From Academic Kids

Morisco (Spanish "Moor-like") or mourisco (Portuguese) is a term referring to a kind of 'New Christian' in Spain and Portugal.

From the late 1400s to the early 1600s Moors (Iberian Muslims) were forced to convert from Islam to Catholicism. The Moriscos were expelled by the decree of 1610 from Spain to North Africa after being persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition.

Prior to their forced conversion, the Moriscos were known as Mudejars, and were allowed to practice Islam among Christians with certain restrictions.

The exact status of Mudejars depended on the capitulation pacts and the later decrees of the kings and Cortes. After the fall of Granada in 1492, the Muslim population was promised religious freedom, but that promise was short-lived. Muslims were given an ultimatum to either convert or emigrate. The majority converted, but only superficially, continuing to dress and speak as they had before and to secretly practice Islam and use the aljamiado writing system. This led Cardinal Cisneros to use a more forceful approach, which resulted in an uprising in 1500 to 1502. This was suppressed, and the Spanish authorities took that as a pretext to void the rights and obligations in the surrender treaty. As early as 1508, authorities banned traditional fashion.

More restrictive legislation was introduced in 1526 and 1527. Moriscos could buy a 40-year suspension of the laws, but in 1568, Philip II of Spain issued an edict for Moriscos to give up their children to be educated by Christian priests. This led to another uprising in the Alpujarras in 1568 to 1571 and the forced resettlement of Moriscos upon its defeat.

Despite all that, the Moriscos continued to be industrious and prosperous, and were the subject of envy from the Christian peasants. Moriscos were suspected of being in contact with the Turkish Empire and the Barbary pirates, conspiring against Spain. Spanish nobles, who appreciated them as cheap hard-workers, tried to protect them from expulsion. They were especially important in the agriculture of Valencia and Murcia.

Towards the end of the 16th Century, Morisco writers sought to challenge the perception of their culture as alien to Spain, with literary works purporting to present a version of early Spanish history in which Arab-speaking Spaniards played a positive role. Chief amongst these is Miguel de Luna's Verdadera historia del rey don Rodrigo (1592 and 1600). De Luna is also highly likely to have been involved in the falsification of texts intended to demonstrate that the earliest Spanish Christians had, in fact, been Arabs; the lead books of Sacromonte.

The Moriscos were finally expelled from Spain to North Africa in 1610, by Philip III, at the instigation of the Duke of Lerma. Although estimates have varied from as low as 120,000 to as high as 3,000,000 expelled [1] (, contemporary accounts set it at between 200,000-600,000, with 300,000 being an often quoted number. [2] ( Some historians have blamed the following crisis of the Spanish Mediterranean to the substitution of Morisco workers by Christian newcomers, who were fewer and less used to the local techniques.

Upon arrival to North Africa, the Sultans of Morocco tried to find a place for these Spanish-speaking people who had been influenced by Christianity.

Some communities fought as corsairs, based at Salè, against Christian merchants or used European-made guns to cross the Sahara and conquer Timbuktu and the Niger Curve.

Miguel de Cervantes' writings, such as Don Quixote and Conversation of the Two Dogs, offer interesting views of Moriscos and put them in a favorable light.


Extended meaning

In historical studies of minoritisation, Morisco is sometimes applied to other historical crypto-Muslims, in places such as Norman Sicily, 9th century Crete, and other areas along the medieval Christian-Muslim frontier.

In the racial classification of Spanish America, morisco was used for a certain combination of White and Negro blood.

See also

Aben Humeya, Crypto-Jews, marranos, Hornachos.

External links


  • Moriscos of Spain: Their Conversion and Expulsion, by H. C. Lea, (London 1901)es:Morisco

fr:Morisque pl:Moryskowie sl:Moriski sv:Morisco


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