Event Date: 15 November 2016
Royal Holloway University of London
Departmental Research seminars 2016/2017
Dr Karoline Cook (RHUL) – Forbidden Passages: Muslims and Moriscos in Colonial Spanish America
From the earliest voyages to the Caribbean, Spanish authorities hoped that only “old Christians” – those who could prove they had been Catholic for at least three generations – would board ships bound for the Western Hemisphere. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, royal officials tried to prohibit Spanish converts from Islam, known as Moriscos, from crossing the Atlantic. These officials hoped to instill religious orthodoxy in the Americas and they believed that Moriscos, like conversos (Jews who had also converted), would interfere with their plans to transform indigenous peoples into devout Catholics. Yet the Spanish Crown could not prevent Moriscos from evading the restrictions by a variety of means and settling in the forbidden territories.
My talk traces how Morisco emigrants – as both individuals who struggled to join a community that was increasingly restricting their activities, and as fictive entities who fueled authorities’ fears and sparked denunciations – shed light on the emerging Spanish empire. Discourses about Moriscos came to form a part of the vocabulary of belonging and exclusion in colonial Spanish America, as individuals negotiated their place in colonial society.
Introduction by Professor Humayun Ansari (RHUL):