Expulsados 1609, la tragedia de los moriscos

(Expelled 1609, the Tragedy of the Moriscos (2009)

 

 

 

Director:     Miguel E. Lpez Lorca.

Starring:    Ana Alonso (Mara Aziz),  Javier Aranda (Jernimo Cardona),  Pablo Derqui (Juan),  Juli Fbregas (Miguel de Larraosana),  Fernando Guilln (Diego Aziz),  Gabriel Latorre (Conde de Aranda),  Laura Plano (Marta la Cabrera),  Pablo Rivero (Padre Domingo),  Juan Carlos Vellido (Pcaro). 

Spanish movie. 

1609 Moors expelled from Spain

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

 

"400 years after the expulsion of the Moriscos.  In 1609, 300,00l0 people were expelled from the Spanish kingdom because of being descendants of Muslims.  Their expulsion was decided as an alleged solution to the problems of Spain and it was, in qualitative terms, the biggest expression of intolerance and rejection that had yet taken place in Europe.  This is the story of those facts." 

A young man named Juan works on the reconstruction of his grandfather's old place.  A worker calls him over to say that there is a hole in the wall and there is something inside.  Juan sticks his hand into the hole and pulls out a diary of a Morisco (that is, the converted Christian inhabitants of Spain and Portugal of Muslim heritage, who were suspected of secretly practicing Islam).  The diarist's name is Diego Aziz.  He says he wants to report on what happened this summer that "transformed the serenity of our lives". 

Flashback.  The Aziz families have always lived peacefully in Almonacid.  His father Hassan and his great-grandfather before him had worked the field in Almonacid.  As a young man, Juan taught school.  He had a son also named Juan.  His son's wife is named Maria from the Christian Alfjafar family, who had converted to become Christians.  Juan, Sr. has a grandson Anton and a granddaughter named Isabel. 

Juan Sr. prays to Allah in the basement.  Maria tells her husband Juan:  "One day the priest will see him and we'll all be in trouble."  When grandfather comes up from below, Maria tells him:  "Grandpa, you know those prayers are forbidden and how strict Don Jeronimo is regarding these things."  Grandpa replies:  "The only things that half-wit can see are witches, bonfires, infidels and devils, not old men."

Back to the present.  Juan shows the diary to his father.  It's written in Aljamiado (that is, Spanish written in the Arabic alphabet; the forbidden language of the Moriscos expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the 17th century).  In 1610 the family was expelled under an expulsion decree issued by Philip III in 1609.  Juan is going to Barcelona to talk about the diary with one of his old professors.  Actually, Juan meets with three older people.  Dolors Bramon of the University of Barcelona tells him that the Moriscos has no option but to use the Arabic alphabet because the Arabic language was forbidden after the banning the religion of Islam.  After awhile, those of Arab descent lost the Arabic language, but they kept the Arabic alphabet because they did not know the Latin alphabet.  The Mudejar period started with a tolerant attitude about religion, but that all changed when the number of Christians began to equal the number of Muslims.  The Mudejar period ends with the expulsion of the Arab descendants or to forced Christenings.  (Mudejar are individual Moors or Muslims of Al-Andalus who remained in Iberia after the Christian Reconquista but were not converted to Christianity.)

Professor Garcia Carel says that after the conquering of Granada in the 16th century. the Muslims had a brief period to adapt to the religion and culture.  In the Aragon Crown period starting in 1525 the mudejar disappeared leaving only Moriscos.  Then came the repression of the Inquisition, which was designed to find out who was a valid Christian and who was not. 

Flashback.  Grandfather says there are soldiers, probably from Valencia, in the plaza.  Juan says he heard from the scribe that they're heading for Calatayud.  His wife says she thinks the soldiers came to throw them off their land.  Juan replies that the scribe heard the Count say that the nobles in Aragon are not going to follow the expulsion law. 

Grandfather says that they were blind to the dangers looming over them. 

Maria and her daughter are selling healing herbs in the market place.  A woman comes running up yelling that the goat keeper's son is very sick.  Maria runs to the boy and his mother.  The boy picked up a snake and got bitten.  The priest tells Maria to stop bothering the boy.  Father Jeronimo says:  "It is clear that our Lord has called him."  Maria tells him that the boy isn't very sick and can be saved.  The priest says:  "Do you dare contradict the Lord's plan?"  Maria ignores him and gets her bag.  Now the priest calls her:  "Infidel!"  The mother tells the priest that she will decide what is best for her boy.  She tells Maria to go on.  Maria sucks the blood out of the wound. 

After the mother and son leave, the priest says to Maria:  "I know who you are, I've known for a long time."  He says going to mass on Sunday doesn't mean that you are a Christian.  He has come to save the souls of the people and he will take out the bad ones from the good ones:  "Even if it means setting fire to the whole dominion."

Back to the present.  The Inquisition dealt with some 15,000 Moriscos.    This was 12 percent of all the people processed by the Inquisition.  Converted Jews accounted for 30 percent.  Jose Maria Perceval says that the rich Moriscos were more at risk than the poor Moriscos. 

Flashback.  Father Jeronimo Cardona was convinced that Maria was an infidel.  He blamed the infidels for his being unable to Christianize the county.  One day at the market an order is read aloud that by order of Don Antonio Ximenez de Urrea and Manrique de Lara and by mandate of King Philip III, all Moriscos, as well as their wives and children, must abandon Almonacid and, indeed, this kingdom.  They are given only 10 days in which to accomplish this.  Those who don't follow the law are subject to execution.  Father Jeronimo is upset because he wanted to solve the problem through the church, not by mass evacuation of the infidels. 

Grandfather says:  "This is how we became the reign's worst enemies overnight."  Juan says he can't believe this is happening.  After all, what wrong have they done?  None.  He says they have been Christianized and they are Christians.  "They cannot treat us in this manner."  Maria is very upset because she will have to leave her entire extended family behind. 

Father Jeronimo goes to the Count to say that one Morisco family needs to be judged by the Holy Office.  The Inquisition must see that this family is cleared out.  Jeronimo gets permission to present the case before the Holy Office.  The Count also takes other measures to deal with the Aziz family.

A group of men are sent to Juan and Maria to move them out of the town this very night.  The man in charge, a Captain, tells them that they must be ready to move by midnight. 

Back to the present.  The Moriscos were not unified until their expulsion was ordered.  Most were expelled via Puerto de los Alfagues.

Flashback.  The family waits for the inevitable knock on the door.  Captain Larrasoana arrives to pick them up.  The family could only bring with them what they could carry.  They get onto a cart and driven away by the Captain.  Grandfather comments.  "That night, we abandoned our past.  Ahead of us lay but an uncertain future."

Back to the present.  Juan is still following the story of the Moriscos and their expulsion.  He is now in Madrid.  He confers with another group of experts on the subject.  Juan asks the group of four experts what explanation is there for the expulsion of about 300,000 people?  Bernard Vincent says that there was talk of a possible expulsion in the 1580s.  Philip II held meetings in Lisbon on the subject.  In 1609 Spain was at peace.  They signed a peace treaty with France in 1598, with England in 1604 and with the Netherlands in 1609.  With peace they had enough personnel and funding to carry out a huge expulsion. 

Manuel Barrios says that King Philip III was a weak king, but he still made the decision to expel the Moriscos.   Another man was very important in this decision.  The Duke of Lerma was Philip III's court favorite.  Another important person was the patriarch Juan de Ribera, who was an anti-Moriscos fanatic. 

Flashback.  Maria and Juan walk behind the wagon.    They take a break and examine the blisters they are getting on their feet.  Juan wonders if he should try to kill the Captain.  But no, Maria is totally opposed trying such a risky gamble.  She also says the family will stay together no matter what. 

Back to the present.  The expulsion order was carried out on April 4, 1609.  They started by expelling the 100,000 Moriscos in Valencia.  After they were gone, they took the Andalusian Moriscos and then the ones from Murcia.  It took up to 1614 to expel all the Moriscos. 

Flashback.  In a port city, they are accosted by a street vendor who denounces the Moriscos as thieves and hoarders.  The fellow tells them to get out of their village and for the people to spit on the Moriscos. 

Back to the present.  Juan asks Professor Candau was there a lot of anti-Moriscos propaganda?   She says that there were two main groups responsible for this:  the Inquisition people and an ecclesiastical group that used their sermons, the confessionary and the missions to spread the image of all Moriscos as having dangerous souls that were absolutely to be dreaded.  They blamed the Moriscos for the famine and the spread of cooper coins falsified by some Moriscos. 

Flashback.  The Captain with Maria and Juan silences the racist vendor by grabbing him by the throat.  A young priest scolds the mobs for being so inhospitable.  The mob says the Moriscos don't deserve any kindness: "No piety for dogs."  As the priest keeps talking, the Moriscos couple and their daughter get away from the mob.  The priest scolds the rabble-rouser and now the people turn their anger at him saying that this man fooled them into anger against the new Christians. 

Back to the present.  Manuel Barrios says that in the church opinions varied among the clergy.  Pope Paul V never accepted the expulsion. 

Flashback.  The priest, whose name is Domingo, talks with the Captain about his job. The two know each other and Domingo says that the Captain is a good man, even if he has an anger-management problem.   Maria comes over to thank the young priest. 

Back to the present.  The Jesuits, founded in 1540, were concerned about the Moriscos.  They adopted the purity of blood statute.  This meant that no Moriscos could join the order. 

Flashback.  The Aziz family is being taken to the port of Alfagues.  There they will wait for the rest of the Moriscos from their area.  At night the Captain talks to grandfather who says that he is keeping an account of what happened to him and his family as well as to the other Moriscos.  He wants his grand children and great grandchildren to know what happened to their family when they were in Spain.  The Captain warns grandfather of the possible dangers ahead.  There has been talk that the ships taking the Moriscos have no definite place to sail to.  And once on the open sea, anything might happen. 

The Captain goes on to say that he was in the massacre known as Muela de Cortes.  That's where he met Father Domingo.  "On some nights, I can hear them screaming."  He saw women with their children jumping off the cliffs to their deaths. 

Maria tells the Captain that they have to find a doctor for her baby who has a fever.  The Captain says he cannot stop.  He has his orders.  Maria tells him he has no charity in his soul.  She grabs a knife and tells him that they are stopping.  The Captain just tells her to go ahead and kill him if it will help her or her son.  Maria won't kill him.  He takes the knife from her. 

Back to the present.  Juan and his grandfather talk about the diary.  Grandfather says that Maria was a strong woman, like Juan's own grandmother.  He tells Juan to read more from the diary to him. 

Flashback.  The family reaches the coast. 

Back to the present.  Manuel Barrios says that the expulsion was a barbarity.  It need not have happened.

Flashback.  The beach is filled with Mariscos families now. Out on the water are lots of ships.  Maria's baby finally gets some attention from a doctor.  The Captain asks how is the baby and grandfather says he will survive.  Juan comes to grandfather saying that he heard they are sending them to Berber land, the land of grandfather's ancestors.  Juan worries if they will be persecuted in Berber land.  Grandfather says he does not know.  They will have to wait and see. 

The baby boy Anton is not getting any better.  The medicine he takes does not seem to do any good.  The parents are worried that the boy could die on the ship voyage.  Some people are giving up their children to be adopted by others. 

Maria and Juan go to see the Captain.  Juan says that they are headed for Tunis.  Maria asks the Captain to take care of their son, because if they take him aboard ship, he could die there.  The Captain says he will take the boy.  Later grandfather gives his diary to the Captain. 

Back to the present.  Juan tells grandfather that was the end of the diary.   But for Juan that's not the end of the story.  He says he is going to Tunis.  He has already contacted some people that might be able to help him. 

So Juan goes to Tunisia.  A Tunisian man knows a Moriscos family that settled in Tunis after the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain.  The Tunisian is named Abdelhakim Al-Gafsi.  Juan is shown some Moriscos architecture.  A woman professor says the elite Moriscos that came to Tunisia stayed on Andalusies Street.   Tunisians were shocked to see that the Mariscos knew quite a lot about Christianity, but little of Islam.  And many of the Moriscos were blond and blue-eyed.  The Moriscos rebuilt the town of Testur.  The town is like any town in Castile or Aragon, Spain. 

So Juan goes to Testur.  There he meets descendants of the Moriscos families. 

Back in Spain and speaking with grandfather, Juan learned that many Moriscos went back to Spain.  They changed their names and selected different towns, but they came back.  It is even possible that Moriscos returning to Spain brought the diary with them and hid it in the hole in the house. 

Ramon Petit says that:  "It was a great loss to Spain, whereas for Tunis, it was a renaissance."

 

It's hard to visualize what it might have been like when 300,000 Moriscos, many of them Christians, were expelled from Spain.  And that's where film comes into play.  The film follows the Aziz family and what happened to them as well as some other Moriscos.  There is a constant switch back and forth between the story and expert opinions of historians about the history of the Expulsion that occurred in 1609.  The going back and forth between the story and history sessions did not bother my ability to follow the film and there were some very interesting things said by the historians. The Expulsion hurt Spain, through the loss of some great talent, but also in an unexpected way, actually helped Spain. The settling of Moriscos on the African coast actually increased Spain's power and influence around the Mediterranean Sea.  After all, the Moriscos were Christians, spoke Spanish, wanted Spanish goods and they themselves were also traders with Spain. 

This is an important event in European and Spanish history, as well as in North Africa.  And that's a perfect role for a film.  To bring a tragic deed to greater light and communicate how painful an event was the Expulsion  for people of Arab descent and their families. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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