Category Archives: Spanish History

The arrival of the Romans in Iberia in 219/8 BC was no accident. They landed there as a military force determined to defeat their rivals, the Carthaginians, from whom they had already conquered the islands of Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia.

The Carthaginians were already well established in the Iberian Peninsula, and as long as they controlled it they were a threat to Roman expansion. The war in Iberia lasted some 12 years, after which Carthage was finished as a Mediterranean power.

The Romans claimed to be liberators of the tribes under Carthagininan dominance, but once in Iberia, they soon realised the economic potential of the territory, and the principle of liberating the natives from their Carthaginian overlords was soon replaced by that of permanent residence.

Hispania ca. 196 BC.

As early as 197 BC, Rome signalled its intentions, dividing its conquered possessions into two provinces, Hispania Citerior (running down the east coast and inland) and Hispania Ulterior (roughly modern Andalusia).

However, whether expansion from the south and east to the rest of the peninsula was planned or was the result of ensuring safe boundaries, or even the result of personal initiative by ambitious governors is not clear, but the final result was that for the first time virtually the whole area (the exception being perhaps the Basque lands) was controlled by one power.

What we now call Spain (and Portugal) consisted, at the time the Romans arrived, of tribal groups –often isolated by geographical barriers– that paradoxically made conquest easier and harder.  Harder because Rome had to conquer or come to terms with each tribe in turn; easier because these tribes could offer no cohesive opposition to the newcomers.

Nevertheless, the Romans met enormous resistance, especially from the Celts of the north and north west, and the struggle for the peninsula lasted almost 200 years, significantly longer than the 10 years it took Julius Caesar to conquer neighbouring Gaul (modern France), or the 50 required to overcome British resistance. In all, the Romans controlled the Iberian Peninsula for roughly six hundred years, more than enough time to leave a lasting impression.

Conquest:
We can divide the conquest into two general periods, the first following the defeat of the Carthagininans (205 BC) and ending with the fall of the town of Numancia/Numantia 133 BC, and the second extending from 29 to 18 BC.

The first period is the one of greatest expansion and greatest resistance. The methods employed by the Romans varied according to the circumstances; they knew how to take advantage of disputes between tribes. Some tribes conspired with the Romans to defeat their neighbours, some were frightened into submission, some were enticed, some deceived, and others defeated in battle.

Main opposition ran roughly along an arc stretching from the head of the Duero valley to the present Portuguese-Spanish border and southward to the head of the Guadiana River. The first phase of Roman domination climaxes with two individual and collective exploits of defiance that now figure in all Spanish manuals, often exaggerated by myth.

For 10 years or so (from ca. 147 BC to 138 BC.) the Lusitanians in the west put up a spirited fight under a leader called Viriatus.

Zamora: Statue of Viriatus. © Vicmael.
The Lusitanians, pastoral by tradition, had seen their liberty reduced by the encroachment of the Romans. Their response was to harass the newcomers with raids.  

Legend has it that Viriatus was a shepherd, but his organisational and military skills were second to none. He became leader after escaping the treacherous massacre of some 8.000 unarmed Lusitanians who had been promised peaceful terms by the Romans in 150 BC, following an embarrassing defeat for the Roman governor of Hispania Citerior, Sulpicus Galba. The duplicity carried out by Galba was such that it even provoked angry condemnation in Rome, and calls that he be handed over to the Lusitanians.

Employing guerrilla tactics, Viriatus caused a lot of damage as he moved his troops swiftly over large areas of the south and south-west of the peninsula. He was defeated finally in 138 BC after two aides –bribed by the Romans– murdered him when he was asleep.

Interestingly, a group of Portuguese volunteers for
the Nationalist cause in the Spanish Civil War were called “Viriatos.”

Viriatus’s fighting tactics have since been described as the first example of the Spanish guerrilla fighter, and for many Spaniards and Portuguese, he has become an early instance of a “national” hero. A bronze statue now stands in the main square of Zamora (western Spain, on the river Duero) to celebrate his exploits.

The second centre of resistance takes us to the northern part of the Meseta, to Numancia, close to the town of Soria, on the upper stretches of the river Duero. Popular attention tends to focus on the lengthy resistance of the town, although the region itself was in internal turmoil for some 20 years (beginning around 154 and ending with the fall of Numancia in 133).

Numancia has become a legend, according to which –after a siege of more than a year– its inhabitants, rather than surrender unconditionally, chose to set their city and themselves on fire. History, however, is a little less blind. Although there was a long siege and some of the enfeebled Numancians did die by their own hands, most surrendered. Some fifty were sent to Rome for the triumphal procession, the rest were sold as slaves and the town razed to the ground so that –like Carthage– its memory might be obliterated.

The conquest of Numancia proved to be very difficult. In Rome, the senators were so angry with their army’s lack of success that they sent one of their best generals –Scipio Aemilianus– to take charge. Scipio came with the highest credentials: an iron disciplinarian, he was already famous for demolishing Carthage in 146 BC. He also came with a huge force,  300 catapults and even 12 elephants.

Scipio quickly moved to impose his will on the soldiers. Merchants and prostitutes were expelled from the camps, and comforts such as beds  and hot baths were prohibited. Breakfast was eaten on foot, daily marches in full kit became the norm, ditches were dug and stockades constructed. Only when he was satisfied did Scipio turn his attention to Numancia.

The Romans succeeded materially, but legend has preserved the name of Numancia endowing it with the defiant gesture of mass suicide that has come down as an example of collective will and pride. It is this version that Cervantes adopts in his play, El cerco de Numancia (The Siege of Numancia), the climax of which interestingly features a young child, Viriatus, who steals fame from the Romans at the end when he commits suicide.

Although Cervantes’s play might be interpreted as a case of national, i.e. Spanish resistance to a foreign power, it would be a mistake to adopt that view for the Numantians. On the contrary, it could be argued that it is an example of what has been seen as one of the weaknesses of the Spanish character, its centrifugal or separatist tendency in regional terms. It bears keeping in mind that more than half of the soldiers participating in the siege were natives from neighbouring tribes.

The fall of Numancia represents the culmination of the first period of Roman conquest of the peninsula, but it does not mean the end of hostilities. The various tribes, especially the Lusitani and the Celtiberians, proved difficult to control and rebelled several times. Perhaps Rome would have moved more decisively to conquer the rest of the peninsula following the defeat of Numancia, but two major civil wars within the Republic during the first century BC spilled across the Mediterranean onto Spanish soil, embroiling the tribes in battles that were not strictly directed at them.

The details of those wars needn’t concern to us other than to remind us of how closely bound Hispania had become to events in Rome. The result of those conflicts was the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire under Octavian, better known as Augustus, the first emperor (27 BC-14 AD).

The rise of Augustus coincides with the second and final general phase of conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, directed now against the recalcitrant Celtic tribes of the north west. The decision responded perhaps to a wish to complete control of the peninsula, but equally persuasive was the rich gold deposit located just south of the Cantabrian Mountains. As long as the aggressive Celts of Asturias remained unconquered nearby, they posed a danger to the extraction of the mineral.

The Cantabrian Wars, as they are usually called, started around 29 BC, and for the next 10 years the Romans were engaged in hard battle in one of the most difficult areas of the peninsula, made up of steep hills and narrow valleys, frequently wet in summer and snowbound in winter.

Hispania ca 29 BC.  Wikimedia.

On top of that, the Celts also adopted guerrilla methods which were difficult for the Romans, accustomed to fighting in formation. The fighting was so savage and resistance so fierce that seven legions were called into duty. There was such a high loss of life that many Roman soldiers refused to fight or mutinied; soldiers of one of the legions, the I Augusta, even suffered the humiliation of being forbidden to use their legion name as a punishment for their incompetence. Roman persistence, however, eventually prevailed, but not before Augustus himself had to leave for Asturias to command the army in 26 BC.

The final conquest of Hispania and the transition of the Roman political system from Republic to Empire both coincide with the rule of Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD). After conflicts lasting some two hundred years, the peninsula settled down to enjoy two hundred years of peace and prosperity under the famous pax romana(roughly 27 BC to 180 AD). It was now when Roman values were consolidated as towns and cities flourished, trade thrived and Hispania moved fully into the orbit of Roman life.

The stubborn and savage resistance of the Asturians against the Romans might have been reduced to a mere blip in Spanish history had it been the only occasion that the area was to prove itself fiercely resistant to foreign intrusion.
But later invaders, notably the Moors, were also to find Asturias impregnable,and with time it was to implant itself into popular imagination as one of the principal symbols of Spanish values and tradition, embodied even today in the official title of the heir to the throne: the Prince or Princess of Asturias.

Sources.
Anderson, James M      Spain 1001 Sights: An Archeological and Historical Guide London 1992

Collins, Roger     Spain: An Oxford Archeological Guide Oxford 1998
Richardson,  J. S.     The Romans in Spain Oxford 1996
Roldán, José Manuel      La España romana Madrid 1989
Tovar, A  and Blázquez, J.M.     Historia de la Hispania Roman Madrid 1976
Vincent, Mary and Stradling, R.A.     Cultural Atlas of Spain and Portugal Oxford 1994
Image of Viriatus: http://www.vicmael.com
Maps of Hispania: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Maps_of_Roman_Hispania

Spain. Restoration: Alfonso XIII. The Monarchy.
Alfonso XIII (1886-1941; ruled 1902-23; remained king until 1931, during the dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera).

As one of the three traditional powers of Spanish politics (along with the church and the nobility), the monarchy saw its reach severely curbed during the politically volatile 19th century. 

The 1812 Constitution stripped the throne of absolute power, and granted legal power exclusively to the Nation through the Cortes (Parliament). All subsequent 19th-century constitutions retained that basic division of powers with those of the monarch undergoing some variations**.

** The Republican constitution of 1873
abolished both monarchy and nobility,
but it was never passed into law.

The last constitution of the 19th century (1876) reaffirmed the Cortes’s power to enact laws, with the monarch as head of state.

Alfonso XIII was 16 when he came to the throne in 1902, taking over from his doting mother who had been regent since her husband’s death in 1885.

Although vain and autocratic, Alfonso was a pleasant individual with a love of sports, shooting, and fast cars. He was also a very eligible bachelor in the courts of Europe. While in London on a state visit in 1905, he fell in love with Victoria Eugenia, the haemophiliac daughter of Edward VII and granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Scene following attempted assassination of Alfonso XIII after his wedding to Victoria Eugenia

After a “postcard” romance (Alfonso regularly sent Eugenia postcards declaring undying love), they were married a year later in Madrid. However, the occasion was marred when a Catalan anarchist tried to assassinate the king. The royal couple escaped, but 24 others were killed by the bomb blast.

The royal couple had six children, two of whom
–both sons—were haemophiliacs. In 1914, Alfonso
and Eugenia were estranged, with Alfonso holding
Eugenia responsible for tainting the Spanish royal
line.  Alfonso subsequently took several mistresses
and fathered five illegitimate children. He and Eugenia
separated officially in 1931, after Alfonso went into
exile in Rome.  He died in Rome in 1941.

Not only was the incident a violent reminder of the uncertainties of Spanish political life at this period, it also underlined the vulnerability of the monarchy. The 19th century had already seen the institution traumatised first by the end of royal absolutism in 1812 and then by rejection in 1873 when Spain became a republic (for a year).

Now, at the beginning of the 20th century, its position was precarious, viewed by many as a corrupt symbol of the country’s decadence. To the Republicans, the king was an anachronism; for the socialists he represented outdated traditionalism and conservatism; the regionalists saw in him the hated reminder of centralism and suppression while for the anarchists he was the leading functionary of state apparatus.

On the other hand, the army, the church (hostile to republican sentiments) and nobility looked favourably on the institution.

Despite opposition, Alfonso survived for twenty one years as king. It was hoped, when he came to the throne, that he would be a symbol of a New Spain in a new century, a revitalised country with a promising future. Regeneration was the buzz word.

And had Alfonso followed his father and refrained from political involvement, he might have survived the political crises, and the monarchy would have been saved the ignominy of a second rejection by the electorate in 1931. But in a way Alfonso’s involvement was thrust upon him.

Like so many fellow Spaniards, he was shocked by his country’s humiliating defeat by the United States in 1898 (aka the Spanish American War) and took El Desastre (The Disaster, as the defeat was commonly called) very much to heart.

Unfortunately, however, Alfonso XIII inherited a corrupt political arrangement known as the gobierno de turno, i.e. a system of conservative and liberal governments alternating by mutual agreement.  Installed in the last quarter of the 19th century, it had provided a veneer of stability thanks to an understanding between its conservative founder, Antonio del Cánovas, and his liberal rival and collaborator, Práxedes Sagasta.

 **A corrupt system whereby local political bosses
caciques—were charged with ensuring the desired
electoral results during the period of gobierno de
turno pacifico
]

But it was a system underpinned by the corrupt practices of rural caciquismo ** and was unprepared for the social changes of the urban centres.  It was, quite simply, not representative, and was subordinated in particular to the interests of the agrarian landowners or oligarchies.

In addition, there were several new competing political voices –e.g. the army, workers’ movements, Republicanism, anarchism, regionalism– whose divergent interests put increasing stress on an arrangement that depended so much on the “agreement between gentlemen” politics of the gobierno de turno. Therefore, it was inevitable that in time the turno’s shortcomings would strain political credibility, especially after the assassination of Cánovas in 1897 and Sagasta’s death in 1903.

The ineptitude of civilian politicians and subsequent political instability of the early years of the 20th century only helped to confirm Alfonso’s understanding of his constitutional role as final arbiter in Spanish politics. It also played into his autocratic personality.

In one of his first public speeches, he declared: “whether Spain is to remain a Bourbon monarchy or whether it becomes Republic depends on me … I can cover myself with glory regenerating my country … or I can be a king who does not rule and, being ruled by my ministers, will end up out of my country” (Carr 475). Prophetic words in retrospect, for he did, indeed, end up an exile.

As a result of Alfonso’s scorn for politicians and his personal interpretation of his constitutional role as power broker, he intervened frequently in the political process. Eight prime ministers came and went during the first four years alone of Alfonso’s reign and in the space of twenty-one years (1902-23), there were thirty three different governments.

Alfonso XIII.

Nevertheless, the one body that Alfonso respected and could depend upon to support the monarchy was the Army, which saw the royal institution as guarantor of national unity.

From his early days Alfonso had been surrounded by military groups and, as chief of staff, rarely ever appeared in public without his army uniform. It was a symbiotic relationship that saw Alfonso support the demoralised Army following its defeat in Cuba in 1898 and back its military presence in Morocco, the last remnant of the once great empire. But such an intimate relationship came with a price, and eventually cost Alfonso his crown.

In September 1923, General Miguel Primo de Rivera –believing himself to be the “iron surgeon” some Spanish critics had called for to regenerate their country– staged a coup. Alfonso had been secretly briefed of the impending coup and effectively legitimised it by accepting it and proclaiming a military dictatorship under Primo. By doing so, Alfonso abdicated his constitutional responsibilities and unwittingly condemned the monarchy by association.

Alfonso XIII with General Miguel Primo de Rivera.

Although he remained king under Primo, Alfonso was largely irrelevant in the power structure and he became increasingly known for his playboy lifestyle, flitting to social gatherings at the “in” cities of Europe (Biarritz, San Sebastian etc.).

In April, 1931, just fifteen months after Primo was forced into exile, Alfonso followed suit, unable to survive the military shadow that haunted him.

Sources.
Barton, Simon A History of Spain 2nd. ed. Basingstoke, Hampshire 2009
Carr, Raymond  Spain 1808-1939 Oxford 1966
Esdaile, Charles J Spain in the Liberal Age: From Constitution to Civil War, 1808-1939 Oxford 2000
Herr, Richard “Flow and Ebb 1700-1833” in Spain: A History ed. Raymond Carr  Oxford  pp. 173-204.
All images from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfonso_XIII_of_Spain#Marriage_and_children

Restoration 1900-23: The Military
In 1898, Spain suffered a humiliating military defeat at the hands of the United States, losing in the process its last overseas colonies, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

Its imperial dream collapsed dramatically at the same time that its historic rivals, England and France, were consolidating or expanding their empires. From its once influential position in world affairs, it was relegated to minor player.

Loss of influence was under way in the 18th century, but with its overseas empire still intact, Spain could still maintain the illusion of imperial power. That was dismantled during the chaos of the 19th century.  By 1825 all of Spain’s South American colonies had freed themselves from their imperial noose, so the loss of the last remnants of the empire in 1898 was all the more devastating.

In the soul searching that followed, politicians and military generals accused each other of incompetence with neither side acknowledging its own ineptness.

Cuba was an especially prized possession as the source of  lucrative sugar and tobacco industries in which Spaniards (notably Catalans) had invested heavily. However, Cuban nationalists, fretting at their slave-like conditions, had rebelled in 1868. The rebellion ended with an armistice in 1878, but the issue did not go away. In 1895 another revolt, inspired by the radical liberal poet José Martí, cost the Spanish military dearly.

Between 1895 and 1897, over 200.000 soldiers were dispatched from Spain, but corruption, poor morale and inefficiency undermined their efforts. Two thousand died in battle, but a staggering 53.000 from sundry tropical diseases! The end came for Spain when the United States –with its eyes on the sugar and tobacco industries– decided to intervene on the side of the Cubans.

Following the Disaster of ’98, the Spanish veterans arrived home demoralised, dishevelled and fever-wracked. There was no heroic welcome. In Madrid they were reviled for their inability to defend the imperial dream; in Barcelona they were scorned for failing to protect Catalan export markets and business investments.

In addition, many Spaniards found the army’s large, unwieldy, bureaucratic structure unacceptable –it had 80.000 soldiers commanded by 24.000 officers of whom 471 were generals.  It also swallowed almost half the national revenue at the beginning of the 20th century.

Offended army leaders retaliated against the attacks, charging incompetent politicians with betraying the armed forces, and with having left the troops in Cuba without supplies and adequate weapons.

Under public scrutiny, the army showed increasing sensitivity to the derision and lampoons that surfaced, and finally hit out. In November 1905, some young army officers in Barcelona trashed the offices of the Catalan satirical weekly Cu-Cut and the daily La Veu de Catalunya (The Voice of Catalonia) for having ridiculed military honour and national unity.

Emboldened by their success, they forced the resignation of the government, and succeeded, in March 1906, in having a law passed –the Ley de jurisdicciones (“The Law of Jurisdictions”)– that censored anti-military criticism on the grounds that it was unpatriotic.

What this meant was that the army was now empowered to try civilians in military tribunals for whatever it considered offensive to its honour! In effect, this was a form of military censorship, as well as breeding ground for contempt for and superiority over civilian society.

Divested of its role as guardian of Spain’s last imperial possessions, the army still retained its belief in a unitary state and rejected any regionalist sentiment, especially in Catalonia, as the Cu-Cut and La Veu de Catalunya episode showed.

It also clung tenaciously to the final remnant of its “overseas” territory in North West Africa, influenced by nostalgia for distant past conquests over the Moors.  Melilla (1497) and Ceuta (1580) had been Spanish enclaves for centuries and now that the transatlantic dream was shattered it seemed fitting for Spain to turn its attention more fully towards its historic neighbour across the Straits of Gibraltar.

But there was another reason for this: alarm at France’s expansionist plans along North Africa. Between 1902 and 1912, a series of international conferences and treaties confirmed Spain control over a narrow, inhospitable slice of Northern Morocco, known as the Rif. It was perhaps the best Spain could hope for in the complicated manoeuvres between Britain and France.

Britain didn’t want to share the control of the straits of Gibraltar with the French; Spain was far less of a threat. For Spain, however, that strip of land beyond Ceuta became a festering sore with tragic consequences later. But for the time being it left the country with its army busy, its pride intact and, equally important, prevented the French from gobbling up all of Morocco and controlling the far side of the straits of Gibraltar. Having both sides of the straits controlled by their old imperial rivals was enough to turn many Spaniards apoplectic.

Mountainous, poor, with virtually no roads, Spain’s Moroccan protectorate was the catalyst that brought the army into further conflict with Catalan politics, only three years after the Cu-Cut and La Veu de Catalunya trashing. The Berber tribes of the Rif Mountains were notoriously difficult to govern, and in the summer of 1909 they inflicted a crushing defeat on a Spanish column protecting Spanish mining interests in the area.

Map of the Rif, Morocco.

Determined to avenge this humiliation, the army hastily called up reserves garrisoned in Catalonia.  Anti-war demonstrations spread quickly in towns and cities as conscripts headed for Barcelona on their way to Morocco.

The protests culminated in late July 1909 in the “Tragic Week” of violence that shook the nation. Barcelona, already a tinder box of regionalist, socialist, anarchist and republican sentiments exploded in all directions. The brunt of property damage was borne by the church, as the demonstrations turned into anticlerical violence.

Over the protests of the civil governor, the army moved in and declared martial law.  When it was over, 8 members of the security forces and 150 civilians were dead, and 2,500 people arrested, five of whom were executed by firing squads. One of them was Francisco Ferrer, a free thinker with anarchist leanings and founder of secular schools in Barcelona. He was also was well known abroad and his execution became a cause celebre among European liberals.

To the army, the “Tragic Week” rampage smacked not only of anti-military and anti-church feelings, but confirmed increasing Catalan alienation from the patria (“fatherland”).  The military decision to intervene despite the protests of the civil governor underlined the widening split between military and civilian society and the growing contempt of the military for civilian government. Like the Law of Jurisdictions episode of 1906, it also had a direct impact on political events, precipitating the fall of the Prime Minister, Antonio Maura, and a change of government.

Unfortunately, the debacle in Morocco in 1909 did nothing to lessen the Army’s enthusiasm for continued colonial presence in the protectorate. But Morocco contributed not only to the widening tension between the military and the people, but also to internal frustration within the army itself. 

On the mainland, officers were poorly paid, often posted in some isolated provincial garrison, and forced to take a part-time job just to buy the uniform that would mark their social status.  Many lower officers chafed at the lack of promotional opportunities based strictly on seniority. War might mean death but it also offered the possibility of rapid promotion.

The problem was that those who had not been called up to fight in Morocco and therefore remained on the mainland (they were known as the peninsulares) were denied that possibility and resented the speedy rise and accompanying salary increases of those fighting in Morocco (the africanistas). This bubbling squabble might have remained an internal matter but for events outside Spain: the First World War (1914-18).

What happened was that Spain’s economy initially took off because it was able to provide industrial and agricultural products to both sides in the war.  But the side effect of this was a shortage of goods within the country, zooming inflation and tumbling living standards.

Protesting peninsular officers in several garrisons formed Juntas de Defensa (a kind of military union) to demand better pay, and improved opportunities of promotion. However, their complaints were not presented in such bald terms, but couched in the language of regeneration, anti-corruption and anti-caciquismo**.

**The cacique was an important individual who,
at the local level, could ensure that those in his
area would vote according to the orders he
received from Madrid.

But the protest became in effect a military rebellion when it spread and defied government attempts to break it up. Again the civil government caved in; the protesters (junteros) won the day.

Many Spaniards –especially members of the workers’ parties– thought that the juntero calls for regeneration against political corruption signalled social revolution.  In fact, the junteros were concerned only about their own grievances and were not about to defect and join a proletarian uprising.

Misreading the situation, workers went on a general strike in August of 1917. It was the most serious social turbulence of Alfonso XIII’s reign, and effectively heralded the beginning of the end of the gobierno de turno political system. 

The army, with its own demands satisfied, now set about crushing the strike ruthlessly throughout the country. In Asturias, command of one column was given to a young major who had already seen action in Morocco and made something of a name for himself: Francisco Franco de Bahamonde**.

** It wasn’t the only time Franco confronted the
miners of Asturias; he did so in 1934 during the
turbulent years of the Second Republic.

The future dictator of Spain was having his first taste of military action against his fellow citizens, the miners of Asturias.

In three days the general strike was broken, and military power was ominously strengthened. Indeed, the liberal politician, the Count of Romanones, was moved to declare that the armed forces had become “the masters of Spain” (Carr 81). Not quite, but it only required one more event, and for that we return to Morocco.

Under the leadership of a highly respected scholar and former member of the Spanish administration, Abd el Krim, Rif Berbers were trying to establish an independent republic in the Spanish protectorate.

At the same time, the Spanish Minister of War, General Dámaso Berenguer, had drawn up a three-year plan to control the land linking Melilla and Ceuta. His preference was for slow occupation, playing off different tribes against each other.  However, the ambitious military commander of Melilla, Manuel Silvestre, preferred all out conquest. In July 1921, Silvestre led his troops to a traumatic military disaster which resulted in the slaughter of over 10.000 soldiers.

Bodies of Spanish soldiers after the Battle of Annual, July 1921.

Although censored, the news soon spread to the mainland, and reaction in a shaken nation was swift. Several governments fell in succession and demands were heard –especially from the liberals and socialists– for an investigation into the debacle.

Although touching a raw nerve, an inquiry was set up under a General José Picasso. His report was then examined by a civilian commission (July 1923) which was to announce its findings to the Cortes (Parliament) when it reconvened in September.

In the meantime, rumours were rife about military corruption, and suggestions circulated that the king himself may have encouraged Silvestre, a close friend. A few days before parliament reopened, however, the Captain General of Catalonia, Miguel Primo de Rivera –with the approval of the king– engineered a coup against the government. The report was never made public. Now the military really was in charge.

Sources.
Balcells, Albert    Catalan Nationalism London 1996
Barton, Simon A History of Spain 2nd ed. Basingstoke, Hampshire 2009
Carr, Raymond Spain 1808-1039 Oxford 1966
Ellwood, Sheelagh Franco New York 1995
Esdaile, Charles J. Spain in the Liberal Age: From Constitution to Civil War, 1808-1939 Oxford 2000
Herr, Richard An Historical Essay on Modern Spain Berkeley 1974
Hughes, Robert    Barcelona New York 1992
Phillips Willliam D & Carla R Phillips A Concise History of Spain Cambridge 2010
Preston, Paul Franco: A Biography London 1995
Image after the Battle of Annual: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guerra_del_Rif_1922_-_2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Guerra_del_Rif_1922_-_2.jpg 
Map of the Rif from: http://www.lahistoriaconmapas.com/europa/espana/la-guerra-del-rif-o-guerra-de-melilla-1909-the-rif-war/

The Restoration in Spain, Part I: 1875-1902.
Compared to the political chaos of the first 75 years of the 19th century in Spain, the last 25 years were relatively stable.  The Bourbon royal dynasty was restored, with Alfonso (XII) taking the throne in 1875. The Bourbon family remained until early 1931, when Alfonso XIII was forced to abdicate and a Second Republic proclaimed. Several factors help explain this relative political stability.

The Monarchy: A virtue of Alfonso XII (r. 1874-85) was that he stayed politically neutral, keeping strictly to his role as constitutional monarch, a welcome change from his mother and grandfather, Fernando VII. He was something of a dandy (noted for his sideburns) but endeared himself to his people by public appearances in moments of need: he visited areas hit by cholera in 1881, and comforted victims of a large earthquake in the Málaga-Granada region in 1885.

Alfonso XII.

Alfonso was called informally majo, an allusion to his love of the bulls and the Madrid dish, the cocido. He fell deeply in love with his cousin Mercedes de Orleans, whom he married despite strong opposition. When she died a few months later of typhus, the king was devastated.

Out of duty he married María Cristina of Austria in 1879, but in his personal life became a notorious womaniser with several lovers drawn from the theatre.

María Cristina –popularly called “Doña Virtudes”– made sure at least that there would be no palace scandals; she surrounded herself with elderly ladies-in-waiting, a move that elicited a comment from the Moroccan ambassador that the Spanish court was magnificent, but that the harem was weak!

After Alfonso’s untimely death of tuberculosis in 1885, Queen María Cristina, served as regent until 1902. Like her husband, she refrained from political interference. She was much more concerned with ensuring the position of her son, the future Alfonso XIII, and took care not to create political enemies.

The Political System.
Underpinning the whole political system was an extraordinary arrangement between the two most important political figures of this period, the conservative, Antonio Cánovas, and the liberal, Práxedes Sagasta. This curious political arrangement was initiated by Cánovas, a historian and monarchist whose objective was to give Spain political stability, which would allow it to build up its industries. Through this, he hoped that Spaniards –especially the ruling class– would become more European and acquire a greater sense of their responsibilities.

In order to achieve stability and economic welfare, Cánovas considered two requirements to be fundamental: 1) the army keep out of politics and limit itself to the defence of the country, and 2) elections should be held to elect members to Cortes (Parliament), although the election results would be prearranged (i.e. they weren’t really free).

Keeping the Army out of Politics.
Most of the generals who had intervened in politics during Isabel’s reign were either dead –O’Donnell, Narvaez, Prim– or quite old –Espartero (died 1879)–. Younger military men, generally horrified by the anarchy of the Republican experiment (1873-74), supported the political arrangement.

Cánovas also ensured Army support by allowing it a degree of internal autonomy and granting members a few honorary seats in the Senate. At the same time, the Army was also occupied in Cuba where calls for local autonomy had been ignored or frustrated by the Spanish government.

A savage guerrilla war, begun in 1868 dragged on until a peace settlement 10 years later, with a promise by Spain to grant autonomy. Continued Spanish disregard for Cuban autonomy, however, led to a further outbreak in 1895, with calls now for independence. In 1898 this was achieved after Spain suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the USA which came to “help” Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico throw off the yoke of Spanish imperialism!

Elections.
Cánovas was an admirer of the British two-party political system which represented the right and the left, and he set about imitating it –but only superficially! With Sagasta’s agreement, he instituted a system of alternating governments (known as the gobierno de turno pacífico), according to which he and Sagasta alternated as government leaders.

This arrangement meant, of course, that there were no such things as true, democratically elected governments … it was all fixed. And yet this was, basically, the system that continued –admittedly with increasing difficulty– until 1923, when a military coup led by General Miguel Primo de Rivera ended it all.

How did the election system work? When elections were called, the necessary parliamentary majorities were worked out beforehand so that the results were known even before the elections. In the case of the 1886 general election which brought Sagasta to power, the results appeared in an official newspaper the day before the elections took place!!

It was really a perversion of parliamentary democracy, but it worked. How were these majorities ensured? By rigging the electoral list. Orders would go out from the Ministry of the Interior to the provincial governors and from these, via a network, to the whole country, from large towns to smallest villages.

Spain was still overwhelmingly rural, and a crucial figure in controlling the votes in these country areas was the cacique. The cacique was an important individual who, at the local level, could ensure that those in his area would vote according to the orders he received.

In the south and west (Andalusia and Extremadura, Northern Castile), he could be a latifundista (owner of a large estate) who controlled local caciques in the surrounding villages.

In the north where there were no latifundios, the cacique might be a lawyer, priest or the local mayor. Often a village might have two caciques, one liberal and one conservative who, far from keeping the gentleman’s agreement of the politicians in Madrid, would be bitter enemies,. This meant that the elections were at times violent. Still, the corruption “worked”, and the system limped increasingly along until its overthrow by a military coup in 1923.

The gobierno de turno pacífico was a band aid temporarily covering serious cracks in Spanish society in the last quarter of the 19th century.  True, the Cánovas/Sagasta understanding lent political stability which allowed modest economic and commercial progress. But this occurred mainly in the growing urban centres of the coast: Barcelona, Bilbao, the mining region of Asturias and the sherry region of Andalusia. Little economic or commercial improvement occurred in the interior.

In the 1880s, the Liberals –under Sagasta– introduced measures allowing freedom of association, which legitimized the socialist political party (PSOE: Partido Socialista Obrero Español), founded by Pablo Iglesias in 1879, and paved the way for its union affiliate (the UGT: Unión General de Trabajadores), established in 1888. At the same time, freedom of the press, religious liberty and trial by jury were guaranteed. These were followed, in the 1890s, by universal male suffrage.

However, despite these advances, other forces put pressures on Spain’s delicate social fabric:

1. The Cuban War was a disaster, leaving more than 60,000 dead through fighting or disease. Beginning in the 1860s, the war concluded in 1898 with the humiliating defeat of Spanish forces by the United States (which supported Cuban independence for its own purposes), and the subsequent loss not only of Cuba but of all the rest of Spain’s transoceanic territories: the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico.

2. The appearance of working class movements and a socialist political party gave voice to those who lived in slums and worked in deplorable conditions in industrial urban centres, especially in Catalonia and particularly in Barcelona.

At the same time, anarchism –which had found fertile ground among the landless peasants of Andalusia in the 1870s– spread quickly into Catalonia. Faced with the intransigence and hostility of employers (who opposed any form of labour organisations), anarchists resorted to violence. The first anarchist bomb exploded in the offices of a powerful business group in Barcelona in 1891.

It didn’t do much damage but set the tone and fulfilled the revolutionary maxim “propaganda by deed.” In particular, two anarchist bombings –in 1893 and 1896– rocked Barcelona. In the first, 21 people died in the Liceu Opera House, in the second, a bomb was lobbed at a religious procession during the Feast of Corpus Christi.

The bishop of Barcelona, who headed the procession, was lucky; not so 10 workers towards the end who paid with their lives. Subsequent brutal police suppression resulted in the assassination of Prime Minister Cánovas himself in 1897, not by an anarchist bomb but by an anarchist revolver!

3. There was a surge of regional nationalism in Catalonia and to a lesser extent in Euskadi (the Basque Provinces). The source of this nationalism was dissatisfaction with the central government of Madrid and a growing sense of the historical differences between these regions and the rest of Spain. Although the Basques could not claim a strong cultural heritage anchored by their language, the Catalans certainly could.

Catalans now talk proudly of the Renaixença (Renaissance), a 19th-century cultural flowering influenced by European Romanticism’s love of local colour and historical accomplishments. This cultural awakening was a significant impetus for the drafting of an important petition of grievances (Memorial dels Greuges) sent to Alfonso XII in 1885, the first document to outline Catalan aspirations as well as complaints.

The petition criticised Madrid for its centralising policies and its politicians for the decadence of the country. It argued vigorously against trade agreements with Britain and France and called for regeneration through regional vitality and competition. The Memorial did not advocate separation, but rather regional recognition.

4. Education, which had been the monopoly of the Catholic Church, became a divisive social issue when the 1876 Constitution declared that Spaniards were free to establish schools. There was no requirement for religious instruction in these schools although the state did reserve the right to determine the qualifications of the teachers. The new law did not produce a proliferation of secular schools, but it did spur debates on the kind of education desirable for Spain.

The Catholic Church was particularly sensitive to anything that touched on its monopoly. Its interests were also bolstered by the arrival of numerous French monastic clergy who, having been compelled to leave France by the Jules Ferry laws secularizing education, were determined that their new country would not fall to “liberal atheism.”  Within the Spanish church, the Jesuits led the way in educational reform, although this did not divert them from their long-held policy of cultivating the support of the rich and powerful.

The secular counterpart to church-controlled education was the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Institute of Free Education), founded in 1876 by Fernando Giner de los Ríos, a university professor much influenced by the ideas of a German philosopher, Karl Krause.  The Institute’s aim was to offer an all-round secular education in arts and science and encourage independent thought and tolerance, ideas contrary to what was taught under the Catholic system in those days.

Spaniards were probably happy to see the 19th century end given the Cuban disaster, working-class unrest, anarchist turbulence, regional disquiet and educational confrontations. In 1902, María Cristina’s regency ended and her son, Alfonso XIII, succeeded to the throne. A new century, a new king … and there was talk of regeneration in the air … How did Spain fare at the beginning of the 20th century? See Restoration 1902-23.

Sources:
Barton, Simon  A History of Spain Basingstoke, Hampshire 2nd ed. 2009
Carr, Raymond ed.  Spain: A History  Oxford 2000
Phillips, William D & Phillips Carla R A Concise History of Spain Cambridge 2010
Image of Alfonso XII: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfonso_XII_of_Spain#mediaviewer/File:King_Alfonso_XII.jpg

The Mudejars.
Political background. Until the disintegration of the caliphate of Córdoba in 1031, Muslims ruled the Iberian Peninsula up to the River Duero valley and the River Ebro valley to the Mediterranean coast, south of Barcelona. They called this land al-Andalus.

Al-Andalus 1037. Although the map refers to various “emirates” within al-Andalus, we nowadays refer to them as taifa kingdoms.

After 1031, al-Andalus split into numerous fragmented kingdoms or small emirates/states called taifas (“parties” or “factions”). With time, most taifas were absorbed or defeated by their larger Muslim neighbours, until there remained about six grouped around large cities: Zaragoza, Valencia, Toledo, Badajoz, Seville and Granada.

Politically weak and frequently at odds with each other, even to the point of allying themselves with Christian kingdoms against their fellow Muslims, these taifa kingdoms eventually sought help from fellow Muslims in the Maghreb (North West Africa) against the advancing Christians.

What prompted the call for urgent help was the conquest by Alfonso VI of Castile-León of the taifa of Toledo, the heart of the peninsula, in 1085.  Two groups from the Maghreb, the Almoravids in 1086 and the Almohads in 1145, temporarily united al-Andalus and slowed down Christian expansionism but were unable to stop it. Huesca fell in 1096, followed quickly by Zaragoza (1118), Tudela (1120) and Lérida (LLeida, 1149). All these were conquered by the king of Aragón, Alfonso I, more familiarly known as Alfonso el Batallador/ the Fighter (r. 1104-34).

The end of Muslim domination was in sight, and came in 1212 with the defeat of the Almohad army at the battle of the Navas de Tolosa (1212) just south of the Sierra Morena. This was followed by the rapid, domino-like collapse of the taifas that made up what was left of al-Andalus.  Three rival Christian kingdoms spearheaded the drive, León, Castile and Aragón.

The taifa of Badajoz fell in 1230 to the Leonese; Córdoba (1236), Seville (1248) and the Guadalquivir valley, as well as Murcia (1243) were taken by the Castilians, while the taifa of Valencia (1238-45) went to the Aragonese. That left only the taifa of Granada, which retained its independence as kingdom until 1492.

Spain 1212-1492.

By mid-way through the 13th century, then, we have the reverse of what existed between 711 and 1031 when Muslims ruled most of the peninsula: most of it was now in Christian hands. During the period of Muslim domination, there were Christians (and Jews) who remained under Moorish jurisdiction; the Christians are known as Mozarabs (mozarabes) from the Arabic musta’rib, meaning “Arabised,” i.e. Christians who took on the external trappings of Muslims, adopting Muslim clothes, eating the same diet and even speaking Arabic.

As the Christian kingdoms advanced south, there were Muslims who remained in the newly-conquered Christian territory; these are the Mudejars (mudéjares), from the Arabic al-mudajjar, “people allowed to remain.”

The heaviest concentration of Mudejars was in the kingdoms of Navarre, Aragón and Valencia, reflecting the path of Islamic conquest and heaviest settlement in the 8th century. 

In Castile, they were, generally speaking, less prominent, and less so in Old Castile (modern Castile-León) than in New Castile (modern Castile-La Mancha). Population estimates are notoriously difficult to arrive at. For Aragón, for example, percentages range between 15% and 50%; in Valencia from approximately 30% to over 50% and as high as 75%.

Why did the Mudejars remain under Christian rule?
As Christian kingdoms expanded southwards, tens of thousands of Muslims stayed under Christian rule, despite being urged by their religious leaders to leave. The orthodox view held by Muslim religious leaders was that the Mudejars had an obligation to abandon the land of the infidel. Many did, but the fact that most did not points to factors beyond religion that governed their decision.

The Mudejars felt sufficiently comfortable under Christian because of the kind of accommodation that Muslims themselves had practiced when allowing Christians (i.e. Mozarabs) and Jews, as dhimmis, to practice their respective faiths and customs in al-Andalus. The role was now reversed, but Christians, Muslims (and Jews) were long accustomed to life in a pluralistic, multicultural society, involving the three great religions of the Middle East.

Probably the most persuasive reason for staying for the Mudejars were the rights they were guaranteed by municipal charters (fueros) set up by the Christians for newly-conquered towns. In addition to preserving their religion, laws, culture etc., they could in general buy, sell or hold property and had freedom of movement. They were, however, by the nature of their relationship with the Christians, second class citizens.

Still, their way of life did not change fundamentally; it was under different management, as it were. Where they lived mainly in the countryside they formed the majority in many villages and were able to lead their traditional lifestyle with little inconvenience. The same held in the cities, where they lived mostly in their own neighbourhoods. 

They continued to eat the same foods, preferring rice, couscous, fruit, vegetables, over meat, bread and wine favoured by Christians. They cooked with olive oil, avoiding pork fat (lard) used by Christians. They spoke Arabic, although in Navarre and Aragón (where the taifa of Zaragoza was conquered in the early 12th century) the spoken language appears to have been lost by the 13th century. Valencia was different in that it was not conquered until 1238. Until then Arabic survived, bolstered by the size of the Mudejar community, contact with neighbouring taifas (Granada, Seville) and communication with Muslims of North Africa.

In more rural areas, clothing tended to be Moorish, with “flowing robes, turbans and hooded cloaks” (Carr 48). In the cities, Christian styles were popular with the Mudejar upper classes, although they were expected to refrain from wearing anything that would set them above their station as second class citizens: e.g. jewels, gold, brightly coloured silks or furs.

The Muslims of al-Andalus had a long tradition as skilled agriculture workers: e.g. farmers, horticulturalists, and irrigation experts. These skills were continued by the Mudejars and were very attractive to Christian employers and landowners especially in Aragón and Valencia.

Indeed, much of the economic well-being of Aragón and Valencia from the 13th to the early 17th centuries depended on the agricultural expertise of the Mudejars.  Also highly valued among Christians were their frugality and work ethic, practices that led to sayings such as cuanto más moros, más ganancias (“more Moors, more profit”).

In cities such as Zaragoza, Toledo, Seville, Córdoba, the Mudejars lived mostly in their own neighbourhoods, aljamas, although their work as craftsmen, carpenters, dyers, tanners, shoemakers, potters, leather workers, smiths, armorers, gardeners, muleteers etc., brought them in daily contact with Christians and Jews. Mudejar farmers also sold their products in Christian markets. And there are recorded instances of Mudejars attending Mass with Christian friends or Mudejar musicians playing in churches during night vigils, to the consternation of church authorities.

They were very highly valued as builders, applying their skills as bricklayers, plasterers and woodworkers in the construction and decoration of churches (e.g. the famous towers of Teruel in Aragón) and palaces (some of the decorative work in the Reales Alcázares in Seville).

Teruel: Mudéjar tower of San Martín church.

Mudejars could have no say, however, in the running of the towns they lived in, and were prohibited from proselytising in any way.

They themselves were subject to attempts at conversion, although as Alfonso X makes clear in his Siete Partidas (codfication of laws for Castile) in the 13th century, “Christians should seek to convert the Muslims and make them believe our faith … not by force or through bribery.”  The same king, however, insisted that Mudejars (and Jews) had to join Christians in kneeling if they saw a priest carrying the Host in the street during a procession. Although the church always pressed its case, the fact that there were still so many Mudejars in Aragón and Valencia up to the 16th century is evidence of little success.

As second class citizens, the Mudejars experienced periods of tension and discrimination.  In most places, they could not hold public office, and in law suits against Christians, they were obliged to forgo sharia law. This often resulted in cases going against them, since tribunals were made up of Christians. Mudejar farmers were subject to heavier taxes than their Christian counterparts. Mosques were routinely taken over by Christians, leaving the Muslim community without their place of worship and social centre.

The 13th Century.
The rapid collapse of al-Andalus in the 13th century fuelled Christian fears that the Mudejars would constitute a fifth column.  Such fears were confirmed when, for example, insurgency by Mudejars in the Guadalquivir valley in 1264-66 was supported by Muhammad I of Granada and the Merinid emir from the Maghreb. This resulted in the expulsion of thousands of Mudejars, most of whom ended up in Granada or Morocco.

Earlier, the conquest of the taifa of Valencia in 1238-45 provoked rebellions in both the city of Valencia in 1255 and in surrounding areas (e.g. Montesa, Alcoy, south of Valencia). In this case, however, the Mudejars stayed in large numbers because their commercially-minded overlords wanted them to remain to work the land they now held. 

Castile, on the other hand, suffered a severe lack of manpower to colonise/ resettle the land left unoccupied by the expelled Mudejars.  The result was to encourage the expansion of a feature of Castilian agriculture: sheep farming, which required little manpower.

1492 and after.
On January 1, 1492, the city of Granada surrendered and with it came the end of al-Andalus. Nevertheless, the fall of Granada did not signal the immediate end of Islam in the peninsula. According to the terms of capitulation signed in 1492, Muslims were allowed to retain their religion, as well as their laws, customs and property. In other words, they added to the number of Mudejars in Spain.

However, the fervour of Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, the second Archbishop of Granada, supported by the religious zeal of Queen Isabella of Castile, provoked an unsuccessful three-month rebellion in the mountainous Alpujarras region to the south of the Granada early in 1501.

The rebellion allowed the Christians to overrule the terms of capitulation in 1502 and enforce a clear choice upon the Muslims: exile or baptism. Perhaps half the population of 400.000 chose to be baptised, at which point they ceased being Mudejars and became nuevos cristianos convertidos de moros, a term eventually replaced by the word “Moriscos.”  The same edict was applied to the Mudejars of Castile, but not to Navarre, Aragón and Valencia. But that’s another story.

Sources: 
Barton, Simon A History of Spain 2nd ed. Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York 2009
Carr, Matthew Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain New York, London 2009
Harvey, L. P Islamic Spain 1250-1500 Chicago, London 1992
Harvey, L. P Muslims in Spain 1500 to 1614 Chicago, London 2005
Kamen, Henry Spain 1469-1714. A Society in Conflict London, New York Longman 1983
Map of al-Andalus: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Espa%C3%B1a1037.jpg
Map of Spain 1212-1492: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Espa%C3%B1a1212_a_1492.jpg

From Success to Fall: (For Primo’s coup and early success, see Primo: The Rise of a Dictator)

Like so many well-meaning dictators, Miguel Primo de Rivera had vaulted to power promising a return to civilian rule as soon as possible. He clothed himself in the virtues of patriotism, free of political trickery. His direct talks to the people, had an endearing quality as he explained his decrees or admitted his errors.

His eccentricities were part of his attraction. He loved to stay up into the early hours discussing politics in some modest bar before wending his way home to issue a decree.  These late night sessions would then be followed by a long siesta, after which the decree might be revoked!

Propaganda painted him not only as the iron surgeon, but also as the “father of the nation,” or another Cid who had acquired immortal fame against the Moors. He became the “Messiah,” bearing on his shoulders the burdens of his country, an image that he encouraged by his own frequent claims to divine help.

At first, Primo’s unpolitical approach might have seemed a breath of fresh air to Spaniards, but it also carried within it the seeds of his downfall. The fast return to civilian rule that he promised when he came to power extended to almost seven years, during which he initiated many changes. 

But these were largely decorative and merely hid, temporarily, fundamental problems such as political diversity, regional ambitions, agrarian inequality and peasant unrest (especially in the south), labour divisions, religious and secular dissidence, educational reform…

Politically, Primo failed to create anything to replace the discredited gobierno de turno** system. The Union Patriotica (UP), the “apolitical” party created by him, was really no more than another political party, one decreed from above.

**Gobierno de turno pacifico: a system of alternating governments, the changes of government being agreed upon by the leaders of the conservative and liberal parties. The system was underpinned by caciquismo,a corrupt arrangement whereby local political bosses –caciques—were charged with rigging electoral results to ensure the desired outcome when governments changed.

It succumbed to the same shortcomings that the previous parties had been accused of: favouritism and corruption. Primo, for example, favoured Upetistas (UP members) many of whom turned out in fact to be happy converts from the de turno system!

UP had no specific political philosophy and its members were required only to believe in La Patria (Nation/ Fatherland), Religion, and Monarchy. So the UP fell victim to a transformed caciquismo on which the de turno system depended, and its purpose was to mould and manipulate public opinion. One of its jobs, for instance, was to organise a national plebiscite (1926) that would retroactively legitimise Primo’s coup and authorise his plans to transfer administrative and political responsibilities from military to civilian rule.

The UP was to form the basis of the new government, and prepare a National Assembly whose main mission, Primo made clear, was to construct a new constitution for the country. The UP, then, was a civilian channel that both praised Primo as the country’s saviour and promoted his vision of the nation’s future; it was not much more than a propaganda machine.

The failure of a single party to renovate political life had its parallel in Spain’s economy. State intervention could provide showpieces like improved public services etc., and economic nationalism or protectionism appealed to those industrialists who benefitted from them, but by crippling competition Primo was in fact “shielding powerful interests at the expense of the smaller entrepreneurs” (Ben Ami 244).

For example, many companies engaged in public works (e.g. railway expansion, dam construction, distribution of gasoline/ petrol) were monopolies which, in addition, received generous subsidies or concessions from the public purse. Primo regarded free competition as a vice of liberalism that only led to chaos! Control by a Regulating Committee (established in 1926) ensured that competition was not going to happen.

Although Primo’s regime was a dictatorship, it was in fact a dictablanda (a soft regime; a play on the Spanish dictadura: a hard regime). Primo was a bluff character, not a cruel tyrant. There was indeed repression, but his almost seven years of rule were free of brutality and executions.

Most dictators would have wanted blood if they had been publicly accused of being criminals, robbers and cowards, as Primo was by the eminent philosopher and university professor, Miguel de Unamuno. The dictator chose to exile him.

Primo preferred to rule by consensus of the people –or the nation, as he preferred to see it– and frequently made trips to the provinces to show himself to the people and, more important for his self-esteem, receive their spontaneous adulation. This, he maintained, was the mark of approval that reinvigorated him against the burdensome demands of government.

These burdens became more onerous as the euphoria of the Moroccan solution gradually faded and the prosperity created by public works became endangered by cut backs caused by inflationary tendencies and the flight of capital from the country.

There had always been some opposition to the regime but by 1927 it was growing more vocal. Politicians of different stripes, dismissed when Primo took power, were a constant threat, and even conservatives were calling for Primo’s dismissal. Student unrest and even army discontent became more evident.

Most socialists worked within the framework permitted by the regime but also took the opportunity offered by their membership on the comités paritarios (committees formed of equal numbers of employers and UGT officials and employers to settle wage disputes), to organise meetings to expand and solidify their membership. Republicans worked clandestinely and increased their numbers significantly as the regime weakened.

However, the most sustained opposition came from the intellectuals, for whom Primo reserved as deep a dislike as for the politicians. He believed professors were subversive or lazy, and university students frivolous and addicted to modern vices. Female students at demonstrations especially annoyed him; he connected their presence there with the rise of pornography.

Surprisingly, student numbers more than doubled during the regime (18,969 to 42,009 Ben Ami 350), and their voices gained momentum after the founding of the non-Catholic Union, the FUE (Federación Universitaria Escolar: University Student Federation) in January of 1927. It organised its first strike a year later in support of a professor who was suspended following a lecture on birth control! 

But FUE’s main opposition was to a bill that would allow Catholic colleges to confer academic degrees because a proliferation of university degrees would undermine job opportunities by increasing competition and reducing salaries. As student riots increased in 1928-29, so comical scenes developed with anti-graffiti police cycling around cleaning seditious scribblings only to find them reappearing the next day.

To counter student riots, the UP organised pro-government parades, but these merely underlined the gap between the two sides. The truth was that the pronouncements of the regime carried little weight with the young who saw themselves ridiculed or attacked for their ideas by aging patriarchs. 

The running feud between government and students from 1928 to 1930 did much to undermine business confidence in the regime and demonstrated the vulnerability of a dictatorship that vacillated.  In September 1929, Primo capitulated and suspended the decree that would have allowed the Catholic colleges to grant academic degrees. A weak dictatorship is a contradiction and concessions lead to more demands.

Nevertheless, it was not the students who precipitated Primo de Rivera’s fall, but the loss of support by the army and the king. Although a military man himself, the cavalier Primo never enjoyed the total support of the generals. The coup of 1923, for example, had depended more on King Alfonso XIII’s blessing than unanimous backing from the generals.

Military discontent was papered over only as long as the Moroccan impasse dominated the scene. Once Morocco was solved, the iron surgeon began to reform the armed services with all the delicacy of a blunt scalpel. For example, Army numbers were cut by some 30% in the name of efficiency and modernisation, a matter which did not go down well with those who were declared superfluous and told to become, e.g., schoolteachers in some distant provincial town.

However, what really set off army disaffection and upset the harmony of the “military family” was Primo’s patronising meddling with the artillery corps over promotions. Briefly, the elite artillery officers enjoyed the privilege of promotion by seniority rather than by merit, which was the system advocated by the africanistas (i.e. those who had fought in Morocco).

When Primo decreed promotion by merit throughout the army in June 1926, the artillery corps rejected the decision outright. Primo reacted by arbitrarily suspending all the officers, thus converting them immediately into implacable enemies. The move also angered the king whose authority as Commander-in-Chief had been undermined by Primo.

These arbitrary decisions by the dictator provoked several conspiracies between 1926 and 1929, which included not only disaffected officers but also disgruntled politicians. The matter finally came to a head towards the end of January 1930, following the discovery of yet another plot. Without consulting the king, Primo impulsively canvassed the military leaders for support.

When it became evident that he had only lukewarm support, he tendered his resignation to the king on January 30. Alfonso, already fed up with the dictator’s independent actions and disregard for royal prerogatives, and aware that the future of the monarchy was jeopardised by Primo’s regime, was only too glad to accept.

Monument to Primo in Jerez de la Frontera (Andalusia). Jerez is where he was born and is buried.

Disillusioned and in ill health (apparently from diabetes), Primo confessed, with pathetic self-indulgence, in his last official communique his readiness “for a little rest after 2,326 days of worry, responsibility and toil” (de Blaye 68 note 7).

Unfortunately for him, the period of rest was short. In March 1930, seven weeks after leaving Madrid, he died of a heart attack in a second rate hotel in Paris.

Sources.
Barton, Simon A History of Spain 2nd. ed. Basingstoke, Hampshire 2009
Ben Ami, Shlomo  Fascism from Above: The Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera in Spain 1923-1930 Oxford 1983
Carr, Raymond  Spain 1808-1939 Oxford 1966
”             ”         Modern Spain 1875-1980 Oxford 1980
de Blaye, Edouard    Franco and the Politics of Spain (transl. Brian Pearce) London 1976
Esdaile, Charles J Spain in the Liberal Age: From Constitution to Civil War, 1808-1939 Oxford 2000
Image of Primo’s monument by Mariano Benlliure y Gil: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monumento_Miguel_Primo_de_Rivera.jpg#/media/File:Monumento_Miguel_Primo_de_Rivera.jpg

General Miguel Primo de Rivera: Coup and Success.
Spain entered a period known as the Restoration (1875-1923) after the collapse of the First Republic (1873-74) and the return of the monarchy. Following the declaration of the 1876 Constitution, the conservative Antonio Cánovas and the liberal Práxedes Sagasta set up an alternating government system (gobierno de turno pacífico), which unfortunately proved inadequate to solve the many issues that arose during the period.

The system was underpinned by the corrupt practices of rural caciquismo whereby local political bosses –caciques—ensured the desired election results by rigging the electoral lists whenever government changed hands.

In addition, the de turno system failed to address the concerns of the numerous competing voices, some new (e.g. socialism, anarchism, workers’ movements), some old: (e.g. the monarchy, the church, regionalism, the military) …

The result was political instability and social violence. There were assassinations, bombs, strikes, military disasters (the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines in 1898; humiliation in Morocco) and increasing calls for autonomy from Catalonia and growing political unrest in the Basque Provinces. As the 19th turned into the 20th century, everyone seemed to agree that there was a need for national “Regeneration.” It was the buzz word, but people couldn’t agree on what it meant … and so instability and violence.

By the 1920s, the dream of national regeneration seemed an illusion to many Spaniards, with the failure of Restoration politics, with governments changing faster than the seasons, with a debilitating diet of labour wars and terrorism, and with Catalan demands for autonomy now extending to separation. 

The country badly needed a fundamental political overhaul, but what it got instead in 1923 was a military coup, headed by General Miguel Primo de Rivera, a bluff, paternalistic Andalusian landowner and aristocrat, with a weakness for wine, women and good food.

However, what triggered Primo’s power grab was not political, social or regional unrest, but fall-out from a festering Moroccan nightmare. In July 1921, the army had suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Annual (in the Spanish protectorate along the north of Morocco).

A report on the disaster was supposed to be heard finally by the Cortes (Parliament) in September of 1923. Before then, rumours circulated of incompetence, corruption, and the king’s involvement in the Moroccan debacle. Such rumours were knife wounds to military sensitivity.

Primo right, with Alfonso XIII

To be made political scapegoats and to suffer the humiliation of possible withdrawal from Morocco after so much sacrifice was more than enough to drive many generals to contemplate a military coup, especially since –in their view– it was not they but the politicians who had failed the country.

The next step, the golpe (coup) was not that difficult. After all, the creation of the Laws of Jurisdiction in 1906, intervention during the Tragic Week of 1909, and the crushing of a general strike in 1917 had already shown that the military could quite easily return to its 19th-century role of power broker.

As for the king, he had been heard to espouse the idea of reform “with or without the constitution” (Carr, 1, 523), and had even met with the future golpistas only ten days before the coup! There appears little doubt, then, that the generals knew they could count on his support.

A Promising Start.
When Primo staged the coup in September 1923, he did so in the name of national salvation. To many Spaniards, he was the “iron surgeon” that Joaquin Costa, one of the most articulate regenerationists of the beginning of the 20th century, called for to cure the ills besetting the country.

Primo justified the coup, in his first declaration to the country, as necessary in view of the picture of misfortunes and immorality that threatened Spain with an early, tragic and dishonourable end. His intention, he told the people was to “open a brief parenthesis in the constitutional life of Spain and to reestablish it as soon as the country offers us men uncontaminated by the vices of political organization” (Carr 1, 564).

Spaniards, exhausted and disenchanted by Restoration politics, were prepared to give the well-meaning Andalusian (who talked frankly to them through a new contraption called a radio), that chance. It was comforting to hear a voice of authority that promised order after years of instability, conflict and competing claims. They would hear a lot from Primo in the next six to seven years!

Primo moved swiftly: the Constitution was suspended, the Cortes dissolved and replaced by a Military Directorate. Press censorship was imposed, Catalan aspirations repressed, and the anarchist union mouthpiece, the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT: National Labour Confederation) declared illegal.

Buoyed to some degree by the general optimism of the early “Roaring Twenties,” the first three years of the dictatorship were relatively successful. For many, the highlight of these years was a solution finally to the Moroccan problem. Ironically, although he himself had fought there (he was an africanista), Primo favoured abandoning the protectorate, much to the disgust of committed africanistas and especially the leaders of the recently formed Spanish Foreign Legion (amongst them Colonel Francisco Franco) who felt betrayed by one of their own.

However, in the summer of 1925 a miscalculation by the Berber leader, Abd el Krim, changed Primo’s heart and gave him his moment of glory.  Briefly, el Krim –ambitious to establish a socialist republic in northern Morocco– attacked and demolished French lines encroaching to his south. This pushed the French and Spanish into a joint venture in September 1925, agreed to by Primo and the French commander.

The French attacked from the south, while the Spaniards landed in the Bay of Alhucemas (mid way between Ceuta and Melilla) and drove inland. It was not a copy book exercise (poor reconnaissance left Spanish landing forces floundering on sand-banks, and Colonel Franco had to countermand an order to retreat), but el Krim’s surrender in May 1926 allowed the iron surgeon to declare to a relieved nation that the Moroccan cancer had finally been removed.

For the military, honour had been restored and Spanish presence in Morocco reaffirmed, and for the Legionnaires a legend had been created, at least in their own minds. Amidst all the celebration, one man had particular reason to celebrate: Colonel Francisco Franco (future dictator of Spain) was promoted to Brigadier General, making him –at 33– the youngest general in Europe.

In the meantime, Primo had also brought to a successful end another “war”: the labour violence that had seriously weakened the social fabric of the industrial centres of Spain. This he achieved in May 1924 by suppressing the anarchist affiliate union, the CNT. It was an astute move on the part of Primo, who not only won the approval of the powerful employers but also the collaboration of the historical rivals of the anarchists, the socialists’ Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT: General Workers’ Union).

It was a case of “divide and conquer” with the spoils going to the socialists, who had cautioned against any revolutionary reaction to Primo’s coup. Primo had no particular problems with unionists as long as they obeyed the same criterion that he demanded of politicians: everything must be directed to the good of the state.

As long as the socialists stayed out of politics and confined themselves social and economic concerns, he was willing to make concessions. The socialist leader, Francisco Largo Caballero, despite the objections of some members, went along with this, arguing that by doing so the UGT would be saved from the fate of the CNT.

As a result there were some modest improvements for the workers –cheap housing, medical care. The most progressive step came in 1926 with legislation allowing equal numbers of UGT officials and employers to form comites paritarios to settle wage disputes.

Primo’s aims, whether in Morocco, in the labour field or in his other initiatives, were directed to benefit the Patria (the Nation or Fatherland). In his mind, the sickness of Spain was fundamentally the result of venal and incompetent politicians whom he despised. By dissolving the Cortes he removed those professional politicians, and replaced civil governors with military personnel. 

His aim was to eradicate the corrupt practices of caciquismo, especially in the provinces where it was most entrenched. It was the kind of revolution from above that a former prime minister, Antonio Maura, had dreamed of a little earlier, but had been unable to implement.

In 1924, Primo created a single apolitical party, the aptly named Unión Patriótica (UP), to replace self-interested political parties. The UP’s aim was to regenerate political life to benefit the state. It was through the UP that Primo hoped to transfer power to civilian authorities after the military directorate had fulfilled its purpose. 

Although the UP claimed no political ideology, its Catholic roots in conservative Castile ensured support for the defence of “traditional” values: property, religion, the family, the Patria. Its official mouthpiece was the appropriately named newspaper, La Nación (The Nation), launched in October 1925.

The traditional values advocated by the UP were those espoused by Primo himself. For conservatives, the Catholic roots were integral to the historic fabric of Spanish society and fundamental to the country’s identity. One apologist for the regime (José María Pemán) went so far as to argue that religious dissension was antipatriotic and unSpanish.

It was a myopic view of patriotism, but nevertheless became a mantra for the Catholic right. The church, then, had nothing to lose and everything to gain from a traditionalist regime that equated the regeneration of the Patria with its Catholic heritage, and attacked the progress of secularization. Not surprisingly, the ecclesiastical hierarchy welcomed the coup with open arms and hailed Primo as saviour of the nation.

A state visit to Rome with the king shortly after Primo took power set the tone for a “regenerated” Spain in which the church was to have a pivotal role.  Using an historic and by now familiar image, the king delivered a speech before the Holy Father which he committed Spain to a new “crusade” should the pope see fit to declare one.

Anachronistic as it might appear to non-Spaniards, a crusade still held a powerful, emotional appeal for the conservative faithful in Spain. The church itself invoked the same image at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936.

But who was this crusade directed against? The Moroccan war had already been classified as a sacred crusade by the principal military chaplain. Now the object of the crusade was liberalism with its poisonous social and political offsprings: secularism, materialism, anarchy, socialism, regionalism and rationalism.

Liberalism was also viewed by conservative forces as responsible for all manner of vices: prostitution, pornography, gambling, alcoholism, the cinema, and immoral dances such as the tango and Charleston. With Primo at the helm, the church could look forward to a more active role in directing the moral regeneration of the nation. And he did not disappoint them. His task, Primo said, was a divine mission; his priorities were the Patria, Church and King.

A good starting point for the church was secondary education, the principal battleground between conservatives and liberals since the mid 1850s. It helped that the iron surgeon himself was by temperament anti-intellectual and determined that freethinkers should be kept as far away from the classrooms as possible. For him, school learning was to be infused with the ideals of religion and patriotism (“no culture at school will be permitted that is not religious and patriotic,” Primo insisted: Lannon 175).

Priests were to be the watchdogs, textbooks were carefully vetted for their orthodoxy, Spanish history had to be interpreted “correctly,” teachers were fired for non-compliance, and attendance at school mass was obligatory. All liberal institutions, including the famous, secular Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Institute of Free Learning), felt the vigilant eye of the state.

The Catholic establishment flourished in such an environment. Religion, which had been voluntary in state schools since 1913, was now obligatory, and associations were formed to ensure that public morality followed accepted Catholic standards. This was, of course, part of an ongoing fight against liberal ideology, but the important difference was that the church had the full weight of the state behind it. Now church and state stood together with a common goal against a common enemy.

But Primo’s success also depended on providing people with work. At the same time that he addressed the Moroccan impasse and resolved the labour wars, the iron surgeon had to stimulate growth and create jobs. For this an ambitious programme of public works was initiated.

However since he was a committed interventionist who equated free trade and competition with the evils of liberalism, Primo had little time for an open market. Instead, he saw the answer as state intervention, a kind of practical regeneration that provided those essential and visible services that totalitarian systems often boast about.

Roads were built and rural bus routes extended, railways were expanded and improved, dams and electric power plants erected, and irrigation encouraged (especially in the Ebro and Guadiana river valleys). Urban growth expanded rapidly, notably in Madrid and Barcelona.

These developments in turn increased the demand for products such as steel and cement. Builders were encouraged to renovate historical buildings and the first steps towards attracting tourists were taken with the establishment of the government-run hotels known as paradores. And for national pride, there were two international exhibitions: one in Seville in 1928 and the other in Barcelona in 1929.

All in all, it was a notable jump into the 20th century for a large part of Spain as it emerged from the age of the stagecoach and kerosene lamps.

And Catalonia?
When Primo took power, he was Captain General of Catalonia, whose apparently sympathetic views towards regionalism made his coup acceptable to many Catalans, and certainly to most Lliga members and the business community, who particularly welcomed the promise of social order.

Lliga Regionalista: Catalan conservative regional party that sought a solution to the Catalan “problem” within Spain. Appealed generally to and run by business interests.

Very quickly, however, Catalans learnt that Primo’s sympathy didn’t extend to much more than local folkloric practices and innocuous home crafts. Within a few days of the coup (September 18, 1923), steps were taken against the cultural heart of the Catalans: the official use of their language was prohibited, and instruction in schools was switched to Castilian.

The Catalan flag was banned, as were the sardana(a regional dance that had already acquired national status) and Els segadors (a national anthem). In 1925, even the Barcelona Football Club and the Orfeo Catala choir were closed down. At heart Primo followed the military creed of Patria, with its centralist and unitary ideology. “Spain One, Great, and Indivisible,” he told a UP meeting in 1925; it was a principle that allowed for no exception.

Predictably, the Mancomunitat, the only real vestige of Catalan distinctiveness that had survived the early cuts, was finally dissolved, also in 1925. The Catalan genie was safely bottled up at last, or so it seemed.

The four columns represented the four bars on the flag of Catalonia. They were erected on Montjuic in Barcelona in 1919 and destroyed in 1928. In 2010, they were reconstructed on the same spot.

Although the separatist Françesc Macià carried on the struggle for an Estat català from his exile in France, the only persistent opposition from within the province came from an unexpected quarter: the Church.

The opposition was not mounted on ideological but linguistic grounds. Catalan was normally used in sermons in the province, but Primo saw the continued use of the language as a threat to national unity. Even the papacy got sucked into the struggle, charging the Catalan clergy in 1928 with preaching separatist propaganda. The papal attack was a victory for the government, but only exacerbated the discontent of the Catalans.

The promising start made by Primo began to unravel as it became evident that the steps taken by him did not enjoy widespread support or were inadequate in the long run.

Oppressive measures led eventually open opposition: Catalans became disillusioned, academics chafed at Primo’s anti-intellectualism, Republicans became restless, the military dissatisfied and landless labourers (campesinos) more frustrated (especially in the south where insubordination was frequent). Even within the church there were dissenting voices. For the fall of Miguel Primo de Rivera, click here.

Sources.
Balfour, Sebastian    The End of the Spanish Empire Oxford 1997
Barton, Simon A History of Spain 2nd. Ed. Basingstoke, Hampshire 2009
Ben Ami, Shlomo   Fascism from Above: The Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera in Spain 1923-1930 Oxford 1983
Carr, Raymond  Spain 1808-1939 Oxford 1966
”           ”            Modern Spain 1875-1980 Oxford 1980
Esdaile, Charles J Spain in the Liberal Age: From Constitution to Civil War, 1808-1939 Oxford 2000
Lannon, Frances  Privilege, Persecution, and Prophecy: The Catholic Church in Spain 1875-1975 Oxford 1987
Image of Primo with Alfonso XIII: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-09411,_Primo_de_Rivera_und_der_K%C3%B6nig_von_Spanien.jpg#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-09411,_Primo_de_Rivera_und_der_K%C3%B6nig_von_Spanien.jpg
Image of the four pillars representing the Catalan flag: «4columnes fotoantiga» de directe.cat – http://www.directe.cat/imatges/noticies/columnes1-1.jpg. Disponible bajo la licencia CC BY-SA 3.0 vía Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:4columnes_fotoantiga.jpg#/media/File:4columnes_fotoantiga.jpg
For information on the four pillars, see http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Cuatro_Columnas (in Spanish)

Mozárabes: Resistance and Accommodation.
“Mozárabes” or “Mozarabs” is the term generally used to identify Christians living under Muslim or Moorish rule in al-Andalus. “Andalusi Christians” or simply “Christians” are frequent alternatives.

The term “Mozarab” is not, however, universally
accepted
 since no document records its use

either by Andalusi Christians or by Muslims in
al-Andalus.  Its first recorded use is in a document
in the Christian kingdom of León, in 1024.

Together with the Jewish communities of al-Andalus, the Mozarabs enjoyed the status of dhimmis, which offered them freedom to follow their faith and traditions, subject to certain restrictions and the payment of land and poll taxes.

Since Mozarabs followed a different faith from their Islamic neighbours, we might assume that they constituted a homogenous group, speaking with one mind. Such was not the case.

Broadly speaking two strands developed in the Mozarabic community over time: one conservative, determined to keep its Hispano-Visigothic religion and traditions alive, and the other more receptive to accommodation with the lifestyle of its Muslim neighbours.  The former were made up primarily of priests, monks and devout lay people, the latter mainly of ordinary individuals probably less religiously inclined and in close daily contact with their Muslim neighbours.

Living in the midst of a superior Islamic culture, the more open-minded Mozarabs predictably felt the tug of Muslim habits and customs. Equally predictable, devout, conservative Christians feared acculturation or assimilation and resisted integration. Writing in 854, Paul Alvarus of Córdoba criticised –in long and widely quoted lament– his fellow Christians for their obsession with things Arabic, whose attraction he saw as a threat to Christian identity: The Christians love to read the poems and romances of the Arabs; they study the Arab theologians and philosophers, not to refute them but to form a correct and elegant Arabic. Where is the layman who now reads the Latin scriptures, or who studies the gospels, prophets or apostles? Alas, all talented young Christians read and study with enthusiasm the Arab books… they despise the Christian literature as unworthy of attention.  They have forgotten their own language… (Menocal 66).  The attractions of Muslim customs even seduced some members of the church hierarchy, whom Alvarus denounced as collaborators and traitors.

Alvarus’s fears that continued exposure to the seductive culture of their Muslim overlords was undermining Christian identity were not without justification. Hundreds of Mozarabic families converted to Islam in the first half of the 8th century, although in fact many may have converted because of increased tax burdens or a desire to better career prospects rather than out of religious conviction.

With mosques now outnumbering churches, some radical Mozarabs took the step of aggressively challenging Muslim tolerance in the 850s by publicly denigrating Islam, insulting Muhammad and encouraging Muwallads (Christian converts to Islam) to apostatise. All these actions were punishable by death.

This widespread act of civil disobedience was initiated by one Isaac, a wealthy, educated Christian noble.  Fluent in Arabic, he became a prominent figure in Cordoban society, rising to the rank of katib adhimma, a kind of mediator between Christians and Muslims.

For reasons unknown, he underwent a religious conversion, resigned his post and in 848 entered the monastery of Tabanos in the hills just north of Córdoba. About 3 years later, he returned to Córdoba, and immediately sought out a qadi (Muslim judge), ostensibly with the wish to be instructed in the Muslim faith. Isaac’s intention, however, infuriated the qadi and the Muslim public by openly vilifying Islam and Muhammad.

Despite the insults, the qadi and his advisors tried to defuse the situation, suggesting to Isaac that perhaps he was drunk or momentarily insane, an excuse that Isaac rejected outright. The qadi had little choice. After a brief period of imprisonment, Isaac was beheaded and his corpse hung upside down outside the city walls, a visible deterrent to other blasphemers. It didn’t turn out like that, however.  On the contrary, Isaac’s death seemed to have spurred others to a similar search for martyrdom, despite attempts at reasoning by both Muslim and Christian authorities.

Both Muslim and Christian leaders had their reasons: the Muslims wanted to reduce tensions, the  Christians feared that further antagonism would only force the Muslims to extreme measures.  About 50 martyrs were strung up upside down between 851 and 859 in this macabre form of suicide.  In 882, the bodies of some were transported to León, where they were instantly proclaimed as saints, and later provided much fodder for Christian historiographers wishing to paint a gory picture of the intolerant infidel.

The tale of the “Cordoba martyrs” comes down to us from a work by a Christian priest named Eulogius, a contemporary of Isaac. Eulogius himself was executed in 859. Paul Alvarus later wrote a biography of Eulogius

However, from the second half of the 9th century onwards, many more Mozarabs chose a less dramatic means of protecting their Hispano-Visigothic heritage: emigrating to the Christian kingdoms of Asturias and León (and later Castile) in the north. This northbound wave of refugees was also encouraged by the kings of Asturias and León as part of their expansion plan to repopulate unoccupied territories bordering the frontier with al-Andalus.

Santiago de Peñalba. Closed arches surrounded by an alfiz (rectangular frame)

Many of these refugee Christians were monks from Córdoba who, at the same time they were carrying with them their Christian Visigothic heritage, ironically carried influences from the Arabic culture by which they been surrounded and from which they were escaping. 

They were granted land, and monastic documents confirm that several important monasteries were constructed or rebuilt by them during the 10th and 11th centuries (e.g San Miguel de Escalada, León 913, Santiago de Peñalba, León ca 937, San Baudelio, Soria late 11th century.  Generally called Mozarabic churches, they have architectural and decorative elements that betray the influence of Andalusi mosques, especially the Great Mosque of Córdoba, e.g. tightly closed horseshoe arches surrounded by an alfiz –a rectangular frame: e.g. Santiago de Peñalba).

Mozarabs: Almoravids and Almohads.
The fall of Toledo, the ancient Visigothic capital of Hispania, to Christian forces in 1085 triggered the arrival of the fundamentalist Almoravids from the Maghreb, invited reluctantly by the rulers of the remaining taifa kingdoms that made up what was left of al-Andalus.

The Almoravids were shocked by the indulgent life style of Andalusi Muslims, scandalised by the humiliating payment of tributes (parias) by the taifa rulers to the Christian kingdoms, and dismayed by the prominent presence of Christians and Jews in Muslim society.

Determined to return al-Andalus to a much stricter version of Islam, the Almoravids imposed a repressive and intolerant rule where Mozarabs (and Jews) were concerned. This heightened religious consciousness encouraged conservative Andalusi Muslim alfaquíes (jurists with a thorough knowledge of Islamic law) to denounce non-Muslims, which in turn increased the feeling of the alienation among the latter. An example of the increased intolerance is the destruction of a church in Granada in 1099 (coincidentally the year that Jerusalem was conquered by the first Crusaders) on the orders of the Almoravid leader, Yusuf ibn Tashufin.

In addition, Christian advances from the north didn’t make life any easier for the Mozarabs, who were viewed as possible fifth columns by many of their Muslim neighbours. Indeed, frustrated Mozarabs rebelled in Granada in 1125, which in turn encouraged Alfonso I, the crusader king of Aragón, to lead a raid into al-Andalus in the same year.

The raid ended with thousands of Mozarabs from Granada accompanying him on his return to Aragón while many others headed for the recently reconquered Toledo. By way of reprisal, however, a large number of the remaining Mozarabs of the south were shipped off to Morocco in 1126.

Although politics still trumped religion, and alliances between Muslim and Christian leaders followed a long-standing pattern, by the end of 11th century and throughout the 12th a more ideological stance crept into the relationship between the two groups. On the Christian side, the crusading spirit of the Middle East was transferred via France to Spain; in al-Andalus response to crusader militancy brought greater intransigence, not from the Almoravids but from a new and even more zealous invader who crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in 1146: the Almohads

Brushing the Almoravids aside as having become degenerate, the Almohads imposed a much more rigorous orthodoxy on al-Andalus. Mozarabs (and Jews) were now confronted with a simple choice: conversion or exile. Some did, at least in name, but thousands fled ending what had been for centuries a multicultural society where despite tensions and disagreements there had existed a degree of tolerance and civility that allowed three religious groups to exist in relative peace.

Sources.
Carr, Matthew Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain New York, London 2009
Christys, Ann  Christians in al-Andalus (711-1000) Richmond, Surrey 2002
Dodds, Jerrilynn, Menocal, María Rosa, Balbale, Abigail K  The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture  New Haven, London 2008
Hitchcock, Richard  Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain: Identities and InfluencesAldershot, Hampshire 2008
Lowney,  Chris A Vanished World: Muslims,  Christians and Jews in Medieval Spain Oxford 2006
Menocal, María Rosa  Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Christians and Jews Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain  New York, London 2002
Rincón Alvarez, Manuel  Mozárabes y mozarabías  Salamanca 2003
Image of Santiago de Penalba: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago_de_Pe%C3%B1alba

Mozárabe: A Controversial Term.
The term “Mozárabe” or “Mozarab” is widely used in a general sense to refer both to Christians living in al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) and to those who fled to the emerging Christian kingdoms of Asturias/León, Castile and Aragón from the 8th to the 12th centuries.  

The term, however, is controversial, and is rejected by some scholars as oversimplified or imprecise and impractical. In 1990, L. P. Harvey summed up the polemic succinctly: “The question of the proper use of Mozarab(ic) affects a multiplicity of groups over a long period of time….  Some would apply it to all subject Christians without exception; the extreme opposite viewpoint restricts the word to those culturally Arabized Christians from the south who took refuge in Leon in the 11th and 12th centuries.”

One of those rejecting the generalised use of “Mozarab” is Ann Christys (2002) who avoids “as far as possible the term …. It is an anachronism in the first three centuries after the conquest, since it first appeared in 11th century texts” (p. 8). Chris Lowney (2005) dispenses with the use of “Mozarab” altogether.  He does not discuss the term, not even in the lengthy note on terminology, pages 6-7, and in the text uses only “Christian(s).”

Perhaps the most respected and persuasive proponent of greater precision in the use of  “Mozarab” is Richard Hitchcock, whose detailed study,  Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain (2008), is a must read for anyone interested in the subject. Hitchcock concedes that Mozarab has become a “blanket term applicable to any activity with which the Christians of al-Andalus were associated, whether in al-Andalus itself, or after they had emigrated to the Northern Christian kingdoms” (Hitchcock p. 10). In his Postscript, he concludes, nevertheless, that the term “cannot, in my view, be a word employed to signify Christians who lived in al-Andalus.”

Still, despite scholarly reservations, the standard definition of a “Mozarab” as “A Christian living under Muslim rule in al-Andalus” is still commonly used. This is exactly the definition given by Simon Barton, in his much respected A History of Spain (2009); he also adds “a Christian whose lifestyle incorporated Muslim habits and customs” (Barton 277).

The co-authors of the highly-acclaimed The Arts of Intimacy (2008) understand the term in much the same way; they talk of “Mozarabs” as “those Christians who had long lived under Islamic rule” (78). William and Carla Phillips (2010) make the same generalisation, referring both to Christian communities living in al-Andalus and to those Christians who fled north as “Mozarabs.”

Source of the Controversy.
Undoubtedly, the meaning would be clearer and the controversy resolved if we knew what Christians of al-Andalus (or Andalusi Christians) called themselves, or what the Muslims of al-Andalus called them.  But that’s precisely the problem.

There is no documented evidence that Andalusi Christians called themselves “Mozarabs,” nor do we have proof that the Muslims of al-Andalus called them “Mozarabs.”  In fact, the Muslims used a variety of names when referring to the Christians in their midst: e.g. Nazarenesrumiesromanis, dhimmia’jam (non Arabs; the last two could also allude to Jews).

If there is no documented evidence of the use of “Mozarab” in al-Andalus, where, then, does it first turn up? It first appears as “Muzaraves” in a Latin document in the Christian kingdom of León in 1024, and refers to a lawsuit between a monastery and three “royal silk weavers” (musaraves de rex tiraceros) over the ownership of property (Hitchcock p. 69). 

Hitchcock speculates that the term was used simply to identify these weavers –who were following the lucrative silk trade that existed at that time between al-Andalus and the kingdom of León– as recent arrivals from the Muslim south (Hitchcock p. 73).  There is nothing specific to indicate that they were Christians.

The term seems to have been coined, then, in León in the 11th century, and appears to have been an isolated case. Unless earlier documents are discovered, we must assume that “Mozarab” was not used before this date, not even to refer to the large exodus of Christian emigrants from al-Andalus during the 9th and 10th centuries to Asturias/León.

Toledo.
“Mozarab” only starts to appear with regularity following the conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI of León and Castile in 1085, and now in a more specific context. Although capital of the Muslim  taifa of Toledo until that year, the city of Toledo still had a sizable and largely Arab-speaking Christian community, perhaps as much as 20%, when it fell to Alfonso. These Toledan Christians were addressed as “Mozarabs,” both to distinguish them from the Christians from the north who accompanied Alfonso and settled in Toledo, and to identify them as recipients of certain royal privileges that they alone enjoyed.

What exactly were these privileges, and why should the Mozarabs of Toledo be so favoured? The privileges were in fact permission to continue using the Visigothic Christian liturgy that the Mozarabs of Toledo had retained under Muslim rule. This may strike us as odd; why should it be a “privilege” for the Mozarabs of Toledo to carry on using their Christian rites under the new conquerors of Toledo, who were themselves Christians?

This only becomes clear when we realise that momentous reforms in church liturgy were under way in the Catholic Church. Briefly, under Pope Gregory VII new Roman rites were introduced throughout Christendom, and had been put into practice in Castile and León by Alfonso VI in 1080.

Ironically, then, the Mozarabs of Toledo, who had defended the Visigothic liturgy for centuries under the Muslims, now saw these rites endangered by their fellow Christians. Matters did not improve with the arrival in Castile and León of numerous priests from the Monastery of Cluny in France, which had been behind Gregory’s push for reform. And heading the list of Cluniacs was Bernard, the new Archbishop of Toledo!

Predictably, the Mozarabs of Toledo were disillusioned, but Alfonso and Gregory’s successor, Pope Urban II,  were realistic enough to make concessions, these being the privileges, granted to six parish churches in Toledo, of retaining their traditional Visigothic liturgy. At the same time, it was a way for Alfonso to reward the Mozarabs of Toledo for their support prior to and during the conquest of the city.

Events in the late 11th century and throughout the 12th were dominated by the arrival of two fundamentalist Muslim groups from the Maghreb, the Almoravids in 1086 and Almohads in 1145. Both sought to counter further Christian advances southward, and impose a more pure Islam on the pleasure-loving life style adopted by the taifa courts following the collapse of the caliphate of Córdoba in 1031. 

Christians living in the various taifas felt the brunt of Almoravid and Almohad displeasure. The “cleansing” of al-Andalus (which even Andalusi-born Muslims reacted against) was particularly felt by Christians (and Jews) under the Almohads, whose demands for conversion or expulsion resulted in widespread exodus northwards.

Following the defeat of the Almohads at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), Muslim resistance collapsed dramatically, and by 1258 all that was left of al-Andalus was the kingdom of Granada, a narrow sliver that stretched approximately from Tarifa in the west to Almería in the east, and inland to Ronda and almost to Jaén.

Here, pressed between the Mediterranean to the south and the advancing kingdom of Castile to the north, Islam fought a rearguard battle to protect its identity. Part of that battle was the rejection of non-Muslims. There were now no Mozarab communities (the only Christians we hear about are prisoners, slaves, merchants or disaffected nobles seeking support from Granada), and only a few small Jewish commercial communities in some of the coastal towns,

The story of the Mozarabs doesn’t end with the demise of Muslim Spain. Following the conquest of Granada in 1492, the Mozarabs were celebrated in the 16th century for keeping alive their Christian Visigothic heritage.  In 1500 the pious, anti-Muslim Cardinal Cisneros published a Mozarabic missal and in 1502 a Mozarabic breviary, both of which reaffirmed the continuity of the pre-Islamic church rite practiced by the Visigoths.

Cisneros also inaugurated the construction in 1504 of a Mozarabic chapel in the Cathedral of Toledo to ensure the continuity of the Visigothic rite (now known as the Mozarabic rite). The rite is still practiced nowadays (Google “Mozarabic rite” for a brief Youtube taste), and there exists a Mozarabic Association in Toledo: the Ilustre Comunidad Mozárabe de Toledo.  For Spanish speakers/ readers, there is a very interesting historical blog:  http://docelinajes.blogspot.ca/2011/07/ilustre-comunidad-mozarabe-de-toledo.html 

Sources:
Barton, Simon  A History of Spain Basingstoke, Hampshire 2004
Carr, Matthew  Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain  New York, London 2009
Christys, Ann  Christians in al-Andalus (711-1000) Richmond 2002
Collins, Roger Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity 400-1000 Basingstoke, Hampshire 2nd. ed. 1995
Dodds, Jerrilyn et al The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture  New Haven, London 2008
Fletcher, Richard  Moorish Spain  London  1994
Hitchcock, Richard  Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain: Identities and Influences Aldershot, Hampshire 2008 
Harvey, L. P. Islamic Spain 1250 to 1500 Chicago, London 1990
Lowney, Chris  A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain Oxford 2005
Phillips, William D. Jr and Carla Rahn Phillips A Concise History of Spain  Cambridge 2010

The Moriscos. From Mudejars (Muslims living under Christian rule) to Moriscos (Muslim converts to Christianity).

Definitions: Mudejars: Muslims living under Christian rule; Moriscos: Muslim converts to Christianity, a term used almost exclusively for the 16th century; Crypto-Muslims: a modern term referring to Moriscos ostensibly converted to Christianity, but practising their Muslim faith in secret (i.e, pseudo Christians). They could do so according to the Islamic “law” of taqiyya a means of concealment of one’s true faith under duress

The Conquest of Granada:
The 16th century was a period of intense social and religious adjustments in Spain. In 1492, the Muslim kingdom of Granada fell to the forces of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel. This signalled the end of a long period in which Islam had played a significant role politically, socially and culturally in the peninsula.

The fall of Granada did not signify the immediate demise of Islam in the peninsula. According to the terms of capitulation, Muslims were allowed to retain their religion, as well as their laws, customs and property. Those who wished to emigrate to Africa were free to do so, an option taken by about 200.000, roughly half of the total population of Granada.

The status of those who remained was similar to that of thousands of Moors who had remained under Christian rule as Christian expansion took place and Muslim al-Andalus contracted from the 11th century to 1492. They are known as Mudejars, from the Arabic al-mudajjar, “people allowed to remain.

Conversion was still the aim of the Christians, but under Hernando de Talavera, the first archbishop of Granada, example and persuasion not force were the guiding principles. Impatience, however, with Muslim resistance soon gave way to more aggressive methods –including forced baptism– under Talavera’s successor, the Archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros.

Growing intolerance sparked a brief, unsuccessful three-month rebellion in the mountainous Alpujarras region to the south of the Granada early in 1501. After that the Christians felt justified in overruling the terms of capitulation signed in 1492 and enforcing a clear choice upon the Muslims: exile or baptism.

Anti-Islamic sentiment was also expressed in the burning of religious texts (some books on medicine were spared), with royal approval, in October of 1501. The final seal of Christian orthodoxy was stamped in February of 1502 with a decree expelling all those who refused to convert. The converted Mudejars (Muslims) of Granada were now nuevos cristianos convertidos de moros, an unwieldy term that eventually gave way to “Moriscos.”

Sporadic attempts to enforce cultural assimilation in Granada during the first half of the 16th century were usually deflected by bribes and favours, and the friendly disposition of the Mendozas, the most powerful Christian family in Granada. Even the local tribunal of the Inquisition –which had been transferred from Jaén to Granada in 1526– was not impervious to temptation.

Mudejars in the rest of Spain:
Castile: Although fewer in number, the Mudejars of Castile were also affected by the decree of 1502. This was not surprising really, with the fervently Catholic Isabella** as their ruler.

**Isabella was queen of Castile, her husband,
Ferdinand, was king of Aragón; neither was officially
more than a consort in the other’s kingdom.

The choice the Mudejars of Castile faced was heavily weighted towards conversion. If they chose exile, they had to leave via Atlantic ports, which meant a long and arduous journey to get to a Muslim country.

Exit via Aragón/ Valencia was denied, because Castilian authorities feared they might decide to settle there since the Mudejars of Aragón/ Valencia were not yet subject to forced conversion.  They could not take their gold or silver with them, and probably the worse disincentive of all: they had to leave behind sons under the age of 14 and daughters under 12 so that they could be brought up as Catholics.

Navarre, Aragón and Valencia: Forced conversion had not been imposed on the Mudejars of Navarre, Aragón or Valencia. There the Muslims were already a well-established and integral part of the labour force, and thanks to the support of royalty (Navarre) or aristocracy (Aragón and Valencia), for whom they worked, they enjoyed freedom of religion.

Matters changed in Navarre after it was annexed by Castile in 1512; a royal decree issued by Ferdinand in 1516 ordered the Mudejars there to convert.

The fate of the Mudejars of Aragón and Valencia was sealed by an uprising of discontented Christian peasants against the aristocracy in Valencia in 1520. Frustrated, lower class Christians organised themselves into militant brotherhoods (germanías) that quickly targeted the Mudejars, who formed the backbone of workers on aristocratic estates and competed with Christians for work. In addition, a deadly plague in 1519, hunger, unemployment and constant raids on the Valencian coast by Barbary pirates added fuel to the discontent. 

In the violence that followed, thousands of Mudejars were killed as looters invaded the estates of the aristocrats, and thousands agreed to be baptized to escape the carnage. Although there were questions regarding the legitimacy of the conversions, the matter was decided when Charles V issued an edict of expulsion or conversion in 1525. Faced with such stark options, thousands of Mudejars rebelled in 1526, taking to the mountains north east of Valencia. After a bloody engagement their resistance was overcome, and the survivors baptised en masse.

Now all former Muslims (i.e. Mudejars) who remained in Spain were officially Moriscos (i.e. Christians), and from then on fell under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition.

Authentic Christians?
But how authentic were the conversions, when forced and/or done en masse? Although some did genuinely accept their new faith, documented evidence suggests that most Moriscos remained faithful to Islam and normally referred to themselves as Muslimes.

They observed the externals of their new religion while remaining Muslims at heart. Leading parallel lives, they might follow Christian rituals (e.g. baptism, marriage) and prayers; they might even eat pork and drink wine, or eschew eating foods associated with Muslims: e.g. couscous, olive oil, aubergines.

However, by performing Islamic rituals privately or “reversing” Christian rites that they had followed in public (e.g. washing off the consecrated oil used for baptism, and then performing their own name-giving ceremony) they satisfied their religious obligations. Finally, they could take comfort also by availing themselves of taqiyya, a Qur’anic injunction which allowed persecuted Muslims to dissemble when their faith was endangered. Nowadays, the term Crypto-Muslims is frequently applied to these Moriscos. For more on the role of food, see.Conversos and Moriscos: Tyranny of Food

The enforced conversion did little to change the everyday lives of the Moriscos, especially in the more remote areas of Granada. They continued to speak Arabic and retained their distinctive clothes and customs (including regular bathing, ritual killing of animals, circumcision, using henna, throwing candies at weddings). Their diet still emphasised rice, couscous, fruit, vegetables, olive oil over Christian preference for meat, bread and wine.

Moriscos under Philip II (ruled 1556-98).
Under Philip II, the question of what to do with the Moriscos was increasingly debated because integration had not been successful and they were suspected of heresy. Philip was ever mindful of his father, Charles V’s, advice on his deathbed “to wage unrelenting war on heresy, support the Inquisition and ‘throw the Moors out of your kingdom’” (Carr 117). If there is anything that identifies Philip’s reign, it is his determination to uphold Catholic orthodoxy, and in this he was actively supported by the Inquisition.

Conformity to Christian norms was now demanded as increasing Ottoman activity in the Mediterranean fuelled a long felt fear of treachery by the Moriscos. This was exacerbated by contact between the Moriscos of Granada and Morocco and Turkey, and by the discovery of a plot to invade the Granada coast. Furthermore, raids by pirates from the Barbary Coast (along North Africa) on the coasts of Valencia and Granada became routine after the destruction of most of Spain’s Mediterranean fleet by the Ottoman navy in the 1560s.

Revolt in the Alpujarras (1568-70).
Advised by the clergy, Philip issued a decree on January 1, 1567, that in effect eliminated all forms of Morisco identity: language, dress, literature, dances, rites. They had to leave their doors open on Fridays and feast days; even Moorish names had to be dropped.

The decree itself was not essentially different from earlier decrees, but this time it was vigorously enforced. Christian claims to Morisco land accelerated (those Moriscos unable to prove title or pay the subsequent fines lost ownership) and the silk trade –the mainstay of Morisco economy in Granada– was undermined by additional taxes and a ban on woven silks.

Morisco discontent and frustration in Granada was channelled rapidly into a rebellion that lasted two years (1568-70). Centred in the Alpujarras, the revolt was a vicious and bloody. Thousands died, and thousands of men, women and children were sold into slavery. An estimated 80,000 ended up being resettled in Castile and Extremadura. Many of the old or sick died of hunger or illness en route. Christian replacements were shipped in from Galicia, León and Asturias, but even so parts of the Alpujarras remained unpopulated.

Nevertheless, the defeat of the Moriscos in the Alpujarras did nothing to alleviate the tensions between them and Christians. In fact, resettlement brought conflict in many areas that had previously been free of racial tensions and increased the rancour felt towards the Moriscos. Their work ethic, frugality and close sense of community –their “otherness,” in other words– made them easy targets in a Counter-Reformation Spain that increasingly emphasised its Catholic faith.

The Solution.
As early as 1582, a special committee convened to discuss the Morisco problem. Various solutions were proposed, including forbidding marriages, even castration, but most support was for expulsion. This, however, was opposed by Aragonese and Valencian aristocrats who feared the loss of virtually all their labour force.

**Collective name for individuals who made
proposals for economic and political reform
in the early 17th century.

After Philip’s death (1598), additional opposition to expulsion was expressed by arbitristas** and by the duke of Lerma, Philip III’s court favourite.

Cervantes sums up the public view of the Moriscos in one of his short stories, El coloquio de los perros/ The Dialogue of the Dogs: they weren’t Christian, they made too much money at the cost of Christians, spent too little, and worked too hard. These words reflect much of the recorded criticism of the Moriscos. The following quotes are typical. The Bishop of Segorbe wrote in 1587: “These Moriscos are grabbing up everything and depriving Old Christians of their means of sustenance” (Johnson 56). In 1588, a certain Alonso Gutiérrez claimed that “these Moriscos are very wealthy, and the real (a Spanish coin) that comes into their hands never leaves … and this wealth in them in suspicious and hateful”(Johnson 53, 57).

In addition, the Moriscos were disliked for avoiding military service, and feared for the rapid increase in their population, which according to several sources threatened to overtake that of the Old Christians. They were accused of licentiousness and of breeding like rabbits.

To balance the demographic inequality, Christian authorities tried to prevent children under the age of 5 from accompanying their parents into exile. Although not entirely successful, those children that did remain were brought up as Christians, and taught a lowly trade that would ensure that they did not exceed their station.

The charges directed at the Moriscos were further fuelled by feelings of profound disillusionment caused by widespread poverty and the damaging effects of a prolonged plague (1596-1602). The Inquisition, too, incited dislike and fear alleging secret contacts between Moriscos and French Protestants or Turkish Muslims.  Finally, opposition by the archbishop of Valencia (who had earlier favoured missionary work among the Moriscos) and a change of heart by Lerma (at the prospect of further enriching himself through land acquisition) also conspired against them.

The operation lasted some four years (1609-13), during which it is estimated that some 300.000 or more Moriscos were expelled, most heading for North Africa where fate was not always kind to them. Many were robbed, others killed because they refused to enter mosques to pray. Some even tried to return only to be exiled again.

The immediate effect of the exile on Castile was not very pronounced but large areas of Aragón and Valencia were depopulated and the economic bleeding severe with agricultural decay and loss of taxes, as predicted by those who opposed the measures.

Cervantes and the Moriscos.
We have seen in The Dialogue of the Dogs (above) Cervantes’s summary of popular opinion of the Moriscos. In his last work, Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (Book 3, chptr. 11), the disguised Persiles and Sigismunda pass through a village in Valencia where the only Old Christians are the priest and the town clerk (escribano).

What they witnessed was something that sometimes did occur in those harrowing days: entire Morisco villages decamping for North Africa. Although in the tale they set fire to their village and are shown to be joyful as they embark on a pirate ship from Barbary, they are nevertheless described as “hapless people” whose fate will surely be no better than others who have preceded them, none of whom have sent back news of anything but suffering and regret.

Cervantes addresses the theme on a more personal level in Don Quixote, Part II, Chapters 54, 63-65, where the Morisco, Ricote, Sancho’s exiled neighbour, has returned secretly from Germany to Spain to recover his buried treasure and to go in search of his wife and daughter who are in Algeria. Although he has only one child, a daughter, Ricote has obviously worked hard, made a lot of money and saved it.

The name Ricote would have been familiar
to Cervantes, since there was a Morisco family
of that name living in Esquivias, the town that
Cervantes’s wife came from and where he lived
for a while.
The name might also allude to the Morisco
village of Ricote (North West of Murcia), whose
sincere Christian faith was well documented

Ricote is reunited with his daughter later (Chapters 64-65) at which time his and his daughter’s Catholic faith is emphasised, and they set themselves apart from and denounce those Moriscos who were in fact crypto-Muslims. Ricote furthermore approves the measures taken to exile the Moriscos who had contaminated and poisoned “our nation,” arguing that Spain, once rid of the Moriscos would be “freed of the fears” associated with their presence (Chptr. 65).

Ricote’s effusive praise of King Philip III and the Count of Salazar in initiating and carrying out the expulsion carries a strong whiff of flattery (Chptr. 65). But Cervantes, at the same time that he portrays a wealthy Morisco, also points to the human tragedy of the exile, and to the fact that there were indeed Moriscos who were truly Christian and loved Spain. After all, Sancho (who boasts of unblemished Christian blood) likes Ricote and they share ham and wine together (Chptr. 54). And as Ricote says to Sancho “not all of us should be blamed for some of us were truly and firmly Christian; but we were so few and could not stand up to those who were not [Christian] … wherever we [true Christians] are we weep for Spain, for after all this is where we were born and this is our native land” (Chptr. 54). What Cervantes seems to suggest is that not all Moriscos should be tarred with the same brush of disloyalty or heresy.

Moriscos in the 20th century.
The Morisco matter has been resurrected recently as a result of Spain’s offer of automatic nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews forced into exile in 1492. This has provoked requests by the descendants of Moriscos exiled at the beginning of the 17th century for similar consideration.
See http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.575264

Sources: 

Carr, Matthew Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain New York, London 2009
Harvey, L. P Islamic Spain 1250-1500 Chicago, London 1992
Harvey, L. P Muslims in Spain 1500 to 1614 Chicago, London 2005
Johnson, Carroll B.  Cervantes and the Material World Urbana, Chicago 2000
Kamen, Henry Spain 1469-1714. A Society in Conflict London, New York  1983
Kamen, Henry The Spanish Inquisition: An Historical Revision London 1998

Ingram, Kevin ed. The Conversos and Moriscos in late medieval Spain and beyond: departures and change. Vols. 2  Leiden: The Netherlands 2012.
For a very good summary of the expulsion of the Moriscos, see Roger Boase, “The Muslim Expulsion from Spain,” in http://www.historytoday.com/roger-boase/muslim-expulsion-spain
Not consulted, but by very reputable scholar: Perry, Mary Elizabeth  The Handless MaidenMoriscos and the Politics of Religion in Early Modern Spain  Princeton, New Jersey 2005

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