The Acculturative Challenge
However durable Mudejar society might have been, it had nevertheless experienced considerable acculturative change. Prior to analyzing late-fifteenth-century Mudejar society, it will be useful to outline briefly some of the more significant of these changes, brought about both subtly by the Muslims' informal interaction with the Christian populace, and forcefully by the formal imposition of Christian authority on an Islamic society.
Valencia's Muslims underwent their most radical cultural adjustment in the half-century immediately following the Christian conquest. During that time the Islamic society was essentially decapitated, losing its political and cultural elites to emigration and in failed rebellions. Islamic government and the public application of the Shariah were rudely shunted aside by a Christian colonial administration with its own body of law, the Furs . Even the autonomous and corporate aljama, vouchsafed to the Muslims by their Christian overlord, had no Islamic antecedent, compelling the Muslim adelantats to administer their communities in a foreign manner analogous to that of the Christian jurates in their corporate universitas . As has been indicated, the Christian bureaucracy, particularly when functioning as a tax-collecting mechanism, intruded on most areas of Mudejar life, so that in even so intimate a family affair as inheritance strict observance of the Shariah had to be modified in compliance with the king's demands. Furthermore, the Muslim by necessity had to learn to function in a Christian as well as Islamic legal system. Although this was to be expected for cases involving both Christian and Muslim parties, the fact that some Muslim litigants pursued civil suits with coreligionists in Christian courts is indicative of an acculturative process potentially damaging to the internal harmony of Mudejar communities.
Also important were the more gradual processes of Christian urbanization and seigneurialization, which, coupled with the decreasing size of the Muslim population (from an overwhelming majority in the thirteenth century to 30 percent of the kingdom's total by the midfifteenth century), altered the very appearance of the kingdom, as churches re-
placed mosques and Muslims retreated from the urban centers to the countryside. Although the rhythms of agricultural and pastoral life remained largely unchanged, Christian control of the economy, especially of the larger domestic and international markets, meant that Muslim farmers, artisans, and retail merchants were dependent on Christians for marketing their produce, selling their manufactured goods, and purchasing raw materials and bulk goods. Mudejar dependence was further manifested in their vassalage to Christian lords and their loss of ultimate control over their land. Outside of the walls of his own home or mosque, the Mudejar could hardly avoid coming to grips with the Christian presence, and having to do so on Christian terms.
The greatest threat to the integrity of the Mudejars' Islamic culture and Muslim identity lay in the cities and towns, where the populations were overwhelmingly Christian. There the expressions of Christian religiosity were most pervasive and most aggressive, while conversely the public observance of Islam was all the more restricted. The best example of this tendency is the anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish preaching of the Inquisitors from the pulpits of Valencia and Cartagena. Another urban danger, particularly in the capital, was the volatility of the Christian mob. Although the evocation of despair fed on fear might have been an efficacious proselytizing tool with some Muslims, it is arguable that the demagoguery of Inquisitors and like-minded clerics and Christian mob violence would have been more likely to repel Muslims from Christianity and to inspire among them a reactionary zeal in their commitment to Islam. The cities posed another threat perhaps more serious than Christian aggression, namely, the possibility of friendly and leisurely contact with Christians and their religion. Adherents of both faiths congregated in city taverns and fonduks, passing their leisure time gambling together, drinking together, and sleeping together. For the Muslim such activities meant a violation of the precepts of his own faith, and signaled his entry into a gray area of cultural amorphousness, where, if his Muslim identity was not overtly challenged, there nevertheless resulted a weakening of his own sense of distinctiveness. That Mudejars flocked to Valencia to enjoy with their Christian friends the spectacle of the Corpus Christi Day processions has a similar significance: it does not mean that these Muslims were on the road to baptism; rather, it indicates that they had acquired non-Islamic cultural accoutrements and forms of behavior born of a long-term exposure to Christian society.
A useful index of acculturation is the extent of Mudejar bilingualism. Burns, in unison with Fuster and Barceló Torres, concludes that in the thirteenth century the Muslim masses were unilingual Arabic-speakers. For midfourteenth-century Valencia Boswell points to only a minimal change in this pattern: "the vast majority of the Mudéjares did not
speak the language of the dominant culture." This was in contrast to the kingdom of Aragon, where the Mudejars spoke Romance but had for the most part lost the ability to function in Arabic. It is thought that throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries this state of affairs remained more or less unchanged. In support of this view historians note the Moriscos' obdurate use of Arabic as their language of daily parlance and the systematic effort of the Christian authorities (from 1565) to discourage the teaching and use of Arabic. Of particular significance is the agreement reached between the Moriscos and Carlos I in 1526, in which the Moriscos maintained that "the greater part of the Moorish men and almost all of the women do not know how to speak aljamia (Romance)." Moreover, the Moriscos stated that they would need forty years in which to learn Romance (Carlos I allowed them only ten). The evidence is impressive, and that both the Mudejars and the Moriscos spoke and read Arabic seems indisputable (see below); however, their avowed unilingualism is open to debate. I would argue for a more extensive Mudejar bilingualism, although with Romance spoken with an imperfect accent and syntax. Given the Moriscos' insincere conversion and their anxiety to forestall thorough catechization in the Catholic faith and Inquisitorial inquiries, their presentation of their linguistic status in the negotiations with Carlos I might have been somewhat disingenuous, a device meant to discourage zealous Romance-speaking clergymen. Clearly, in asking for a forty-year period of grace the Moriscos were playing for time. In the years between 1526 and 1609 there very well might have ensued a decreasing bilingualism. As the Moriscos further withdrew from the cities, their contact with the Christian world would have decreased, while, in a reactionary manner, their desire to avoid Christian culture and to cultivate their own cultural distinctiveness—in effect, to freeze the acculturative process—would have intensified. Just as the Christian authorities realized that the Arabic language had to be removed as an impediment to the effective "Christianization" of the Moriscos, it is equally possible the Moriscos understood that by inculcating their children in the Arabic language, the sacred language of the Qur'an[*] , and by forbidding them any education in Romance they were strengthening their fidelity to Islam. In sum, the Moriscos' linguistic status is not necessarily an accurate indicator of that of their Mudejar predecessors.
The records of cases tried in the court of the bailiff general, in which Muslims appear as litigants and witnesses, are suggestive of a significant Mudejar bilingualism. Normally, if a Muslim witness was in need of an interpreter, a role usually fulfilled by the royal qadi[*] , the latter's participation in the case was explicitly indicated. For instance, Nuzeya, a Muslim prostitute from Oliva, confessed with "Ali Bellvis, qadi ,
intervening." More explicitly, one defendant, Ubaydal Allepus of Bétera, is described as "mal algemiat (i.e., he speaks Romance poorly) ... he does not understand algemia," but his interpreter, the amin[*] Açen Amet, was a "Moor molt algemiat and a person who understands la algemia very well." Yet it is striking that the large majority of the Mudejars appearing in these trial records did not require an interpreter. While it is not surprising that the Muslims of urban morerías spoke Romance, given their constant mixing with the Christian populace, or that the amin of a rural aljama had mastered enough Romance to act as intermediary between the aljama and its lord, it is impressive that many Mudejars from rural areas could testify in Romance. Some examples are Açen Muça of Serra, Homar b. Perellos of Benaguacil, Ubaydal Suleymen of Mirambell, Maymo ben Çabit of Manises, and Abdulcarim of Oliva, among others. Equally significant are the testimonies of Christians about their seemingly routine verbal exchanges with Muslims. Ursula, the daughter of the innkeeper Joan Jeroni, testified how Alasdrach and Abdalla Sinube of Buñol, and Ali Alcayet of Chiva, "were speaking Arabic (alguaravia ) with the said captive Moor," whom they had allegedly helped to escape, and how later, after returning from a meeting with the lord of Carlet, "they requested [from her] a good room for sleeping." Miguel de la Serra, a tailor of Valencia, remembered that on Corpus Christi Day Muslim youths from Chiva had come to his house, eaten there, and then invited him and others to accompany them to the festivities. The odyssey of Angela de Vanya, a prostitute from Cuenca plying her trade in Onda, is revealing. She was first approached by Hadal, a Muslim from Benigazlo (Vall de Uxó), but did not know he was a Muslim, because he spoke "in the Valencian tongue and very suavely and not showing any sign of knowing the Moorish tongue." Hadal compelled Angela to go with him to Tales, a Muslim village (loch de moros ), and brought her to the house of Mahomat Cotalla. There, as the frightened Angela sat weeping in the Cotallas' kitchen, Mahomat and his wife assured her that she would not be harmed. Although these trial records afford only a glimpse at a small cross section of Mudejar life, they do show an erosion of linguistic barriers since the fourteenth century. The increasing size of the Christian population and the variety and frequency of its economic dealings with the Mudejars must have necessitated the latter's acquisition of at least enough Romance to carry on day-to-day affairs. It is unrealistic to assume that Muslim and Christian artisans, farmers, and merchants all had interpreters at their disposal for conducting their mundane but essential business. The documentation does not indicate that this was so. If the Mudejars assiduously cultivated an Arabic culture, there is still no reason to assume that at this point in time, before the mass
conversions, they had any reason for a self-conscious refusal to communicate in Romance. Demography and economy advised otherwise, and linguistic adaptation proceeded apace.
It should not be thought that such acculturation of the Mudejars to Romance-Christian culture as did take place was necessarily a negative or a degenerative process, or a process the flow of which was only unidirectional, although it is likely that the recessive but resilient culture of the Mudejar minority had experienced greater modification from its continual contact with a dynamic and expanding Christian majority. Rather, such acculturation was inevitable, an evolutionary process of adaptation necessary for the social and economic viability of a society that juxtaposed the proponents of mutually hostile ideologies. Even if the behavior of some Mudejars seemed almost to flout Islamic convention, this did not signal a reorientation of their fundamental religious beliefs. (If anything, it attests to a kind of secularization, in which beliefs were not so much altered as ignored.) In a medieval plural society, where identity was finally defined by religious affiliation, cultural erosion and unorthodox conduct were not evidence of Mudejar assimilation into Christian society. Such assimilation—the lessening of social distance, as opposed to acculturation, the lessening of cultural distance —could be achieved only through religious conversion, that is, through a fundamental change of identity. Therefore, in order to grasp the degree to which Mudejar society was truly threatened by absorption into the Christian body, one must broach the question of the extent of Mudejar conversion to Christianity.
Unlike the thirteenth century, with its mendicant preachers, schools of Arabic, and refined techniques of polemic, the result of which had been the conversion of a considerable number of Muslims, the Valencia of the Catholic Monarchs saw no organized ecclesiastical campaign of proselytizing. After recovering from the trauma of the conquest, a factor that probably accounted for much of the Dominicans' early success, the Mudejars had regrouped, and so effectively that the Valencian Church seems to have made little or no further headway in the fourteenth century. This caused the Dominican preacher Vicent Ferrer to lament the inactivity of the clergy in missionary work (1413). The stimulus of Ferrer's zeal led to the establishment of an Arabic school in Valencia during the reign of Alfonso V (ca. 1424), but it seems to have quickly faded into oblivion. As we have seen in chapters 1 and 2, although King Fernando cautiously welcomed the baptism of individual Mudejars, he did not promote conversion on a mass scale. The lords of the kingdom, both ecclesiastical and secular, staunchly opposed any attempts to proselytize their vassals, since they could not wring as much rent out of Christian vassals.
There were compelling social reasons for not converting. The convert, it seems, entered a sort of "no-man's land," being a full member of neither Christian nor Muslim society. If anything, owing to the strong ties of blood uniting Mudejar families (see below), converts tended to associate more with their Muslim relatives than with Christians. The convert Miguel Crestia was implicated along with his Muslim brother Ubaydal Allepus in the murder of another Muslim. A tornadizo of Cocentaina came to the aid of a Muslim relative, a runaway slave from Córdoba. Of course, Mudejars did not regard the conversion of their fellows favorably. Thus, the Inquisition arrested two Muslims who boldly and vociferously attempted to dissuade some Muslims from receiving baptism. Moreover, the convert put in jeopardy whatever inheritances he hoped to receive from Muslim relations. However, it seems that the Crown was no longer confiscating the estates of deceased converts, as had once been the case. Therefore, the potential convert was not burdened by the fear of depriving his descendants of their inheritances.
Even so, Christian society did not welcome the convert with open arms. In previous centuries Christians had insulted converts by calling them "dogs," "renegades," and the like. Given the lukewarm reception of the judeo-conversos by Old Christians and the beginning of an obsession with the purity of Christian blood, it is highly unlikely that the situation would have improved. The murder of Mudejar converts by Old Christians supports this supposition.
Nevertheless, a small number of Muslims chose to convert. The large majority of the proselytes were slaves who had the most to gain from conversion. Slaves with Jewish or Muslim masters had to be manumitted after their baptism, for infidels could not own Christian slaves. One Muslim woman preferred conversion to four years of servitude to a Jew. For slaves with Christian masters, the situation was less clear-cut. The law provided that the slave should be freed only if he converted with the consent of his master. Therefore, the decision to manumit the baptized slave was solely the master's. Some masters granted their Christian slaves freedom, but most did not. Business sense usually prevailed over religious scruples. Runaway slaves sometimes converted so as to conceal their fugitive status. When the Muslim slave Fatima fled from Valencia into Aragon, she became Elinor de Vellasquo. From there she journeyed to Barcelona and to Mallorca, where she was apprehended.
There were some sincere free converts. The best known of these was the son of a faqih[*] of Játiva, who received baptism in 1487, became a priest, and preached to the Muslims of Granada and Aragon. Under the name of "Juan Andres" he translated into Aragonese the Qur'an[*] and the "seven books of the Sunnah ." Of the few other Valencian converts
who appear in the documentation, we know nothing more than their name or place of residence, or sometimes both. Conversion among the Aragonese and Catalan Mudejars seems to have been equally infrequent. In an extremely bizarre incident, a Muslim woman of Albarracín converted just fifteen days after her wedding and then endeavored to retrieve her bridewealth from her Muslim husband. Perhaps conversion was a way of escaping an unhappy arranged marriage, although divorce might have been easier.
Mudejar conversion, then, was not unknown, but it amounted to, at best, a few drops in the font. The large majority had no intention of abandoning Islam.