Memories of "Reconquista": Disputes over Religiosity and Lineage in Colonial Spanish America

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 12:00 PM
Room 101 (Hynes Convention Center)
Karoline P. Cook , University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Providence, RI
Due to their preoccupation with promoting religious orthodoxy and creating an idealized Catholic community in the New World, Spanish authorities during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries prohibited Moriscos and North African Muslims from emigrating to the Americas.  They were concerned that the presence of Muslims would encourage indigenous peoples to convert to Islam.  But these laws restricting travel, like so many others during the period, were not fully enforced.  Some Moriscos evaded the restrictions by a variety of means and settled in the forbidden territories.  My paper examines how Spanish perceptions of Muslims and memories of the so-called Reconquista assumed a transatlantic dimension during the sixteenth century.  I analyze cases brought before ecclesiastical and secular courts that reveal how Muslim-Christian polemics and lived realities in Spain were transformed as they crossed the Atlantic.  Moriscos who emigrated to the Americas encountered similar suspicions to those in Spain, fueled further by the intensity of local disputes.  In this context, accentuated by the oft-cited importance of setting a good example to the newly converted, an individual’s behavior during Mass, religious processions, or even on the sickbed, acquired religiously charged overtones.  As interior piety was rendered “public and notorious” through court testimonies, communal memory of individual and familial religiosity persisted.  References to the ‘Reconquista’ were also invoked in these disputes, presenting discourses of honor that invoked a family’s lineage and religious identity.
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