this climate of fear that two months later the decrees of expulsion were issued. Although Jews and Muslims were linked in Christian attitudes, in popular understanding they were not considered identical. The position that Jews occupied in relation to Christians was anomalous, for Jesus Christ himself was a Jew, “born of the house of David,” but had also been killed by the Jews. The threat that Jews were thought to pose to Christians was subtle and insidious rather than bellicose. Muslims, by contrast, were the exterior enemy, unparalleled in their capacity for war and savage cruelty. But, like certain wild animals, they could be tamed. There were “Moors of peace,” the industrious, peaceful agriculturists and craftsmen of both Castile and Aragon. The people of Granada were undoubtedly “wild Moors,” who had just fought a ten-year war against the best soldiers that Christian Spain could marshal. But it was widely believed in 1492 that conversion could accomplish this transformation, and once Christian they would leave their old ways behind. This, of course had also been the theory applied to the Jews.

Ferdinand and Isabella certainly held that the Muslims could be converted into sober and useful citizens. The clear expectation in 1492 was that the Muslims would be willing to become Christian. The unusual generosity to the Muslim population in the capitulation was dictated by a desire to bring the long war to an end. The terms had followed the old medieval pattern of agreements made by the rulers of Castile with their new subjects, plus a number of remarkable concessions, such as the right to retain arms. But it was written within an entirely new context. There were two clauses relating to the issue of conversion. The first concerned Christians who had converted to Islam. Their motives were not to be questioned. Nor would a female convert to Islam who had married a “Moor” be forced to become Christian “against her will.” The same would apply to the children of a Christian mother and a Muslim father. The second stated that no “Moors,” man or woman, would be forced to become Christian against their will. These clauses expressed a Muslim fear of forced conversions, beginning with the most vulnerable and marginal categories. The confident expectation among Spaniards was that there would be many who would come willingly to the welcoming arms of Christ. Islam was not expected to last for long in Granada. The sixth clause of the capitulation had been unambiguous:

Their highnesses and their successors will ever afterwards allow King Abi Abdilehi [Boabdil] and his [officials], military leaders, and good men and all the common people, great and small, to live in their own religion [su ley], and not permit their mosques to be taken from them, nor their minarets nor their muezzins, nor will they interfere with the pious foundations or endowments which they have for such purposes, nor will they disturb the uses and customs which they observe.9

The expectation was that many of the “warlike Moors” would prefer to emigrate to North Africa under the favorable conditions laid out in the surrender, or would at any rate leave the city. Ferdinand’s secretary Hernando de Zafra wrote in December 1492 that “the Abencerrajes [considered an especially bellicose clan] have taken their womenfolk up to the Alpujarras. After selling off all their property, they are preparing to leave by the end of March. As far as I can see most people are packing up to leave at the same time.” By the summer he predicted that only farmworkers and craftsmen would be left. They did not leave because they had been badly treated—as he said, “No people have ever been treated better.”10 A generation later, in 1526, a commentator remarked that all the “noble people” of the Muslim community had gone and all those left were “low and common folk.”11 Within a few years of the conquest Granada had ceased to be a predominantly Muslim city.12 It was officially divided, like many of the cities of Castile, into Christian and Mudejar quarters. The area called the Albaicin became a purely Muslim quarter, while the lower parts of the city were designated for Christians, both migrants from the north and Muslim converts. The separation was extended by regulations designed to keep Christians and Muslims within the bounds of their own communities, not an easy task in a city such as Granada.

By 1499, almost 40,000 “Old Christian” colonists had entered the Kingdom of Granada, many with families. By 1530, the number had reached 100,0.13 It was hoped that these pioneers would provide a Christian example for the Muslims. First the Muslim community in the city of Granada would convert, and then the common folk of the countryside would follow their lead. Progress was expected to be rapid. Three years was set as a limit in the terms of surrender as a tax amnesty for Muslims, and after that point taxes would be reimposed. The new taxes on Muslims were set at a substantially higher level than for their Christian fellow citizens, so there was a strong financial incentive to convert. Three years was also the time during which Muslims could emigrate without payment. The assumption by Zafra was that those who did not wish to live under Christian rule would have left before the 1495 deadline and that those who remained would be ripe for conversion.

The confidence of the Catholic Kings in their mission was unbounded. They envisaged reconquering the ancient Visigothic lands in North Africa and recapturing Jerusalem. The Genoese Christopher Columbus presented his commission to sail west to discover the Indies as part of the divine mission that Ferdinand and Isabella were predestined to accomplish. Columbus saw how first they had conquered Granada. Then they had expelled the Jews. Finally, Columbus claimed, he would bring back such riches “in such quantities that within three years the Sovereigns will prepare for and undertake the conquest of the Holy Land. I have already petitioned Your Highnesses to see that all the profits of this, my enterprise, should be spent on the conquest of Jerusalem.”14

A more reliable source of profit came from the gold of Africa which flowed from the Canary Islands—those, so the Castilian histories claimed, had formerly belonged to the unlucky Visigothic king Roderick. In 1458 the Castilian kings had assumed the title of “king of the Great Canary with all its islands.” The conquest of the islands had been waged intermittently in 1402, but in 1483 a large Castilian fleet had sailed to the islands and completed the occupation of Gran Canaria on behalf of the crown. Some of the aboriginal inhabitants (guanches) of the other large island, Tenerife, resisted fiercely. In May 1494 the guanches had attacked and killed 2,000 Spanish soldiers as they ascended the steep slopes of Teide, the volcano dominating the island. They severely wounded the Spanish commander, Alonso Fernandez de Lugo. More Spanish soldiers were landed on the island and they began systematically to kill or enslave the inhabitants. Many guanches had already been converted to Christianity, and the Catholic Kings sent an official in 1498 to look after the interests of all the Canarians, regardless of their faith. It was recognized that the simple people of the Canaries were ripe for conversion, and many became “good Christians” and, it was argued, should consequently be treated well.

However, a boundary had been crossed in 1494. In the act of resisting the occupation of Tenerife, and by killing Christians, the guanches had shown their savage nature, had become recalcitrant, and were thus subject to forcible measures. The conquest and conversion of the Canary Islands and the conquest and conversion of Granada should not be considered in isolation from each other. The Jews were never considered savages. Their conversion fell within a set of established categories and was presaged in holy writ. The manner of it was laid down: conversion should be “willing,” and based upon consent. Moreover, once converted, former Jews should be thought of as other Christians. The Muslims represented a different problem. Few Muslims had converted in the past, and when offered the opportunity in earlier conquests by Castile, many had chosen to leave for a country under Islamic rule. However, the peaceful and industrious Mudéjares who had lived in Christian lands for generations showed that it was possible for “Moors” to live quietly under Christian rule. In some areas they had increasingly accommodated to the dominant culture, so that in places like Avila in Castile and in much of Aragon, they no longer used Arabic.

The heritage of Muslim culture, which had produced the Alhambra and the Great Mosque of Cordoba, was not ignored by Christians, and that respectful attitude determined the initial policy and practice of conversion. Yet Christians still perceived “Moors” as possessing wild and savage qualities as well. This ambiguity existed in the Christian medieval polemics and in the histories of the Reconquest, and sometimes governed the experience of contemporaries as well. The Muslims of Granada, like the guanches, were held to be of an indeterminate and uncertain character. If the “Moors” were savages, then their conversion would be less hedged about with restrictions than that of the Jews. The strategy of conversion would shift in a different direction.

IT IS POSSIBLE TO LOOK AT THE LAST HALF OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY from many distinct perspectives. The artistic and cultural Renaissance, the spread of printing, the loss of Constantinople, the European discovery of the Americas, and Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India have all been taken as touchstones of the age. The previous century has been characterized as “calamitous,” partly due to the consequences of the Black Death, which killed perhaps one-third of the population living between Iceland and India.15 A large set of connections—social, political, religious, economic—have been linked to that one event. Philip Ziegler, in his study of the Black Death, refers to the twentieth-century analogy made between the aftermaths of the Black Death and the First World War. The comparison, he suggests, was that both made “the greatest single contribution to the disintegration of an age.”16 The fifteenth century in Spain saw both disintegration and reintegration, but upon different foundations from those that had prevailed before. Moreover, rather than one single monumental cause, events were increasingly perceived as possessing a multiplicity of origins. Everything was in flux and subject to change. Laws were written and never enforced, or enforced for only brief periods. Dynasties changed, with kings, bastards, pretenders all vying for power. I am also thinking here of France and England, powerful, rich, and hitherto stable states. But in a culture dominated by its inner frontiers and boundaries like the Iberian peninsula, we should expect few certainties or set patterns during the fifteenth century and beyond.

Formerly settled social categories in Spain were becoming fissile, and this is evident in the language of the time. “Christian” divided into “Old Christian” and “New Christian.” Jews bifurcated into “Jews” and what Christians more and more referred to insultingly as marranos, or as crypto-Jews. Muslims were called “Moors,” Moros, which could sometimes be admiring, but more often contained a sense of contempt, or they were called Mudéjares, which was a category of subjugation. Then they were transmogrified through conversion to Christianity into Moriscos, “little Moors,” a contemptuous and derogatory term, if sometimes tinged with a sense of pity.17 But sometimes not: the “true” author of Don Quixote, Cid Hamet Benengeli, whom we met in chapter 1, was a cultivated and learned figure. We should be as uneasy using the insulting word Morisco, for the same reason that marrano is not a word to be uttered lightly.18 It was resented and never used by these “New Christians” themselves. It was freshly minted to convey a new attitude toward a subject people who had been stripped of their old religion by decree and given a perfunctory baptism. When the “Morisco” Nuñez de Muley wrote to protest about their treatment in Granada, he called them the naturales, the people of the land.

But changes in language mark a change of status. First in Granada and Castile, later in Aragon and Valencia, Mudéjares became Moriscos by royal decree. Gone was the wild, savage, but noble “Moors” of the border ballads; now over the space of a century they became a people who “have only the outward appearance of a man, for the rest of you are beast.” Moriscos were the antithesis of all that was good, worshiping Mohammed, who was “the word of the devil,” instead of Jesus Christ, who was “the word of God.”19 Here we can see change in process. The traditional diatribe against the Muslim, built up over many centuries, coalesced with a new style of abuse. This did not just happen as some kind of linguistic evolution: it was rooted in a specific sequence of events. This outcome was not by design. It was an unforeseen but not a random consequence.

We can locate a starting point for this new idiom of disparagement in Granada during the late summer of 1499. In July the Catholic Kings were in Granada for the first time since the spring of 1492. After seven years they had expected to see a people won for Christ, as the reports of Archbishop Talavera and Hernando de Zafra had led them to believe. Yet the city was much as they had left it, still looking to all appearances more a Muslim than a Christian city.20 In the new Christian quarters new churches were strongly in evidence, as were a gratifying number of processions, saints’ days commemorations, and the sound of church bells (which the Granadine Muslims referred to contemptuously as “cowbells”). However, the mosques were still thronged by the faithful on Fridays.

Ferdinand and Isabella wanted to advance the pace of conversion, perhaps to the level achieved among the mainland Jews and the guanches of the Canaries. Outside the Kingdom of Granada better progress was being made. At the town of Caspe in Aragon the Mudéjares had converted to Christianity en masse, led by the most prominent members of their community. During the five months of their stay in the Alhambra, the Catholic Kings became convinced that conversion was not being pursued with sufficient energy in the capital; and if Granada lagged, then the conversion of the kingdom at large would be much more difficult. Before they left in November they had instructed the archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (who had succeeded Talavera as Isabella’s confessor), to summon his team of able preachers and catechizers to Granada and so speed the process.

Jiménez de Cisneros had already argued at court for a more aggressive policy toward the Muslims in Granada. In particular, he was completely opposed to the clause of the 1492 capitulation that allowed former Christians and their children to remain, if they chose, with Islam. Once installed in the “Moorish” quarter of Granada, he began immediately to make lists of these individuals, termed elches, who were summoned to his presence. There he harangued them, and in the words of one of the court historians,

with kind words he persuaded them to return to our holy Catholic faith, because, as he said, it could not without the gravest sin be permitted for people to belong to the religion of the Moors if their forebears had been Christian … Those converted in this way were given assistance by him, and he bestowed gratifications upon them: those who refused, he had put in prison, and kept locked up until they were converted … When he heard that many Muslim leaders were attacking his methods as being contrary to the agreements … [he] imprisoned the dissidents in chains, and though it ran counter to his temperament, he allowed them to be dealt with by methods that were not correct.21

This was a euphemism for strict imprisonment and torture. In this Jiménez de Cisneros was merely taking the same path as the Inquisition, which in Valencia was beginning, illegally, to take jurisdiction over Muslims as well as Christians.22 Moreover, in anticipation of the increase of converts in Granada in 1499, the jurisdiction of the Inquisition in Cordoba was extended to take in the Kingdom of Granada. Eventually Archbishop Talavera himself was to be called before it on the grounds of seeking to convert Spain to Judaism by witchcraft.23

When one of Jiménez de Cisneros’s officials went up into the Moorish quarter on December 18, 1499, to summon other elches, the people of the quarter killed him, closed the gates, and took up arms in defense of their rights. “They began to call upon Mohammed, clamouring for liberty, and saying that they would burn the treaty of surrender; they took to the streets, blocked and fortified the gates to the Albaicin against the Christians of the city. They began to fight with them and all through the night the tumult grew.”24 There was a near panic among them that all Muslims would be converted by force. Even the well-liked Archbishop Talavera was stoned and not allowed to enter. When the count of Tendilla, the captain general of the kingdom, followed the archbishop, he was heard more respectfully. He told them that the pursuit of the elches would end, there would be no more forced conversions, and in a symbolic gesture, he brought down his wife and young child from the Alhambra to the Albaicin and entrusted them to the care and hospitality of the Muslim inhabitants. The rising in the city lasted some ten days, but further outbreaks of violence were forestalled. Yet nothing could be done to prevent news of the events in the capital reaching the staunchly Muslim villages of the Alpujarras. These had become a last redoubt for those who could not or would not leave their country, but did not want to live too close to Christians. Many of them had participated in the defense of Granada and were familiar with every contour and crevice of the land, invaluable knowledge in the guerrilla war that soon engulfed most of the kingdom.

Meanwhile Jiménez de Cisneros continued with his program of mass conversion, and rendered Tendilla’s promises worthless. Five days after the rising of the Albaicin had ended, Cisneros boasted that he had baptized 3,000 in a single morning. Messengers were sent to Ferdinand and Isabella at Seville, who, while fearing Muslim anger, were even more impressed by the rising total of conversions. They instructed Jiménez de Cisneros that “our desire is that in conversion you make all the fruit you can make.”25 To justify this shift in policy, Ferdinand now held that the brief rising in Granada, which had cost but a single life, had transformed the Granadines into warlike “Moors” who had broken the terms of the capitulation. That this was a ruse is suggested by the fact that he also recognized that the rising was little more than a riot. He immediately confirmed Tendilla’s pardon for all except those directly involved and extended an amnesty for all acts of rebellion provided those concerned converted to Christianity by February 25, 1500. The mass conversion that the Muslims feared was already under way and Cisneros, reassured of royal support, now redoubled his efforts. By the deadline he and his team had baptized almost the entire population of the city—this is the “heroic” event commemorated on Vigarny’s relief in the Chapel Royal.

Talavera had come to know the Muslims of Granada well; now marginalized by Jiménez de Cisneros, he feared disaster. He wrote to Ferdinand’s secretary that the success in the capital did not represent what would happen in the countryside. “One swallow does not make a summer,” he commented laconically. He ended his letter: “From Granada, in truth very desgranada [winnowed and turned into an empty husk].”26 The mass rising in the mountains that soon followed was on a scale never anticipated by the king. However, it also seemed to confirm that he had been right all along: the Muslims were wild and warlike, and tranquillity would reign only when they were all converted. Only a Christian Spain could hope to flourish. But as the towns and villages of the Alpujarras rose one by one, it was clear that this goal would not be accomplished by peaceful means. The captain general, Tendilla, gathered what troops he could find and moved against Guejar, the closest fortified town in the mountains. After a bitter fight, the trained Christian soldiers overwhelmed the townspeople. The surviving male population was slaughtered in batches, while the women and children were enslaved, after which the town was ransacked by Tendilla’s men. Early in February, Ferdinand arrived from Seville with fresh troops, and in March put Lanjaron to the sword. Another column entered the Alpujarras under the count of Lerin, who stormed many villages, and in one confined the women and children to the village mosque before blowing it up with gunpowder.27 The seventeenth-century historian of Aragon, Pedro de Abarca, described the villagers as “these wild beasts of the Alpujarras,” a widely held view at the time. The western part of the mountains surrendered, and the survivors were granted peace, on surrender of all their arms and fortresses, and payment of a punitive fine of 50,000 ducats.

In July 1500, Isabella and the court came to Granada and the work of conversion continued under the watchful eye of the queen. The cities of Baeza, Gaudix, and Almeria were converted. Teams of preachers were sent into the conquered zones, and a further inducement offered. No new convert would have to pay his or her share of the huge fine levied on the rest of the population. But in December this active proselytizing pushed the eastern Alpujarras into a revolt, which was systematically suppressed by storming each town or village, and enslaving the survivors. The men were killed, but sometimes they were baptized en masse before they died. In February 1501, there was a more dangerous outbreak in the mountains at the far end of the Kingdom of Granada, beyond Ronda and much closer to Malaga and the urban centers of the south. A large body of leading Castilians, with 300 horsemen and 2,000 foot soldiers, immediately set out from Seville to put down the new rebellion. Lured into the mountains, many were killed, including their leader, a famous soldier called Alonso Hernandez de Córdoba, usually known as Alonso de Aguilar, whose heroic end became the subject of innumerable ballads.28 It was the worst disaster for Castilian arms since the losses in the war for Granada. Ferdinand gathered a huge force, complete with artillery, at Ronda and prepared to cleanse the land in the same way that the Alpujarras had been purged, with fire and sword. The leaders of the rebellion in the west quickly sought terms for peace. Ferdinand offered them a simple choice: baptism, or departure from the lands of Castile. Until they agreed he kept up the advance, storming fortified villages, killing the men, and enslaving the women and children.

His decision was unequivocal: Islam would be ended in Castile: “My opinion and that of the Queen,” Ferdinand declared, “is that those ‘Moors’ be baptised, and if they should not be Christian, their children or grandchildren will be.”29 Terms of peace were agreed on April 1, 1501, and many Muslims immediately crossed the straits to North Africa. For Isabella too all Muslims in Castile must “either convert or leave our kingdoms, for we cannot harbour infidels.”30 In July, the Catholic Kings issued an order from the Alhambra forbidding Muslims to reside within the boundaries of the Kingdom of Granada, for they impeded the spiritual progress of the converts. On February 12, 1502, a decree was promulgated for Castile, that all Muslims had to choose baptism or leave Spain by April 20, rather less time than had been given to the Jews a decade earlier. In part this indicated a conviction that not many would wish to leave, and this proved the case. Most who had wanted to go had already departed. Few Christians regretted what had happened. Indeed, once all those enslaved in Granada were sold, the war had made a considerable profit for the crown.

The edict requiring conversion did not amount, in the queen’s eyes, to forced conversion, because Muslims had been offered the alternative of leaving Castile or undergoing baptism. A number of Castilian Mudéjares fled to Aragon, and to Navarre, where they could still practice Islam. It was her grandson Charles V who applied the formula of baptism or expulsion to all his Spanish kingdoms. This casuistry was unconvincing, and her emissary Peter Martyr d’ Anghiera, sent to explain the decision to the king of Egypt, found the reality of forced conversion hard to deny. The Muslims of Granada had never expected that the Christians would adhere to the 1492 agreement. But the story of Castilian perfidy became a source of mistrust in the communities of the newly converted. The Muslims resisted conversion both by fighting and by a sullen acceptance of their new status. The savagery of the war in the Alpujarras, and especially the death of the marqués de Córdoba (Alonso de Aguilar), reinforced even further the popular equation between Islam, violence, and latent danger. The Muslim Granadines were thought to be in contact with Barbary pirates, with their clansmen in North Africa, or with the more distant Ottomans. As the converted Jews had a taint in the blood, so the Muslims, transformed en masse into Christians, were seen by nature to be resentful and dangerous. A Morisco in Granada by law might not even possess a pocketknife for eating with that did not have a rounded point, lest he savage a Christian with it.31

WITHIN A FEW YEARS, SPAIN WAS TO ACQUIRE MANY NEW INFIDELS as subjects, in the new territories of America. The recent experience in mass conversion with the Muslims of Granada was carried forward into practice across the Atlantic.32 At home the perception of the Muslim population as being threatening, the enemy within, was fueled by the great struggle with the Ottomans developing in the Mediterranean. The sense of danger was well founded. Ottoman occupation of Aragonese territory in Apulia around Otranto in the Kingdom of Naples in 1480–81 was brief but menacing. The cathedral built by a king of Aragon in 1088 was reduced to rubble and the city sacked as the Ottoman fleet withdrew. The ships sailed home because of the death of Sultan Mehmed II, but it was thought they might return at any time. The Ottomans also feared Spain’s ambitions. Her campaign to “reconquer” North Africa began in 1497 with the capture of the town of Melilla, which remains, like Ceuta, Spanish territory to this day.

The strong clan connections between the Moriscos of Granada and those who had crossed the straits into Islamic territory grew in Castilian eyes into a form of conspiracy. Correspondence with “Barbary” and seeking to flee across the water became offenses punishable by death. Even Father Bartolomé de las Casas, the ardent defender of the infidel Indians in the Americas, believed that Christian war against Muslim infidels was “necessary and praiseworthy to recover Jerusalem, to drive the ‘Moors’ from Spain, and always to fight against Muslims everywhere, the ‘enemies of the faith, usurpers of Christian kingdoms.’ ”33 Elsewhere Las Casas expressed the double motive for fighting Islam: “We have a just war against them, not only when they are actually waging it against us but even when they stop, because we have a very long experience of their intention to harm us; so our war against them cannot be called war but legitimate defence.”34 When Las Casas presents the illegitimacy of persecuting and mistreating the Indios (native inhabitants of the Americas), he does so by contrasting their plight with the legitimacy of a holy war on the infidel Turks and “Moors,” “who pester and maltreat us.” He draws the contrast between American infidels, “who never knew nor were obliged to know that there were Christian people in the world and therefore had never offended them” and “the ‘Moors’ and Turks, persecutors of the Christian name and violent occupiers of the kingdoms of Christianity.”35 It was true, he stated, that there were certain infidels in America who merited harsh treatment, such as the Caribs, who resisted Columbus (and against whom Ferdinand authorized extreme measures).

After they rose and rebelled against us they have caused all the remaining Indians in the island to rebel … They have tried and are trying to protect themselves from being indoctrinated or taught the things of our Catholic faith and continually war against our subjects … they are hardened in their ways, dismembering and eating other Indians.36

The accusation of cannibalism was a calumny, not very different from the accusation that Jews crucified children and drank their blood.37 However, like the “cruelty” of the Muslims, it served to detach the Caribs from the protection to be accorded to peaceful Indians.

As the political dangers from an expansive Muslim power increased, so new and potent meaning was given to ancient fears and prejudices. Civilized Renaissance scholars no longer believed that Muslims had heads like dogs and barked, but they nevertheless attributed brutal and monstrous qualities to them: ancient visceral prejudices were transmuted.During the reign of the Catholic Kings, a new theory of the infidel was beginning to develop. In 1517, Cardinal Tomás de Vio Cayetano developed a novel doctrine of degrees of infidelity. There were those infidels actually under the jurisdiction of Christianity, of whom the Muslims in Spain were the classic example. There were those who by law but not in fact were under Christian rule, like the inhabitants of North Africa or the Holy Land; and there were those who like the Indians of the Americas had never been under Christian rule.

While it was legitimate and laudable to coerce the first two categories, it was not legitimate to enslave and punish the natives of the New World. They were “to be sent good men who by their preaching and example would convert them to God.”38 This was exactly the policy that Talavera had sought to apply (with some success) in Granada, before it was replaced by the more robust methods of Jiménez de Cisneros. The same debate over baptism and honest conversion that had resonated in Granada between 1499 and 1501 was played out again. The good intention behind the baptism came to dominate the theory, a view expressed definitively by Pope Paul III in his bull Altitudo divini consilii (the height of divine providence): “Whosoever baptised those Indians who came to the faith in Christ in the name of the Blessed Trinity without following the ceremonies and solemnity observed by the Church, did not sin for they thought rightly it was proper to do so.”

Thus the view of Ferdinand and Isabella that the good objective of conversion for the Muslims of Granada outweighed any doubts about the methods used was retrospectively endorsed. But the view of Las Casas, not circulated in print until four centuries after it was written, of the consequences of this style of conversion for the Indians applies just as readily to the Muslims of Spain. They would thereafter be

dominated by perpetual hatred and rancour against their oppressors … And therefore, even when they may sometimes say they wish to convert to the Christian faith and one can see that it may be so by the external signs that they use to show their will; you can always, however, be suspicious that their conversion does not come from a sincere intention nor their free will, but it is a false conversion, or one accepted to avoid some future evil that they fear would overcome them again.39

Ironically, it was Jiménez de Cisneros, the pioneer of mass conversion, who in 1516 had set the course for Las Casas’s life’s work by appointing him to head a commission of inquiry into the evils done to the Indians. But Las Casas’s prophecy applied with even greater force to his homeland than it did in Spain’s American possessions.

The critic Stephen Greenblatt has noted that the sixteenth-century Spanish conquistadores in the Americas (who brought with them their experience of conquering Islam in Spain) saw their language as a mechanism of conquest. He cited Antonio de Nebrija, whose Gramática de la lengua castellana—significantly—was published in 1492, and presented to Queen Isabella by the bishop of Avila. The queen asked what the book was for, and the bishop replied, “What is it for? Your Majesty, language is the perfect instrument of empire.”40 Greenblatt’s vision of the New World encounter between the dominant power and speech of Spain and the muted native inhabitants has a strong resonance of the earlier contest with the Muslim “Other.” He suggests that the West had “rehearsed their encounter with the peoples of the New World, acting out in their response to the legendary Wild Man, their mingled attraction and revulsion, longing and hatred.”41 In the eyes of many, the wild man was not some legendary abstraction: many of his characteristics were already attached to the Muslims, descendants of Ishmael. The angel of God had told his mother, Hagar, “Call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man; and every man’s hand shall be against him.”42 Wildness, violence, lack of self-control, and unbridled passion were the fundamental critiques that the Christian world had made of the sons of Ishmael from the earliest days.

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