Start and end were in 1492.

There are one date, two monarchs, two worlds and the symbolic point of connexion between two ages. In 1492 the catholic kings of Spain, Isabel and Fernando, conquered the last land of al-Andalus: the Nazarita kingdom of Granada. It was the end of the Muslim domination and the long war against the infidel inside Spain. Also those monarchs forced to the Jews to convert in Christians or to move to the exile that year. The motives were that the kings though that with only one faith would be easier to control the country and the social pressure. It can considerate the final point of centuries of “tolerance” between religions in Iberian Peninsula as well.

In other side, Cristobal Colón arrived to the new continent sponsored by the Spanish queen Isabel. He though that he was reached India through the Atlantic Ocean but the truth was that he had discovered America to Europe (and for the rest of the known world for extension). Cristobal Colón would come back other two times and he would die without knowing the real transcendence of his task.

Cristobal Colón and the Catholic Kings in Granada. Source: Emanuel Leutze.

1492 and the catholic kings are figures very symbolic in the Spanish history. They are halfway between two epochs and big processes. After to show the nexus of union for “the ornament of the New World”, can we identify similarities and influences from al-Andalus in Spanish America?

We’ll start to analyze if the end of al-Andalus could have motivated Colon’s travel. It’s evident that under of the American colonisation there was a Spanish tradition of conquest. When Granada was conquered, there weren’t more land to reconquer in a near orbit for Isabel’s Kingdom (Castilla). As Portugal and Aragon before, Castilla needed an extra-peninsular expansion. This extra-peninsular expansion were sooner in Canary Islands between 1477-1496 and after in Melilla in 1496. Also, Canary Islands were the last port before the arrival to the new world for their nearer to America.

According to the Spanish Royal Academy’s dictionary a morisco “it’s said to a baptized Moorish who stayed in Spain with the End of the “Reconquista”. Moriscos travelled to America as well and the most common case was Moriscas slaves who accompanied to the conquistadors as housekeepers and concubinas.

Moriscos españoles

Even Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro had got Muslims ancestors according to the historian Antonio del Busto.  This is normal, in fact, the 4/5 of population in the XIII century in Spain were ex-Christians or descendents from them. Spanish language has got more than 4.000 terms with Arabic origin. So in one way or another, al-Andalus was present from the beginning of Spanish America.

There are some general similarities between the two worlds. However we must realize its distance geographic and temporal. Each society has got its own particularities. In the conquest of America as the conquest of al-Andalus the native community was dominated by a military caste tends to discount the value of manual labour. The second idea is the character in the occupation of the land with those processes:

-The symbolic taking of possession.

-The physical occupation of the land (with subjection or the expulsion of its indigenous inhabitants).

-The colonization of the land by settlers (encomenderos) and their descendents in sufficient numbers to ensure control and use.

The Spaniards used very similar methods for the control of both conquered land.

The society in al-Andalus (and the Spanish Christian while the Reconquista) was a mixture of cultures, races and different religions. As well, this situation was representative in Early Spanish America. The impact cultural should be strong and it may explain the problems in Spain with the clean of blood in surnames (old and new Christians) and the conflicts with mestizos (mixed race) in America. The other side of the coin is the great richness of this kind of cultures with the time.


Cuadro de castas (s. XVIII)



-Valdeón Baruque, Julio: “La conquista de Granada” IN La Reconquista. El concepto de España: unidad y diversidad, pp.179-187, Madrid, 2006.

-Elliot, J. H.: Empires of the Atlantic Wolrd, Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830. 2006, pp.: 30 and 31.

-Parry, J. H.: The Spanish Seaborne Empire. 1966 Pp. 173-191.


– Perez García, Antonio: synthesis of Canary history. Website:

-Plasencia Soto, Rommel: “Indios y moriscos” in Publicación digital Islam y Al-Andalus, 10-10- 2010. Website:

-Mendoza, Raúl: “Árabes en el Perú” in Publicación digital Islam y Al-Andalus, 30-4-2010. It’s a review of the book: La huella árabe en el Perú by Leyla Bartet y Farid Kahat. Website:

Bartet, Leyla: “Moriscos y moriscas en los inicios de la colonia” in Publicación digital Islam y Al-Andalus, 30-4-2010.Website:

  1. Memorant
    enero 11, 2011 de 8:51 pm

    Esta entrada forma parte de un essay que hice el semestre pasado para la asignatura “New worlds: the European expansion and the colonial enterprise”. Espero que no os de demasiada pereza leer en inglés 😉

  2. blademanu
    enero 11, 2011 de 9:12 pm

    Buen artículo-resumen sobre la bisagra-1492. Interesante al respecto resulta el excelente libro divulgativo “1492. El nacimiento de la modernidad” de Felipe Fernández Armesto, quien con una mirada multidisciplinar y globalizadora intenta analizar los distintos procesos en los que estaban inmersos diferntes zonas del planeta (Corea, Japón, China, los reinos subsaharianos, Inglaterra, Portugal, Castilla-Aragón…) tras lo cual concluye que solo España, pero sobre todo Colón, reunían las características adecuadas para ser “””””descubridores””””” de América.

    By the way, John, the spaniards called “mosque” the indians sacred buildings because of the influence of the conquest process: for them, muslims and indians were “barbarians”.

    Have a good time. So long!!!!!!!!!!

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