The papal concession of indulgences for a crusade against North Africa and Spain's subsequent conquests along the southern Mediterranean littoral—Melilla (1497), Mers-el-Kebir (1505), Penón[*] de Vélez (1507), Oran (1509), and Algiers, Bougie, and Tunis (1510)—suggest a confrontation between Christianity and Islam so sharp as to have again thrown the question of Mudejar allegiance into relief. However, because the crusade was more apparent than real, particularly with respect
to the Crown of Aragon, and because the Mudejars themselves had played a role during the previous centuries of Catalan-Maghriban relations, Mudejar contacts with Maghriban Muslims presented no more of a problem than those they maintained with Granada.
The key to understanding Fernando's relative lack of distress over the Mudejar-Maghriban connection, which could have compounded the difficulties presented by the rumored Ottoman-Nasrid-Mudejar conspiracy, lies in the political circumstances of his Maghriban adversaries. Rent by internal divisiveness, with each sultan's power base urban-centered and dependent on shifting alliances with the Berber tribesmen controlling the countryside, the Maghriban sultanates were incapable of presenting a united front to the Spanish, much less of mounting an offensive. They lacked the military organization and the gunpowder technology to offer effective resistance. Even if they had been anxious to place themselves under the protective wing of the Ottomans, the latter were in no position to shore up the defenses of western Islam until they defeated the Mamluks in 1517. Indicative of the debility of the Maghriban states is the fact that during the war against Granada they remained largely on the sidelines.
It would be difficult and perhaps overly artificial to disentangle Fernando's crusading fervor from the geopolitical and commercial motives behind the expansion into North Africa. Still, it seems that in his formulation of a Maghriban policy worldly considerations were more weighty. The conquest of Granada itself compelled the Spanish to gain a foothold in the Maghrib. Without the Nasrid buffer state Spain's southern coastlines were susceptible to the raids of Maghriban corsairs, whose forces were substantially augmented by Granadan refugees desirous of vengeance on the Christian conquerors. The corsairs' depredations coupled with the restiveness of the subject Granadan population threatened the survival of the new kingdom and advised the taking of strategic points along the North African coast, from which the sea lanes could be better controlled. The lure of African gold made sites such as Melilla, a terminus of the Saharan caravan routes, more attractive. Strategic considerations guided the Spanish endeavor to establish dominion over the island of Jirba, which, along with Malta, would have allowed for the control of the seas between Sicily and Tunisia. The Crown of Aragon's wider Mediterranean interests, which, when the French advanced into Naples, diverted Fernando from the African crusade, seem to have dictated the ultimate course of his Maghriban policy. The invasion and settlement of the African interior were favored by Cardinal Cisneros, an embodiment of the crusading spirit who funded and personally led the expedition against Oran. The Cardinal's aspirations were more akin to those of Queen Isabel, whose dying wish was
for the continuation of "the conquest of Africa and the war for the faith against the Moors." Fernando, however, preoccupied with Italian affairs, was unwilling to put forth the resources such an enterprise would have required. The logical conclusion to the crusade against the Moors as suggested by the Granadan experience, namely, Christian settlement and conversion of the indigenous population, was not attempted. Rather, Fernando was content to maintain a string of coastal garrisons, or presidios , designed to protect the coasts and commerce of Spain and Italy against Maghriban attacks, and hopefully to establish control over the Maghriban commercial networks. The outcome of Fernando's African crusade was determined as much by the desire to establish Spanish hegemony in the western Mediterranean as by a zeal to subjugate the infidel.
The crusades against Granada and Africa, both largely Castilian enterprises, did not radically change the main contours of Valencia's relations with the Maghrib. Throughout the fifteenth century Valencians engaged in commerce there. The volume of this commercial traffic, never great, seems to have diminished somewhat at the end of the century, owing to the Maghrib's internal strife and to the Castilian offensive. The trade was usually carried by Christian ships, Valencian, Venetian, or Genoese. Imports included animal hides, wax, luxury items such as ostrich plumes, and, of course, African gold. The exports most in demand in the Maghrib were textiles and illegal articles of trade, such as arms, iron, sulfur, and alum. In the latter half of the century 56 percent of this trade was with Hafsid[*] Tunisia. This accorded well with Fernando's promotion of the sale of Sicilian wheat there.
Maghriban merchants, the majority from Tunis and Oran, were frequent visitors to Valencia. Usually arriving on the Venetian galleys that regularly traveled the route between the Maghrib and Valencia, these merchants were granted royal license to conduct their business in the kingdom for periods of one year or more.
The waters of the Mediterranean which allowed for the establishment of commercial ties between Christendom and Africa also provided the corsair with an ample field of action. Although corsairs were certainly capable of criminal acts against their coreligionists, Mediterranean piracy was, nevertheless, an essential element of the larger struggle between Christianity and Islam. Neither officially sanctioned nor ideologically inspired, piracy was no less cruel to its victims than crusade or war. It constantly threatened to undo the friendship fostered by commerce. But like commerce, piracy was profitable to Christian and Muslim alike, reaping rewards in booty and slaves. Christian merchants easily made the transition to piracy when it suited their interests. They victimized Muslims plying the Maghriban coastal trade and even those
making the pilgrimage to Mecca. On land Muslims were no safer. They were stolen away from their homes and sold into slavery. In response to the complaints of the sultan of Tunis, Fernando had to admonish Christian merchants to cease the kidnapping of Muslims who entered their ships to inspect their wares.
Perhaps because of their overall military weakness, the Maghriban sultanates often resorted to privateering as a means of inflicting damage on the increasingly aggressive Iberian powers. The Catalan, Balearic, and Valencian coastlines were constantly plagued by Maghriban corsairs. With respect to Valencia, this piratical activity seems to have increased in the latter third of the fifteenth century. Indeed, the correspondence between the jurates of Valencia, Murviedro, and Cullera is filled with reports of the sightings of Maghriban galleys. Not only did Muslim corsairs wreak havoc on Valencia's coastal shipping, they also made daring forays onto the mainland. The objective was always the taking of booty and Christian captives. For instance, corsairs from Bougie set upon a galley transporting wheat to Gandía, killing two Christians and capturing another, while in another case, ten Christian fishermen were borne off. There is an interesting exchange of letters between the bailiff general and the jurates of Castellón de la Plana regarding the strategy to be employed against Muslim raiders ensconced on a nearby island. The jurates, whose plan was to move against the corsairs whose signal fires they had spotted, wanted to be guaranteed full rights to any Muslim they were taking the trouble to capture. On this point the bailiff general concurred, but he suggested laying an ambush for the entire raiding party instead of nabbing only a few scouts. Given such harrowing conditions, efforts had to be made to improve the system of coastal vigilance and defense, particularly at Oropesa in the north and at Guardamar in the south. Ships were manned and armed to patrol Valencia's coastline. Although these measures had some efficacy, resulting in the capture of Maghriban corsairs, Muslim galleys still slipped through. The situation, which probably worsened after 1492, when the corsairs found many new Granadan recruits, became especially critical in 1502 and 1503.
The sequel to the piratical episodes was the ransoming of captives. In Valencian society this was a matter of great concern, for it was always feared that Christian prisoners would be induced to renege on the Catholic faith. The Order of Mercedarians remained active in the redemption of captives, and some towns, such as Biar, had special funds reserved for this purpose. While families worked to ransom loved ones and lords their vassals, the king did what he could to lend a hand. In 1489 Fernando instructed his ambassador to Tunis to congratulate the new sultan on his accession, to promise him support against his uncle
ruling Tripoli, and to demand the release of all the Christians imprisoned in Tunis, or at least of those of high rank. In another case, the proceeds from the estate of a condemned Converso were granted to a man from Elche trying to ransom his son held in Bougie.
Inhabiting a kingdom marked by the comings and goings of Maghriban merchants, slaves, and corsairs ensured that Valencia's Muslims were bound to the Maghrib by much more than an abstract religious and cultural affinity. A concrete Mudejar-Maghriban connection was further sustained by the officially sanctioned travel of Mudejars to Maghriban ports, especially Tunis, but also Oran, Algiers, and One. Allowed to remain there for one year, they traded, visited relatives and collected the inheritances of those deceased, studied Arabic, made pilgrimages (most likely to North African shrines instead of Mecca, given the limitations of time), or simply enjoyed a bit of tourism.
Mudejars had kinfolk in the Maghrib as a result of two complementary patterns of minor population movement. On one hand, Mudejars were sometimes permitted to emigrate to North Africa, although never in great numbers. On the other hand, Maghriban prisoners of war—either victims of Christian piracy or pirates themselves—who had been ransomed by Mudejar aljamas sometimes preferred permanent residence in Valencia to a return to their birthplaces. Thus, Valencian and Maghriban might trade places, the difference lying more in the religion of their respective suzerains than in the circumstances of their community life. The settlement of Granadan Muslims in Valencia after 1489 further complicated the picture, so that within the Christian kingdom itself the Mudejar might rub shoulders with a variegated throng of Muslims. Some sense of this is conveyed in the confessions of the Malagan Muslim Caçim Abdalla before the tribunal of the bailiff general. Caçim had journeyed from Segorbe to the city of Valencia in the company of two Mudejars, from Cocentaina and Oliva. While in Valencia he met Mahomat Arayz of Oran, whom he questioned about employment opportunities in the area. Having no luck finding employment, the two turned to petty theft, which landed them in the bailiff's court.
The ease with which contact could be established between Muslims of various origins must have increased the potential for Mudejar involvement in anti-Christian activity. Captive Maghriban corsairs and recently conquered Granadans, embittered over their own fate, might have inspired Mudejars to take up their cause. The corsairs valued the Mudejars for their knowledge of the kingdom's coastline and interior. If the latter were willing, the corsairs could establish a network of spies and guides to facilitate their infiltration of Valencian territory. Plans for piratical raids could be made and messages sent with Mudejars and
with Maghriban merchants and ransomed captives crossing to North Africa.
To the good fortune of the kingdom the majority of its Mudejars seem to have declined to risk participation in such subversive action. Still, the corsairs were able to find volunteers. Some of the aforementioned Muslims accused of the crime of collera could have been acting in concert with either Granadan or Maghriban raiders. The documents are not always clear on this point. There is no doubt about the guilt of the Mudejar of Cocentaina, who was captured by the people of Alcudiola when they beat off the attack of 100 corsairs from Oran. One captive corsair told how his party was guided from Guardamar inland to Rojales by a Mudejar of Albatera. It is also possible that when the corsairs left behind their own spies, the latter were hidden by Mudejar communities. Even more striking is the information received by the jurates of Valencia, that Bablaguer, a Mudejar of Oliva, was piloting a corsair squadron of six ships sailing out of Oran.
According to the bailiff general, the Mudejars of the coastal towns were the most troublesome. Those possessing fishing boats would, under the pretense of fishing, lead to the kingdom's shores the galleys of corsairs intent on capturing Christians. These "fishermen" would also help Muslim slaves to escape in their boats. Because his own prohibitions against the Muslim ownership of fishing boats had not been obeyed, the bailiff requested that Fernando apply the force of royal authority. He suggested that the king enact the same prohibition, with the addition that if Muslims had to fish they must do so in Christian boats. Violators should be punished with slavery and their lords penalized as well. Yet it seems that Fernando did not follow the bailiff's recommendations.
The absence of energetic royal action to curb such Mudejar activity was probably due to the fact that it was not a widespread phenomenon. Even taking into account the difficulty of its detection, the few instances in which the royal authorities actually discovered Mudejars plotting with Maghriban enemies seem to indicate this. Indeed, in 1502, in their effort to persuade the king that Valencia's Muslims ought not to be converted, the nobles argued that in the past, when they were not afraid of being forcibly baptized, the Mudejars often advised Christians of the coming of corsairs. Although the nobles were clearly acting out of self-interest, their argument likely held a considerable amount of truth, for if the Mudejars often associated with corsairs, they would not have been so highly valued as vassals. In 1503, the lords of Benidorm, Polop, and Calpe—all coastal towns—beseeched Fernando to permit the safe and unpenalized return of their Muslim vassals who had fled to the Maghrib during the disturbances of 1502. They maintained that while in Africa
their vassals did not capture Christians, but picked up information regarding "the damage that the Moors from beyond would like to do." Fernando, impressed, complied with their request. Thus, the intelligence network between Muslims of opposite Mediterranean shores could work both ways, sometimes to the kingdom's benefit.
The fact that Fernando did not govern his Muslim subjects with an iron hand does not mean he threw all caution to the winds. Just as the war against Granada had necessitated some restriction of Mudejar movement to the southern zone of the kingdom, it also resulted in the cessation of Muslim travel between Valencia and the Maghrib. The bailiff general's alternating stringency and liberality in the granting of licenses for travel abroad to Mudejars roughly parallels the pattern of the bestowal of licenses for internal travel. After 1484 no licenses were granted, but in 1491 the restriction was gradually lifted. As for the commercial activity of Maghriban merchants in Valencia, it reasserted itself in 1486, and, while not evident in 1487 and 1488, rose markedly in 1489 and continued until 1500. Interestingly, this commerce was curtailed at the time of the Muslim revolts in the Alpujarras (1500–1501), but not after the declaration of a crusade against Africa in 1494. Fernando and his bailiff general were guided primarily by a sustained interest in the kingdom's economic welfare. They did not wish to curb the trade carried by Valencian and Maghriban Muslims any more than was absolutely necessary.
The formulation of policy on Mudejar emigration to the Maghrib, although apparently of great relevance to the kingdom's security, was also dictated by the economic interests of the most powerful sectors of Valencian society. While the king might make temporary monetary gains by permitting the emigration of those Mudejars able to pay the required duties, the Mudejars' long-term value to the purses of the monarch and the secular and ecclesiastical lords ensured that they were conceded the privilege of emigration only rarely, if at all. If royal and seigneurial reluctance to open the doors to Mudejar emigration had been based on a fear that their erstwhile vassals might return in the guise of enemy corsairs and soldiers, then they would not have allowed them to travel to the Maghrib for temporary visits, for, if the Mudejars so wished, a year's sojourn in Africa could become a permanent change of residence. The permeability of the Mediterranean frontier, a condition created by the policies of both Christian and Muslim rulers, offered the Mudejars numerous opportunities to cause trouble. Emigration would not have made a substantial difference in this potential. At any rate, there is little evidence from Fernando's reign that Valencia's Muslims were clamoring for permission to emigrate. Only during the years of crisis after 1500 did this become the case.