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Conversos

 

Conversos

A converso (Spanish: [komˈberso]; Portuguese: [kõˈvɛɾsu]; Catalan: convers [kumˈbɛrs], [komˈvɛɾs]; "a convert", from Latin conversvs, "converted, turned around") and its feminine form conversa was a Jew or Muslim who converted to Catholicism in Spain or Portugal, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries, or one of their descendents. Mass conversions once took place under significant government pressure. The Treaty of Granada (1491) at the last surrender of Al-Andalus issued clear protections of religious rights; the Alhambra Decree (1492) began the reversal.

New Christians of Moorish origin were known as moriscos (Galician and Portuguese: mourisco). The term morisco may also refer to Crypto-Muslims, i.e. those who secretly continued to practice Islam. New Christians of Jewish origin were referred to as marranos. The term marrano may also refer to Crypto-Jews, i.e. those who secretly continued to practice Judaism.

Description

Conversos were subject to suspicion and harassment from both the community they were leaving and that which they were joining. Both Christians and Jews called them tornadizo (renegade). James I, Alfonso X and John I passed laws forbidding the use of this epithet. This was part of a larger pattern of royal protection, as laws were promulgated to protect their property, forbid attempts to reconvert them, and regulate the behavior of the conversos themselves, preventing their cohabitation or even dining with Jews, lest they convert back.

The conversos did not enjoy legal equality. Alfonso VII prohibited the "recently converted" from holding office in Toledo. They had both supporters and bitter opponents within the Christian secular and religious leadership. Conversos could be found in various roles within the Iberian kingdoms, from bishop to royal mistress, showing a degree of general acceptance, yet they became targets of occasional pogroms during times of extreme social tension (as during an epidemic and after an earthquake). They were subject to the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions.

While pure blood (so-called limpieza de sangre) would come to be placed at a premium, particularly among the nobility, in a 15th-century defense of conversos, Bishop Lope de Barrientos would list what Roth calls "a veritable 'Who's Who' of Spanish nobility" as having converso members or being of converso descent. He pointed out that given the near-universal conversion of Iberian Jews during Visigothic times, (quoting Roth) "[W]ho among the Christians of Spain could be certain that he is not a descendant of those conversos?"

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According to a widely publicised study (December 2008) published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, 19.8 percent of modern Spaniards (and Portuguese) have DNA reflecting Sephardic Jewish ancestry (compared to 10.6 percent having DNA reflecting Moorish ancestors).[1] The Sephardic result is in contradiction [2][3][4] or not replicated in all the body of genetic studies done in Iberia and has been relativized by the authors themselves[1][5][6][7] and questioned by Stephen Oppenheimer, who estimates that much earlier migrations, 5,000 to 10,000 years ago from the Eastern Mediterranean, might also have accounted for the Sephardic estimates. "They are really assuming that they are looking at this migration of Jewish immigrants, but the same lineages could have been introduced in the Neolithic".[8] The same authors in also a recent study (October 2008) attributed most of those same lineages in Iberia and the Balearic Islands as of Phoenician origin.[9] The rest of genetic studies done in Spain estimate the Moorish contribution ranging from 2.5/3.4%[10] to 7.7%.[11]

See also

Citations

References

  • Gitlitz, David. 'Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews', Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2002.
  • Brooks, Andrée Aelion. 'The Woman who Defied Kings: the life and times of Dona Gracia Nasi'. Paragon House, 2002.
  • Roth, Norman, Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995.

External links

  • Out of Spain educational materials
  • Converso lectures and activities
  • Law Library of Congress's In Custodia Legis
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