Wealth and Power in the Aljama
Previous historians have suggested that Mudejar aljamas were governed by plutocracies. However, for reason of either lack of documentation or different focus of study, historians have done little in the way of identifying these elite families and correlating their civil service to their possession of wealth. The resources at our disposal for doing so are limited. For instance, information on the landholdings of these families is lacking. Fortunately, the tax records of royal towns provide enough data on Mudejar officials and their farming of fiscal revenues to allow for the drawing of some tentative conclusions.
The leading Mudejar family in the kingdom was the Bellvis family, in whom the combination of wealth and power is especially evident. Although the qadi general received a modest annual salary of 200s, the emoluments accruing from all of his juridical services must have been substantial. Still, the main source of income for the Bellvis family was international commerce. They had been active in the trade with Almería since at least 1417. By Fernando's reign their business interests had taken them further afield. Mahomat Bellvis, and his sons Ali, Yahye, and Çahat, a spice merchant, conducted commercial negotiations in Italy, Tunis, and Alexandria, as well as in Almería. The preeminence of
Another prominent member of Valencia's aljama was its faqih[*] , Abdurrazmen Mascor. The faqih himself was a landowner, but his brother Çahat was involved in commerce with Almería, where he traveled with Abdurrazmen's black slave Mobarrich. The residence of other members of the Mascor family in Almería must have facilitated Çahat's trading there. Evidence of the faqih 's substantial wealth is the 1500s settlement that his heirs paid to the bailiff general so that the Crown would not confiscate the part of the estate the faqih had bequeathed to his son (most likely worth far more than 1500s), who had abandoned it when he emigrated to the Maghrib. The faqih had also willed property to his widow, brother, and two sisters.
Turning to Játiva, the dominant family of the aljama there, at least until 1496, was that of its qadi s, Yuçeff and Ubaydal Alçamba. Yuçeff served as qadi perhaps until 1490, when Ubaydal (his son?) succeeded him and remained in office until 1496. Their monopoly of the local Islamic judiciary was complete, for Yuçeff's brother, Yahye, was the aljama's sub-qadi[*] until his emigration to the Maghrib in 1485. Yahye's son Yuçeff next fulfilled the duties of the sub-qadi[*] until his death in 1494. No doubt the Alçambas were men of considerable erudition, and their attachment to Islam was demonstrated by the emigration of at least one of them to the dar[*]al-Islam[*] (lands of Islam; Islamdom). The family also seems to have possessed some wealth. Although information on the Alçambas' properties is lacking, Yuçeff Alçamba's brother, Axer (both are referred to as "Benyaye"), was the lessee of the morería 's butcher shop in 1478 and 1490 (and perhaps during the intervening years, the records of which are lost), for which he paid rents of 1000s and 1200s. In 1484 Yahye Alçamba was charged with the collection of royal revenues in the entire city of Játiva. Another indication of the Alçambas' prestige, not surprising for the qadi s of the kingdom's largest morería , was the marriage of the daughter of Yahye Alçamba, the sub-qadi , to the son of Mahomat Bellvis, the qadi general. By marrying among themselves the Mudejar aristocrats—if they can be described as such—maintained or enhanced their status and affluence.
The aljama of Játiva took some care in finding a suitable replacement for Ubaydal Alçamba as qadi . It, along with the local bailiff, chose Çahat Valenti, who had already proved his ability as the qadi of the seigneury of Alcocer. By this time (1496) Çahat had probably accumulated substantial capital. In 1480 he and his son journeyed to Almería to sell merchandise valuing 6000s.
After the demise of Yuçeff Alçamba (1494), Abdurasmen Mangay
was appointed sub-qadi[*] . Abdurasmen was a person of some estimation in the community, which had already elected him adelantat in 1492. His family, although perhaps not rich, was not without means. In 1485 Abdurasmen had been licensed to travel with his servant Yuçeff to the southern region of the kingdom on business. It seems that many of Abdurasmen's relatives were artisans, for from 1490 onward a number of them—Çahat, Mahomat, Ali, Coayat—appear as lessees of some of the morería 's workshops and utilities, such as the soap factory, for 160s to 220s, the olive press, for 30s to 60s, and so on. However, during Abdurasmen's tenure of office the resources at the Mangays' disposal seem to have increased. In 1495 Abdurasmen himself leased the butcher shop for 1600s, and in subsequent years other members of the family rented the more lucrative utilities, like the butcher shop—rented jointly by Ali Mangay and Abdalla Lirida, a former adelantat , in 1496—and the ovens. The experience of the Mangays suggests that the holding of an important office was beneficial for family fortunes, perhaps because it earned them the favor of and influence with the royal authorities.
In the aljama of Alcira one of the most notable families was the Paziar family. They served as its amin s[*] from the outset of Fernando's reign until at least 1503. At the time of the expulsion of the Moriscos a wealthy landowner named Paziar was the amin for Alcira's Moriscos. Mahomat Paziar, appointed in 1479, replaced Çahat Trilli, a saddler, who after his term of office continued to rent the saddle workshop. The Paziars, however, possessed far greater wealth than did their predecessor. Just after his appointment Mahomat purchased the morería 's fonduk, in order to provide his newlywed son Çahat with a "genteel house." Before being appointed amin himself in 1493, Çahat kept busy by investing family money in leases of the butcher shop and in farms of the town's agricultural tithes. During his father's declining years, 1488–1493, Çahat was the de facto amin . Çahat's investments seem to have reaped profits, for in 1491 he was able to farm the sales tax on meat for the huge sum of 10,800s. By 1501 Azmet Paziar, probably Çahat's son, was renting the butcher shop in partnership with a Christian, Jacme Barbera. Because the amin s were cogs in the Crown's fiscal machinery, they were well situated to turn to their own advantage the Crown's tax farms and utilities. Some officials, like the Paziars, were more astute in this respect than others, such as Çahat Trilli.
In the aljama of Castellón die la Plana none of the families seem to have had as firm a grip on the reins of power as did the Alqambas in Játiva or the Paziars in Alcira. Leadership in the aljama was hotly contested and the office of amin changed hands among the feuding families almost every year (in contrast to Alcira, where the amin was appointed for life). Almost all of the amin s had served on the aljama's council of
ten, which had the thankless task of choosing the two adelantats, one from each of the feuding factions. There is evidence about the financial status of only one of these families, the Bocayos. Thomas Glick has identified an Asmet Bocaxo (or Bocayo), a carter by trade whose family owned a substantial amount of land in the parish of St. Nicolas. Asmet himself, who possessed at least eight fanecates of irrigated huerta land, is known to us through the fines he incurred for irrigation infractions. Another family member, Sat Bocayo, was active in selling and purchasing land, most of it unirrigated vineyard. Given the close ties between Mudejar agnates, the amin[*] Yuçeff Bocayo probably had some share in his family's landed wealth.
There is less information on the officials of seigneurial aljamas. María del Carmen Barceló Torres has identified a prominent family of qadi s[*] in Benaguacil, the Benamirs, who held this office throughout the fifteenth century. The prestige of this family was later manifested in the person of the Morisco noble, Don Cosme de Abenamir. Barceló Torres also points out that some seigneurial amin s[*] , who, as has been suggested, had greater authority than royal amin s, enjoyed certain privileges and were exempted by their lords from paying rents for their land. In this way the seigneurial amin s acquired influence and slowly accumulated wealth, a tendency accentuated in the case that the office passed from father to son.
An extremely interesting case is that of Ali Gehini, the amin of La Foyeta (near Alberique). On Ali's death 10,000s to 12,000s were found hidden in the walls of his house. Muslims who knew Ali described him as a rich and powerful man, as rich as any knight in the kingdom. Ali had many servants in his house, and his two sons led a life of leisure, passing their time with companions in taverns. It appears that the prime source of Ali's wealth was his store, where he sold woolen cloth and other items.
It is doubtful that many other officials of seigneurial aljamas were able to accumulate as much wealth as Ali Gehini. However, some farmed the taxes of the estates of their lords, from which they must have earned some profits. For example, Yuçeff Castelli, the amin of Fraga, and Joan de Calatayu, a resident of Cocentaina, jointly farmed the taxes of Fraga for an annual payment of 175 pounds. The faqih[*] of Buñol and the qadi[*] of Chiva traveled to Valencia to confer with the lord of Carlet concerning the farming of the agricultural tithes. Although the lords were perhaps more likely to farm out their taxes to aljama officials in whom they had confidence, they also did so to other Mudejars with sufficient means. Mudejar tax-farmers are evident on a number of seigneuries, such as Areñol, Bechí, and Picasent.
All this having been said, one probably should not go so far as to
regard this Mudejar civil service elite as a distinct social class, lording it over the mass of poorer Muslim farmers and artisans. First, considering Valencia's plural society in its entirety, it is apparent that every Mudejar, no matter how affluent or influential within his own aljama, was, by virtue of his religious affiliation, the social inferior of even the most miserable Christian. The Mudejar official's recognition of this fundamental social reality conditioned his view of himself vis-à-vis the other members of his aljama; it had a leveling effect, limiting his social aspirations and enhancing his sense of sameness with his fellow Muslims on the basis of a shared ethnic identity. Confronted with a socially superior Christian majority, the Mudejar official's cultural identification with the minority community was a factor in his social outlook just as compelling as his level of affluence or his administrative position.
Even when viewing the aljama turned in on itself it is difficult to perceive a clear-cut social hierarchy. True, one might describe Mudejar upper, middle, and lower classes on the basis of relative affluence, but this differential economic status was not translated into sharp social stratification. Mudejar officials for the most part originated from the undistinguished mass of farmers and artisans. For instance, Abdurasmen Mangay, the sub-qadi[*] of Játiva, was a scion of a family of artisans, as was Çahat Trilli, the amin[*] of Alcira before the Paziars. The Bocayos of Castellón de la Plana owned a substantial amount of land, but were, nonetheless, a family of carters and farmers. And Ali Gehini, that rich and powerful amin of La Foyeta, was really little more than a successful shopkeeper. True, many of these officials perhaps owned more land, were more successful in their trades, or invested their money more wisely than others; still, they were by and large from the same socioeconomic background as their poorer fellows. Moreover, it is uncertain whether enough of these civil service families retained their positions long enough to have constituted a distinct upper class or an aristocracy with common class interests. The Paziars of Alcira, for instance, seem to have been newcomers to the office of amin in 1479. The Alçambas of Játiva seem to have died out or emigrated by 1496. The Mascors did not maintain their prominence in Valencia's aljama after the faqih[*] Abdurrazmen's death. The class structure of Mudejar aljamas, such as it existed, was characterized more by fluidity of movement up and down the socioeconomic scale than by immutability of status.
The primary focus of the Mudejar's social allegiance was not to a particular class, but to his family, normally an extended family or lineage group bound together by the solidarity between agnates. Dissension within the aljama was expressed in feuding between families and not in class struggle. Indeed, the intensity of Mudejar feuding, essentially a contest for material wealth and status, derived from the very
absence of marked social categorization. Mudejar families could unabashedly challenge one another and jockey for status because within the aljama there was minimal class consciousness. The social organization of the aljama is better viewed as a horizontal alignment of competing lineage groups, some richer than others, than as a vertical hierarchy of social classes. One family, or several, might achieve dominance over the others for any number of reasons—the successful prosecution of a feud, the accumulation of considerable material wealth, or the control of local office—but such dominance was often only ephemeral and was not predetermined by birth.
Notwithstanding the affluence of some families, the religious elites, the qadi s[*] and the faqih s[*] , constituted the most influential group in Mudejar society. As a group their economic backgrounds were diverse: the qadis tended to be richer and had more influence with the Christian authorities, while the faqih s were often poor and were supported by the community. Their erudition and piety lent them great prestige and, because of their diversity of background, their influence was pervasive and was felt by all socioeconomic groups. Their moral authority counterbalanced the influence of those whose status was based on affluence and the holding of office alone.
Even if among the Mudejars the variant degrees of wealth did not result in the formation of correlative social classes, it is still important to understand that there indeed was such variation. Some Mudejar farmers, craftsmen, and merchants prospered, while others were abysmally poor. Because the historiography on the sixteenth-century Moriscos tends to overshadow that concerning the Mudejars, it may be unduly assumed that the economic conditions of the Mudejars in the fifteenth century were just the same as those of the Moriscos. Following the logic of this assumption, the Mudejars would have been almost exclusively servile small farmers tied to the lands of their lords. Yet, one must consider how larger structural changes affected the Mudejars' economic position in the fifteenth century. As has been suggested in chapter 1, the kingdom's underpopulation in the fifteenth century and the need of the towns and the landed nobility for Mudejar labor afforded the Mudejars considerable opportunity for economic advancement. That Mudejars frequently seized such opportunities is evinced in their change of vassalage and socioeconomic mobility. As for the sixteenth century, there were two factors behind the change in the Muslims' economic situation. The first was ideological. After the forced baptism of the Mudejars in 1525, many abandoned the towns and fled to seigneurial lands. In order to continue their Islamic practices and to escape the scrutiny of ecclesiastical authorities, the Moriscos had little choice but to submit fully to the will of their lords, now their protectors. Furthermore, although Moriscos continued to work as muleteers and carters, numerous restric-
tions were placed on Morisco travel and, most important, they were forbidden to change vassalage. The Moriscos lived under conditions of economic restraint which the Mudejars of the previous century had not experienced. The second factor was demographic and economic. In the sixteenth century, especially during the latter half, Valencia, like almost all of Europe, experienced a huge growth in population and an attendant rise in prices. Consequently, even if the Moriscos could change vassalage, there was much less of a demand for their labor and they had far less bargaining power with their lords. The rise of prices had a devastating effect on the seigneurial economy, since fixed rents were substantially devalued. The seigneurs perforce raised rents when they could and oppressed their Morisco vassals still further. By the time of the expulsion (1609) the Moriscos were probably, in economic terms, far more depressed and less diversified than their late fifteenth-century forebears.
Before entering upon an examination of Mudejar economic life it will be useful to cite a few examples of rich and poor Mudejars, in order to provide some sense of the spectrum of Mudejar economic status. Several figures have already been encountered who may be described as well-to-do, such as Çahat Paziar and Ali Gehini. It is worthwhile to recall Fernando's concern that Muslims were dressing in a manner that made them indistinguishable from Christians. The problem was not just that the Mudejars were not wearing their special blue garb, but that they were dressing sumptuously, in "silk doublets and fine clothing." In 1493 the king refused permission to emigrate to "a rich Moor of Játiva." Another failed attempt at emigration brings to light Abdulmalich Roget, a Mudejar originally from Huesca who had resided in Valencia for a number of years. When the bailiff general hindered Abdulmalich from embarking on a caravel at Tortosa, the caravel's patron sailed off with the Muslim's goods: "many sacks of merchandise, clothing, furniture, gold, silver, and pearl, which clothing and merchandise are worth more than 350 gold ducats." It is not unusual to encounter Muslims offering their gold jewelry as collateral in commercial transactions. The licenses issued to Mudejars for travel to the southern region of the kingdom for commerce or other business reveal that twenty-six of these merchants, carters, and artisans had Muslim servants (moços ) attending them.
These servants were not the most indigent Mudejars. There were the orphans, divorcées, and widows who resorted to prostitution in order to survive. There was a substantial body of mendicants—as many as 200 begging licenses were issued in one year—who wandered throughout the kingdom begging alms from their brethren "for the love of God." And, of course, the number of slaves was large. Many of these were prisoners of war from Granada and the Maghrib, and others were
enslaved as punishment for capital crimes. But more to the point are those Mudejars who were enslaved because they could not pay their debts or seigneurial dues. Such slaves are ample testimony to the fact that a number of Mudejars eked out the most meager of livings, existing on that fine line between subsistence and starvation. For example, Azmet Çalema of Daimuz, who owed his lord 98 pounds for wheat, rents, and seigneurial dues, was forced to hand over his eighteen-year-old daughter in debtor's servitude to a Genoese merchant, a creditor of his lord. Two months later Azmet's situation had not improved, for his twelve-year-old daughter was next sent into the service of the Genoese. The case of Azmet Çalema was not so unusual.