Fuchs, Barbara ~ Virtual Spaniards

Barbara Fuchs remains to me one of the clearest voices articulating the inexorable Moorishness of the Spanish past and present. This kind of cultural entanglement is of course largely due to the history of Iberian Islam: the Mediterranean “chronotope” from which Spain inherits its cultural and historical background, “whose horizons extend temporally back to al-Andalus and geographically to the south and the distant east” (Hirschkind). But Fuchs’ truly digs into the mechanisms responsible for this fact. She utilizes various concepts to this end: syncretism (used mostly to articulate Spanish and Moorishness as a dyad, post-1492 Granadians may have come to defend it), mimesis (minority’s appropriation of hegemonic ideology’s discourse of national identity, challenging its singularity and calling attention to its irreducible difference), and maurophilia are some of the primary ones.

In this particular article, Fuchs foregrounds Moorish culture’s contribution to Spain’s nascent national identity following the kingdom’s unification in 1492. The article’s primary thesis draws from the concept of cultural mimesis, utilized interchangeably with the concept of syncretism, to describe the entangled state of the Moor/Spaniard binary as it would reverberate in, and fundamentally shape, debates over Spain’s national character.

Fuchs employs two primary sources: a letter where the morisco Núñez Muley writes to de Deza petitioning against the 1567 anti-Moor decrees, and the “miraculous” (likely manufactured) apparition of two Christian relics in the city of Granada in 1588 and 1595. While Muley’s letter never resulted in the requested redress, Fuchs’s analysis illuminates the ways this correspondence enables, if incidentally, alternative modes of Spanishness by means of a Moor/Spanish syncretism that would later make considerable indents in the development of Spain’s national identity.

I find it interesting to bear witness to the paradoxical effect of Mulay’s arguments. Though his letter (and the Lead Books, for that matter) make a case for Moors’ right to remain in Iberia, they ultimately legitimate Christianity’s hegemonic role. In any case, they do little to alter the Christian status quo. Munoz’s stance is ultimately consistent with Christian historiography: to him, morisco culture is indispensable insofar as it signifies the memory of the Catholic Kings’ glorious accomplishments over Islam. Thus, once more we see that the only acceptable Moorish register in EM Spain is that of the converted, assimilated one. 

Post-1492 historiographies anticipate 20th century Spain’s assimilation of Gypsy culture

“Once the present had been taken care of, the past demanded urgent attention. How, as Núñez Muley anticipates, would Spain deal with the fact that its history was largely the history of Islamic occupation? How could it rewrite its past into something more befitting the nation that championed Catholicism against heretics, Protestants, the infidel, and huge numbers of pagans in the New World?”

I am working with the hypothesis that one response to this (ongoing) historical inconvencience and subsequent historiographic issue was to assimilate the Gypsy into Moorishness—that is: in the face of the impossibility of expelling every trace of Semitism from the peninsula, as Spain sought a way into European partisanship in the sixteenth century, the leading historiographies would deal with the inconveniencies of a Semitic past in ways (what ways? how did this anticipation play out in the sixteenth century (hypothesis: maurophilia) and how did it evolve?) that later enabled the transitioning of the figure of the Other from the Moor to the Gypsy, incorporating the former’s cultural elements—so indispensable to how Spain remained culturally and politically relevant in a European context—into the mythological constructions of the latter.

Lead Books of Sacromonte / Plomos del Sacromonte

Estepa’s prologue to his translation suggests the power of the books to confound their critics: part of what convinces the Marquis that they are authentic is their very real effect: ‘Vi la venerable y grandiosa fundación de la Iglesia Colegial y Colegio de Sacromonte. Vi sus cavernas y sus reliquias decentísimamente colocadas y veneradas con general aplauso y devoción […]’ (Hagerty 1980: 58).21 Thus the gospels’ authenticity is a self-fulfilling prophecy: their marvellous claims induce reverence; the physical manifestation of this reverence in turn confirms the truth of the books.

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