The Morisco Revolt
The Moriscos were the nominally Catholic descendants of Spanish Muslims, who had been forcibly converted to Christianity in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Angered by official mistreatment and oppression, they rose against the Spanish in the The Morisco Revolt (1568 – 1571). The uprising was also known as the Rebellion of the Alpujarras, after the insurrectionists’ stronghold in the mountainous Alpujarra region in the Sierra Nevada, between Granada and the Mediterranean coast.
In 1492, the last Muslim state in Spain, Granada, surrendered to the Spanish crown in accordance with a treaty granting the inhabitants freedom of worship. Within a decade, however, the Spanish authorities reneged, and forced the Grandans to choose between conversion to Christianity or exile. That led to a short-lived revolt, that was speedily crushed. Thereafter, most Granadans converted to Christianity and became known as Moriscos.
The converts exhibited little enthusiasm for Spanish culture, kept on dressing in their usual traditional Arab garb, and continued with shockingly alien practices such as bathing regularly. As such, the Moriscos and their descendants were mistrusted by Spain’s Castilian authorities, who doubted the sincerity of their conversions and their loyalty to the Spanish crown.
Spanish authorities began insisting on conformity, and cracked down on Mosrisco cultural practices as manifestations and indicia of heresy. Arabic language, clothing, public baths, and other displays of the old Granadan culture were prohibited. Morisco houses could be inspected regularly to ensure compliance, and Morisco heads of households were closely watched.
Morisco resentment simmered, and finally boiled over on Christmas Eve, 1568. That night, rebels from the regions surrounding Granada, led by a Hernando de Cordoba y Valor, who renamed himself Aben Humeya, infiltrated the city. They tried rousing Granada’s Moriscos into rebellion, but met with little success. Retreating to the countryside, their call for rebellion was met with more enthusiasm, and they began a guerrilla war.
The mountainous terrain benefitted the rebels, and the Spanish authorities faced great difficulties. Superior numbers, resources, and organization, eventually told, however, and after three years of bitter fighting, the Morisco Revolt was stamped out. That done, tens of thousands of Moriscos were forcibly relocated and dispersed to other parts of Spain, and were replace with non-Morisco Christians from elsewhere.