The Morisco Revolt

Spanish Wars - Convert to Christianity

Conquering territories seemed to be no big deal for Spain. Whether on Africa, Asia or America, they seemed to have military superiority under control. Swaying each territory's culture, however, was not the country's strongest suit. Back then, diplomacy was limited to suggesting people convert to Christianity. If they refused, they were either forced to convert or killed.

When the territories were far away from the royal grasp, their resistance was only summarized in official briefs, which made them seem paltry scope. However, when resistance hit closer home, it became a matter of national importance.

This is what happened when very recently in the history of Granada, (an Arab Emirate) it was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. Initially, they conceded that Muslims in the now-Spanish territory could freely pick their own religion. It was an advance move towards freedom, but was not to be.

A few years later Queen Isabella II changed her mind and forced every Muslim to either become a Christian or get ready to living Spanish lives somewhere else. Reluctantly, the population complied and went through a public process of religious re-discovery. Secretly, though, they would still profess their own faith.

A Worrisome Liberty

It soon became apparent that the Granadians didn't think too much of Spain and Spanish Culture. They would dress in Arab-styled gear and refused to learn to speak Spanish in Granada. The crown had no appreciation for this situation and decided to intervene in the affair. Edicts forbidding Moorish fashion were issued on January 1567. Laws forcing the Muslim Granada to speak Spanish like in Spain were passed. Arab language was forbidden. Muslim books and documents were burned.

Behind all this royal paranoia was a somewhat founded rumor that the Morisco may have been developing a strong link with the equally Muslim Ottoman Empire. Which happened to be the arch-nemesis of all Europe. Spain had no qualms in crushing this potential link. Since the Granadians had a large hand on the Moorish silk trade, the crown banned it in 1561.

And that was too much. Faith, clothing, language... That all could be accepted pro forma. Lack of money? Not so much.

Rebellion broke out.

The Morisco Revolt

Spanish Wars - Granada S.XVI

Both sides had their secret weapons. On the Muslim Granada side, there were some specially tricky and unconquerable mountains in what now is Andalusia called the Alpujarras. They were so unreachable that their population, the monfies, had a notoriously rebellious and unconquerable character.

Near the coast of Africa, the monfies served as an excellent link to request help from Africa. As the Moriscos met and dispersed in different combinations, their leaders were appointed and murdered at a very efficient ratio. Their numbers also increased. What had begun as a revolt of 4,000 in 1569 became an all-out guerrilla war of 25,000 in 1570. It had amalgamated Algerian people, Berber people and, yes, Turkish people. King Philip's suspicions about the Ottoman presence were well-founded.

But guerrilla is part of the Spanish vocabulary for a reason -- the Spaniards are experts at this type of war. And here is when the crown's secret weapon comes - Juan D'Austria, fresh off his impeccable conquest of Tunisia and about to lead the legendary battle of Lepanto. As Charles V's illegitimate son, he was King Philip's secret half brother. He was also among Spain's best class of Spanish warriors. He won over the Morisco's strongholds and chased them all into cave and the Morisco revolt was practically over. In 1571, they were all defeated.

A Powerful New Enemy

It is not certain whether King Philip wanted to provoke said rebellion in Muslim Granada in order to crush all Islamic presence in Spain (to protect his territory from Ottoman influence). Whatever the means, the Ottoman Empire and Spain were now officially enemies.