The Handless Maiden

The Handless Maiden: Moriscos and the Politics of Religion in Early Modern Spain

Mary Elizabeth Perry
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgckd
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  • Book Info
    The Handless Maiden
    Book Description:

    In 1502, a decade of increasing tension between Muslims and Christians in Spain culminated in a royal decree that Muslims in Castile wanting to remain had to convert to Christianity. Mary Elizabeth Perry uses this event as the starting point for a remarkable exploration of how Moriscos, converted Muslims and their descendants, responded to their increasing disempowerment in sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century Spain. Stepping beyond traditional histories that have emphasized armed conflict from the view of victors, The Handless Maiden focuses on Morisco women. Perry argues that these women's lives offer vital new insights on the experiences of Moriscos in general, and on how the politics of religion both empowers and oppresses.

    Drawing on archival documents, legends, and literature, Perry shows that the Moriscas carried out active resistance to cultural oppression through everyday rituals and acts. For example, they taught their children Arabic language and Islamic prayers, dietary practices, and the observation of Islamic holy days. Thus the home, not the battlefield, became the major forum for Morisco-Christian interaction. Moriscas' experiences further reveal how the Morisco presence provided a vital counter-identity for a centralizing state in early modern Spain. For readers of the twenty-first century, The Handless Maiden raises urgent questions of how we choose to use difference and historical memory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4932-1
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Bernard Vincent

    MADALENA, Lucía de la Cruz, María Jérez, Juana, Beatriz de Robles, Leonor de Morales, Inés Izquierdo, María Taraiona, María Mocandali: what they all had in common was that they were women and they were Moriscas—that is, they were descendants of Muslims who were converted to Christianity in the Spain of the early sixteenth century. Because of these characteristics, they have been twice marginalized: by social sciences researchers in general, and by historians in particular. As Mary Elizabeth Perry tells us, each of them and many of their Morisco companions were actors of the utmost importance, not only in the...

  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF THE MORISCOS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xix-xxi)
  8. [Illustration]
    (pp. xxii-xxii)
  9. INTRODUCTION FROM THE SHADOWS
    (pp. 1-18)

    TWENTY-FOUR SHIPS that crowded into the port of Seville in late November 1570 brought human cargo—some 5,000 women, children, and men.¹ Moriscos, that is, Muslims or their descendants who had been baptized, came as defeated rebels from the Kingdom of Granada. Two years earlier Moriscos had revolted against Christian rule, their rebellion spreading quickly from the Alpujarra Mountains near Granada throughout much of Andalucia. After his armies had finally subdued the rebels, Philip II had ordered the dispersion of some 50,000 Moriscos of Granada throughout the Kingdom of Castile. Now bowing to royal directive, the Count of Priego officially...

  10. 1 MEMORIES, MYTHS, AND THE HANDLESS MAIDEN
    (pp. 19-37)

    MORISCOS RELOCATED from Granada in 1570 could take few material possessions with them, but they all brought memories of the past that directly shaped their sense of identity and the strategies they would use to survive in their new homes. Such memories, of course, varied widely according to generation, place of origin, class, and gender. Moreover, they differed from written history and do not necessarily indicate a historical consciousness. Muslims and Moriscos living under the rule of Christians in Iberia, in fact, may have found it wiser to have no history that others could view as a challenge.¹ Yet their...

  11. 2 MADALENA’S BATH
    (pp. 38-64)

    MORISCOS IDENTIFIED themselves not only through their myths and memories, but also through their bodies, which became the primary means that some Christians used to transform Morisco difference into deviance. Consider the case of Madalena Morisca, who stood before inquisitors of the tribunal of the Holy Office of Seville in 1609, accused of washing herself as a Muslim.¹ Rather than including a family name or the name of a husband or owner, as most Inquisition records listed women, the clerk who recorded testimony in this case added to Madalena’s Christian name the term “Morisca.” His choice of this term indicates...

  12. 3 DANGEROUS DOMESTICITY
    (pp. 65-87)

    NOT ONLY did embodied knowledge become dangerous for Moriscos in sixteenth-century Spain; so also did their homes. As we saw in the previous chapter, Christian authorities increased their attempts to prohibit any expression of Muslim culture and religion after expelling Muslims in 1502. In response, many Moriscos transformed their homes into a space of resistance. Within this domestic space, the women in particular taught their children the prohibited Arabic language as well as Muslim prayers.¹ Moriscas supervised their households in the observation of Muslim holy days and fasts, circumcision of male infants, dietary restrictions, and ritual washing of the body...

  13. 4 WITH STONES AND ROASTING SPITS
    (pp. 88-108)

    THE OUTBREAK of an armed Morisco rebellion in the Alpujarra Mountains on December 24, 1568, confirmed the suspicions of many Christians that Moriscos were dangerous internal enemies. For nearly two years the rebellious Moriscos would hold off the soldiers of Philip II, sometimes with the help of Turks and North Africans, often with the help of women. A Christian eyewitness to a January 1569 battle near Almería reported that Christians had killed between 1,500 and 2,000 of the enemy, “and among them some women because they fought as men although they had no weapons but stones and roasting spits.”¹ Most...

  14. 5 PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE
    (pp. 109-132)

    ROUND UP THE “Moriscos of peace,” Philip II ordered his soldiers in March 1570. Months before the War of the Alpujarras had ended, he sought to relocate these Moriscos of Granada who maintained that they had not fought against his armies. The king wanted them far from where they might provide support for the rebels. They had to leave their homes and farms, which they had struggled to maintain during the nearly two years of the war. And they were to bring their wives and children with them. Soldiers took them to churches in Granada where they would be kept...

  15. 6 THE CASTIGATION OF CARCAYONA
    (pp. 133-156)

    MORISCOS NEEDED all the help they could find in their own culture during the first decades of the seventeenth century. In 1609 Philip III declared that all Moriscos healthy enough to travel should be expelled because they “are the most obstinate of their evil sect” and inflict their children “with their bad doctrine and example.”¹ His decrees to expel these people from the Spanish kingdoms between 1609 and 1614 came after years of debate over the question of what to do with the Moriscos. He defended his decision, stating that he had reached it through consultation with theologians and “learned...

  16. 7 WAREHOUSE CHILDREN, MIXED LEGACIES, AND CONTESTED IDENTITIES
    (pp. 157-180)

    SOLDIERS WATCHED over the expulsion of Moriscos from Seville in early 1610, some guarding the ships that took the Moriscos into exile and some posted at “the warehouses where the children were who had been taken” from them.¹ The 300 Morisco children left in these warehouses symbolize both mixed legacies and contested identities that followed the expulsion. Transformed instantly into orphans at the port of embarkation, these children would be obligated to work for Old Christians who took them in to raise them. A major legacy of pain resulted from the violence done to Moriscos not only in their expulsion...

  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 181-196)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 197-202)