In 1499, seven years after the fall of Granada, Cardinal Francisco Ximenez de Cisneros, who was Queen Isabel of Castile's confessor and founded the University of Alcala, now the Central (or Complutense) University of Madrid, decided to force its inhabitants to be baptized. This demand sounds like a trivial procedure, but under Catholic and Inquisitorial law, it entailed serious legal consequences for its victims.
In the first place, the church and state could then jail or even condemn to be burned at the stake any "lapsed" Catholic, in a real abuse of human rights. The victims in Granada had been unwilling converts who received baptism en masse, just as fire hoses and tear gas "baptize" protesters on city streets today. The "Holy" Office of the Inquisition thus showed it was a blasphemous institution before God and men; it endangered the lives of anyone it touched, as well as their loved ones who were heartlessly deprived of their property and livelihood.
Cisneros ruthlessly burned books of great value in a bonfire in the city centre in 1501, two years later, books that were seized from private collections and had gold and silver bindings, as well as from public libraries, simply because they were written in Arabic on Islamic history, religion and culture. It is those aspects of Islam that our contemporary tourists want to see, and which had brought Spain its greatest glory and thinkers. Some apologists try to relieve Cisneros of this responsibility, but the atmosphere of terror that the cardinal created simply added to the flames. Diego de Deza helped him as an ecclesiastical assistant.
The year following these autocratic actions, in 1502, all Muslims or Mudejars in the kingdom of Castile were arbitrarily subjected to the same treatment of forced conversion. Yet stringent conditions were set on exile from Castile that year, so that "conversion" was actually forced and therefore. invalid, yet potentially lethal (our Mancebo, whom we shall meet shortly, must have been subject to this decree, which explains his reticence at revealing his name).
These "Moriscos" as they were now called by other Spaniards, were Muslims at heart because the conversion of rational believers in the tawhid or `Oneness' of God, as the Granadines were, to trinitarian and dogmatic Christianity is absurd. Torture and jail became routine and mandatory; beggary resulted as whole families were ruined through the arbitrary confiscation of property to pay for the victim's lodging in jail, a quasi judicial action that showed no regard for the fate of families or dependents. All victims were routinely tortured to bring out the last bit of misinformation and slander. Heart o f Jade, a novel by Salvador de Madariaga, tells of a Jewish woman called Isabel Manrique who is cruelly tortured at the end in this routine manner, so that she slowly dies from this judicial and ecclesiastical abuse. Xuchitl, the Aztec princess, in the some novel remarked that it was a waste of good meat if the victim's flesh were not eaten, as it was in Mexico!
Leonor, 12 years old, was a "Moorish" maid who was sent as a chattel to the Manrique household by the archbishop of Granada. What arrogance, what absolute tughyan or `arrogation', the third deadly sin of Islam, and what misery this involved for helpless children who did not understand what was happening to them! The story is fiction, but reflects the horrible reality of Inquisitorial Spain.
These practices were ironic, but they underline the heartlessness of the era in Spanish history. These unfortunate victims were driven from their homes, and had to live on the streets and roads of Spain, without visible means of support. The Spanish writer Cervantes in his Coloquio de los perros (`A Talk Between Dogs'), a nouela or early short story from his Exemplary Novels has a caricature (if it were not too real) of one of these "Moriscos" who lived as a gardener near Granada a century later.
The dog in the tale starved in a garden; his owner was so tight-fisted because of the constraints that had been foisted upon his people during the past hundred years. The Inquisition confiscated property arbitrarily, and forced many of its victims to wear the sambenito, a ludicrous "Halloween costume," for life.
Subject to the ecclesiastical authorities and malicious testimony gleaned from inquisitive neighbours called familiares, because of the veil of secrecy laid over these transactions, able‑bodied men were flogged and sent to the galleys; often they received a life sentence where life was shortened through hard labour, for the simple and pious act of praying to God alone.
The Inquisition was a law unto itself, and therefore abnormal and deviant in its very nature, its officials living off the confiscated property of its victims, few of whom were even proven guilty for the "offences" for which they had been arrested. Honourable women and girls were sold as slaves, like Leonor in Granada, and for what purposes, might we ask?
The same procedure took place in Malaga in 1487, where citizens became slaves. This mistreatment of matrons, young girls and respectable men by Castilian soldiers and officials was and is reprehensible, as was that of boys who were picked up by priests who tried to catechize them. Granada was ablaze with resentment and fury: thousands of people were uprooted and massacred, while south-eastern Spain was ruined economically and intellectually.
Literature and philosophy flickered out where they had flourished, except for the documents of our Al jamiado writers; these last Spanish Muslims compiled poems and precepts for their children, and to express themselves in their agony. Even this expression declined visibly as the 16th century proceeded. Spain's good name and fame abroad slumped internationally, just when American gold and silver was bringing the country wealth; this money disappeared into the coffers of German bankers, to pay for the costly wars of religion in the Low Countries: In 1499 and 1502 insurrections followed against these tyrannical conditions. They were so stringent on emigration from Castile in 1502, as we have seen, that "conversion" was really farcical, and therefore invalid.