miércoles, 6 de junio de 2012

The expulsion of the Moriscos from Murcia

Versión en español

From 713, when Muslims signed a pact with the Count Theodemir of Orihuela (see The Dark Ages in Murcia. The kingdom of Theodemir), to the expulsion of the last Moriscos (Moorish) from Murcia in 1614, there were over 900 years of Muslim presence in the Region of Murcia (see The Middle Ages in Murcia. The Muslim rule and The Middle Ages in Murcia. The Christian rule). In this article we will summarize the last part of this long history.

The relationship between the followers of Mohammed and Jesus Christ was never easy. For the Christian kings their Muslim subjects, called Mudejars, were a separate population, with language, religion, culture and customs different from Christians, suspected of collaborating with the Berber pirates that devastated the Mediterranean coast for centuries (see History of Sucina and H. Riquelme. Berber pirates and religious orders). In addition, their lands were frequently coveted by the Christian settlers and lords.

In 1500, the failure of the capitulations stipulated in the fall of Granada led a popular uprising of the Albaicín (Granada). It spread throughout the mountains of the Alpujarras, reaching Ronda and Almeria and was harshly repressed.

In 1502, Isabel and Fernando, the Catholic Kings, issued a pragmatic to force Mudejars to choose between their conversion to Christianity or exile. In those years, the unity of a kingdom was largely based on religious and cultural unity of its people. That pragmatic tried to force the Muslim population’s integration.

The Murcians Mudejars chose voluntary and massively to change their religion, to try to achieve legal assimilation with the Christians and stay in the lands they had occupied for centuries.

These converts from Islam (there were also Jewish converts) became known as Moriscos. Their conversion aroused logical distrust among the Christians and added a new factor of suspicion and rejection of them. Conflicts did not end there.

Morisco aljamiado (text in Castilian but using Arabic characters) manuscript with prescriptions
Source: Spain National Library (Biblioteca Nacional de España)

In another attempt to force integration, King Felipe II forbade the use of Arabic as well as costumes and ceremonies of Muslim origin. The application of this new decree led to another rebellion in the Alpujarras in 1568. The Moriscos of Granada were inefficiently supported by Turkish, Berber and Moorish emigrants. They were again defeated, this time by the forces under the command of Juan de Austria, Felipe II's half-brother, and by their own internal disputes. Survivors were scattered through the kingdom of Castile. Some of them settled in Murcia.

The Moriscos were still seen as an enemy within. In the early XVII century, following news of an alliance between Moriscos and the King of France, and taking advantage of a period of peace in the kingdom, King Felipe III decreed their final expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula in 1609.

It was an operation of unprecedented magnitude, often tragic and dramatic, but quite effectively completed over several years. Those expelled were only allowed to transport the goods they could carry.

Most of the Moriscos went to North Africa, where they had an uncertain reception and played important roles. Some swelled pirate forces and they even set up a small republic in Morocco, the Republic of Salé, dedicated to pirating. Moriscos seized Timbuktu, first on behalf of the Sultan of Morocco and later on for themselves.

Morisco manuscript with legends and stories
Source: Spain National Library (Biblioteca Nacional de España)

The various consulted sources agree in estimating the total population of Murcia at that time about 100,000 people. Some 6,000 were Moriscos from Granada, who lived mostly in the area of Lorca. Another 9,000 were Murcian Moriscos, based primarily in Ricote Valley communities, descendants of the Mudejars converted to Christianity over a century before. They were more integrated in Christian society than other Morisco communities elsewhere in Spain, intermarriage being common.

The Moriscos were generally proficient farmers, as evidenced by the old saying "Who has an orchard that is cultivated by a Moor, has a treasure". The Inquisition watched them closely and they were often subjected to exploitation of nobility and clergy, who owned an increasing amount of land and used them as servants.

Precisely, Levant nobility and some prelates were the most disadvantaged in their economic interests by the expulsion of their Morisco servants, and who most opposed to it. They came to ask Pope Paul V a commission to study the issue. But their scruples finished when the Duke of Lerma, Felipe III’s favorite, granted them the properties of their banished vassals.

The Granada Moriscos left Murcia in 1610 and the Murcians in 1614. This was the last massive expulsion in Spain and it ended up erasing the traces of Muslim population.

The expulsion of Murcian Moriscos was not as complete as might be expected, althoug some of the deportees were in fact true Christians and even held public positions. The truth is that by using different procedures and legal arguments, it is estimated that only about 2,500 went into exile. Another 3,500 were able to stay in Murcia. Many of the remaining 3,000 chose to flee, most of them to the ancient kingdom of Valencia. During the following years, many managed to return to their places of origin. In 1626, King Felipe IV ordered not to proceed further "against the Mudejar Moriscos who were expelled and had become ...".

There is disagreement among historians about the economic effects of the expulsion. It is recognized that varied by region. The percentage of expelled population and the rate at which they were replaced by Christian farmers and craftsmen determined these consequences. Most modern consulted publications tend to think that economic damages in Murcia were less than previously thought.

The expulsion of the Moriscos is a controversial episode in our history that 400 years later continues to arouse passions. In any case, it was a tragedy that affected the lives and properties of many thousands of human beings.

Acknowledgments
Alfredo Vílchez, PhD in History, for reviewing and correcting the text.
Jenny, for reviewing the English version.


Selected sources
Expulsión y destierro de los moriscos mudéjares del Reino de Murcia (1610-1614). Jorge Gil. Écoles des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (París)
Excellent article that provides lots of information and data. Posted in Áreas. Revista Internacional de Ciencias Sociales, published by the University of Murcia. Number 30 (2011) is dedicated to Los moriscos y su expulsión: nuevas problemáticas

IV Centenario de la expulsión de los moriscos lorquinos (1610-2010). Melchor Guerrero Arjona
Article on the expulsion of the Moriscos from Lorca, previously deported from Granada after the revolt of the Alpujarras, published in Alberca. Revista de la Asociación de Amigos del Museo de Lorca

Memoria de los Moriscos
Website within the National Library of Spain dedicated to the exhibition about Morisco aljamiada literature organized by the BNE in 2010. A 15-minute video about this exhibition is available here

Regmurcia.com has two groups of articles: La expulsión de los Moriscos en el Reino de Murcia and Historia de la Región de Murcia

Moriscos en valle de Ricote
Webislam.com includes this documented article. It has a very clear position, but perhaps due to this reason, it is an interesting reading.

Expulsados 1609. La tragedia de los moriscos
Monographic Web sponsored by Casa Árabe

Wikipedia in English: Morisco and Expulsion of the Moriscos