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The Moorish refugees on the ship “La flor del mar” (1610)

Report by Hernán López

The Morisco problem

The exiles and those ethnic and religious minorities who are forcibly removed from their lands are topical issues even though the forced migration and banishment happen since long time ago. Between 1609 and 1610, king Philip III of Spain made a decision to deport a huge number of people – the Moriscos. He was determined to build a common identity throughout his various possessions, one founded upon the Catholic religion. The economic and social repercussions from this expulsion would be felt for generations, even though there are numerous attested cases of Moriscos who returned to Spain. The Council of State was aware of this – and indeed such returnees were present at a number of consultations to the various royal Councils.Salto de línea

“…taking pity on their persecution and miserable state…”

One of the most significant cases is that of the ship Flower of the Sea, captained by William Garret, an Englishman, which put into the port of Alicante on 1 November 1610. Aboard were 71 Moriscos, 14 Jews and 30 Muslims from Algiers, together with a number of Christian prisoners. According to the story of these Muslims, Jews and Moriscos, they had been deceived by Garret, who had promised to convey them to Tetuan, on the southern Mediterranean coast, where they intended to trade their goods. But on the high seas they had been set upon by the English sailors, who confiscated all they owned and murdered several of them. The ship put ashore in Alicante, where Garret asked for safe conduct, having enslaved those who had embarked with him in Algiers, justifying his appropriation of their goods as a “legitimate act of war.” During their ordeal, these defenceless men, women and children were maltreated, denied food, deprived of their belongings and a number were sold as slaves. Petitions submitted by some of the captives tell of the unfair and inhuman treatment to which they were subjected and also detail whom among them were enslaved and what confiscated belongings of theirs were distributed among various notables of Valencia, Alicante and Orihuela. Francisco de Castellví, auditor of lawsuits and commercial matters to the tribunal of the ‘Capitanía General’, travelled to Alicante on the orders of Luis Carrillo de Toledo, Marquis of Caracena, ‘Capitán General’ of the Kingdom of Valencia, with instructions to clarify what had occurred on the English ship. Castellvi determined in favour of the English captain and Garret’s actions were given legitimacy in a royal letter, dated 19 December 1610. This confirmed his safe conduct and decreed that the Christians on board should be freed, while the Jews, Muslims and Moriscos were to be expelled beyond the frontiers of Spain. Even so, we hold the repeated testimony of Pedro Juan Malonda, a Jesuit, who sympathised with the injustices suffered by those from Algiers and beseeched the monarch’s intervention. In a petition to the king, he urged “that the robbers may not enjoy His Majesty’s protection” since “there are strong suspicions of palms being greased”. There is also the counter deposition against Captain Garret written by Richard Allin, consul to the English merchants in Algiers. Additionally, the captives themselves submitted multiple petitions in which they denounce the harsh treatment they received, the confiscation of their property and their unlawful detention. These, they managed to have brought before the Supreme Council of Aragon. Salto de línea

Conditions of the retention

Moriscos in the ACA collection

The Archives of the Crown of Aragon contains a great number of documents relating to the expulsion of the Moriscos from the end of the 16th Century until the last third of the 17th. Throughout this period, the Supreme Council of Aragon was amassing documents that detailed both losses and compensations as a consequence of what was known as “the Morisco problem.” The collection of documentary sources includes material that throws light on the background to this historic event, policy and practice – from years before – towards the Morisco population, problems created by the expulsion, together with the social and economic consequences of this mass exile. These documents include reports advocating the disarming of Morisco communities and describing various measures for their indoctrination that predate the expulsion. Here too are papers relating to the repopulation of areas that had been forcibly abandoned and the re-occupation of property that fell empty as a consequence of the expulsion.

ACA, Consejo de Aragón, Legajos, 706 (4/1) (Inquiry by Juan Ferrer)

ACA, Consejo de Aragón, Legajos, 706 (4/5) (Report by Pedro Juan Malonda)

ACA, Consejo de Aragón, Legajos, 706 (4/7) (Report by Hernán López)

ACA, Consejo de Aragón, Legajos, 607 (14) (Decision of the Council of Aragon) Salto de línea