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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

The Last Morisco
Sunday, May 5, 2024 @ 12:47 PM

A local author has written a fascinating book about the revolt of the Moriscos in 1570. These were the times when the defeated Moors who remained in Spain had to become what was called by the Spanish the New Christians (eat pork, go to church and all the other things one must do to show one’s fealty). Even so, they were not allowed to own land and their children were obliged to be educated, thanks to strict rules from Felipe II, by Catholic priests. The Moriscos, descendants of Muslims forcibly converted to Christianity, faced increasing pressure. These ‘New Christians’ (many still with a copy of the Koran hidden under the bed) remained suspect in the eyes of the authorities, leading to latent tensions and conflicts. Between 1568 and 1571, the Moriscos in the Alpujarras and down towards the Almerian coast rose in rebellion against their treatment.

The book is called El Último Morisco by Diego Ramos.

It has been ably translated into English as ‘The Last Morisco’ (but yet to go to print) by Andy Mortimer, and I’ve been sent a proof to comment and correct as I see fit.

The problems we have found so far – I’m half way through it – are firstly to do with grammatical accents (does the English language accept the odd place or person’s name with an accent?). The British newspaper guides say ‘no accents’, but we are living here in Spain and, it seems to me, we might as well try and learn things right rather than wrong.  That said, we prefer Malaga to Málaga, Cordoba for Córdoba and for that matter, we use Seville for Sevilla and Lerida instead of Lleida.

But then, what of the Spanish ‘n-with-a-squiggle’: the ‘ñ’ that doesn’t even appear on our keyboard? We have decided that this, the most Spanish of letters, will stay. España, año, and Peñiscola indeed!

A second issue is measurement. Do we talk of leagues, kilometres or miles? What about yards? The Spanish measurements of the time were complicated and even varied between one place and another. La fanega, a land-measurement, changes violently according to both location and indeed meaning. It was considered in Castilla to be 1000x1000 varas, which were something smaller than a square metre. So, a sort of pint-sized hectare. However, in Galicia and Valencia, Andalucía, the Canaries and Extremadura, the range differed considerably. In short, anything from 5,707m2 down to a pocket-sized 833m2. In some places, it was merely the extent of land necessary to grow a certain amount of grain. The word comes from the Arabic faddãn. The word still appears in old escrituras in Almería.

So we think maybe to resort to old English measurements – a pace, a morning’s walk, a day’s ride and so on. After all, it’s not a text-book, it’s a fast-paced novel: indeed the blurb at Amazon says ‘…Focusing on the story of Khalíl and Dídac, two young people whose lives are shaken by the storm of war, El Último Morisco recreates with singular vividness the Spanish universe of the mid-16th century, populated with characters, some despicable and others heroic; with broken families and the corpses of innocent people half buried in wintry ditches…’

The tag says ‘Could history repeat itself?’

The English version will be in print perhaps by September. It is the story of a shockingly bloodthirsty time in Spanish history (although, perhaps not the most, since every now and again along the way, there’s been a revolution of some sort or another). By chance, I’m currently reading a novel about Madrid in 1936, on the eve of the Civil War.

Things are not looking good.

Perhaps the lesson here is that an occasional violent rebellion is in the nature of this most charming and welcoming nation.

Like 2


Lagalesa said:
Monday, May 13, 2024 @ 10:05 AM

Sounds like an interesting book. Wish my Spanish was up to reading it in the original. However, I think it's a shame that accents will be left off place names and why not leave in the measurements and add a glossary? Just a thought....
Or maybe a foreword explaining, as you have above, why accents/measurements have been omitted or changed?

Anyway, buena suerte in your endeavours!

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