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Redeeming the Morisco: Linguistic Parody and Masculine Spirituality in Quevedo's Confesið"ñ-N De Los Moriscos

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The Confesion de los Moriscos is a surprisingly remarkable text. It was composed during the first years of the seventeenth century, around the time, 1609, when the Moriscos were expelled from Spain. It is found in one extant Manuscript copy, dating from the second decade of the century, in a volume of Quevedo's works that once belonged to Salazar y Castro. Astrana believed that the manuscript is autograph, thus positively attributing the Confesion to Quevedo. Crosby, on his part, questioned the paleographic ascription, consequently doubting Quevedo's paternity of the short work. In Crosby's words "[estas obras] son tan cortas y tan difÐ"­ciles de clasificar segÐ"Ñ"n criterios literarios, que resulta casi imposible fundar la atribuciÐ"Ñ-n en dichos criterios." It is not my intent to authenticate or refute the authority of this text. Nonetheless, I hope in the next 20 minutes to show you that Confesion de los Moriscos, in spite of its brevity, is a complex text whose multi-layered readings amply make up for such conciseness. Here Ð'-an in your handouts-- it is:

Yo picador, macho errado, macho galopeado, me conÐ'¬fieso a Dios bardadero y a soneta MarÐ"­a tampoco, y al bien trobado san Miguelelajo y al bien trobado san SÐ"ÐŽnÐ'¬chez Batista, y a los sonetos apÐ"Ñ-statas san Perro y san Palo, y a vos padre espertual, daca la culpa, toma la culpa. VuÐ"©lvome a confesiar a todos estos que quedan aquÐ"­ deÐ'¬trÐ"ÐŽs y a vos padre espertual, que estÐ"ÐŽs en lugar de Dios, me deis pestilencia de mis pescados y sorbÐ"ÐŽis dellos, amÐ"©n JesÐ"Ñ"s

I, face worker, wronged male, kicked male, confess to God the fencer and neither to sonnet Mary, and to the well found Saint Michael garlic and to the well found saint Sanchez fine fabric, and to the apostate sonnets Saint Dog and Saint Club, and to you father of experience, give me guilt, take guilt. I confess again to all those that remain behind, and to you father of experience, who are in place of God. Give pestilence of my fishes and suck from them, amen Jesus.

At first glance, this short fragment is just a boutade, a silly parody permitted by clever alliterative transposition. Too short to be catalogued or to deserve literary analysis, as Crosby implies in his edition. My English translation, necessarily barren of all the metaphorical punning, underscores the apparent triviality of the joke. A keener look at both form and content of the paragraph, however, brings forth unexpected construes. I propose to you now my textual interpretation of the brief work, which I have broken down in three steps: typologization, conceptization and confession. From these, as a conclusion to my paper, I will extrapolate some observations on the image of the morisco in XVII Spain.

I call typologization the exploitation of certain cultural biases to construct a typecast character, a literary type. Composed in the format of a traditional prayer of exculpation or confession, the text playfully foregrounds several of the stereotypical features that identified the Morisco population in seventeenth century Spain's literary imagination: their low social status, their dishonest nature, their lack of hygiene, their inability to speak Castilian with proper morpho-synctactical concordance, their illiterate and sui-generis understanding of the Christian doctrine and of course their cripto-muslim habits. With these traits, the Morisco occupied a comic role Ð'-what Chevalier called "el tipo comico"Ð'--in many comedias, entremeses and short stories from Timoneda to Lope. Needless to say the comic morisco, like the rest of the types, the lazy student, the unfaithful wife, the butcher doctor, take shape around a folkloric model rooted in oral tradition. But whereas for these characters the tradition can be traced to the middle-ages, the literary protagonism of the morisco is short lived, not surprisingly concentrated in works of the second half of the sixteenth and first two decades of the seventeenth centuries. I would say that the literary typologization of the morisco runs parallel to the contemporary social phenomenon that Woolard has recently labeled as the "racialization" of the Morisco

During the eighty years prior to their expulsion Moriscos had sunk in an extremely difficult position. After the obligatory conversion of Muslims in the Crown of Aragon in 1526, Islam was theoretically abolished throughÐ'¬out the Iberian Peninsula, but little attempt was made to bring about either conÐ'¬version or integration. CounterÐ'¬ Reformation Spain was increasingly intolerant of them, since many were known and all were suspected to be infidels and apostates. Moreover, Spaniards feared that Andalusian and Valencian Moriscos were plotting with the Turks for another Islamic invasion." Anxieties about territorial security and personal safety of Christian Spaniards, as much as about religious offenses, brought reÐ'¬peated calls for extermination or expulsion of Moriscos from Spain. As a universalisÐ'¬tic Christian state coalesced, the social margins traditionally reserved for mudÐ"©Ð'¬jares (Muslims allowed to remain in Christian territories) narrowed to the vanÐ'¬ishing point (Cohen 1994). Ultimately those of Islamic origin were constituted as an alien people that had to be extirpated from a territorially defined Christian and Spanish interior (Root 1988; Shell 1991). This ideological construction, racialization, was achieved through three overlapping phases, whose focus progressed from religion, to culture, to genealogy. Now considered Muslim were not just those who failed to embrace the Christian religion, but those who preserved the most minor ancestral custom and thus revealed their origin: "At first it was the Infidel who was rejected; now it would be simply the Other" The baptism policy precipitated rebellion in Granada, followed by further forced conversions. Under Philip II, as political and economic tenÐ'¬sions were rising between the Old Christian and Morisco communities, strict cultural prohibitions were reinstated in Granada in 1567, and Arabic music and clothing, face-covering, bathing, Arabic names, and speaking, reading, and writing Arabic all became illegal.

Yet despite the constant tensions there were many Spaniards who refused to entertain the idea, which gathered force during the late century, of expelling the Moriscos. In Valencia, where Moriscos formed one-third of the populaÐ'¬tion, even the inquisitors argued against expulsion, Ð''for after all they are Spaniards like ourselves'. So, alien or brother? Self or other? This is the paradox of racialization, playfully laid

bare by the parodic



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