Posts Tagged ‘Conversos’

Blue Blooded Fractions

Posted in General on March 13th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Looking up one topic, I often find fascinating tangents. For example, in my research on Generaleastimmo Santa Anna I became diverted to the topic of Spanish snobbery. While Santa Anna was not an aristocrat, he was in the second best stratum: a Criollo. We would recognize the term in its French spelling, Creole. Being a Criollo meant that Santa Anna was of pure European blood. That certainly distinguished him from the vast majority of Mexico’s population whose genetic foundation was Spanish rapists and native victims.

The specific term for Santa Anna’s impeccable pedigree was “liempieza de sangre“–the cleanliness of the blood. Such lineage meant more than social status; it was a prerequisite for any position in the Spanish civil service, an officer’s rank in the army or admission into the Jesuits. (The Jesuits, unlike the civil service or the officer corps, also required brains). To qualify for such distinction, one had to prove a racial purity going back four generations. This strident snobbery was not incited by a fear of an Aztec great-great grandparent but rather of a Jewish one.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, many Spanish Jews found conversion preferable to massacre. These “conversos” initially found no social restrictions on them. The more successful ex-Jews were even encroaching on the aristocracy. A threadbare grandee could be quite ecumenical about marrying the heiress of the nouveau riche, nouveau Catholic. This infiltration was occurring throughout the upper classes, and the Old Order began to panic. Just because “they had stopped being Jewish” did not mean “they” had stopped being insidious. These reactionary “blue bloods” were the first to regard the Jews as an indelible, incorrigible race rather than–in the words of the Church–“a blind people” whom conversion would cure.

So in the 16th century, the Old Guard persuaded the Crown to enact the laws and restrictions of “liempieza de sangre.” Now any aspirant to rank or office had to prove that all sixteen great-great-grandparents were born Catholic, using their umbilical cords as rosaries. Given the fluid social mobility of preceding two centuries, many Spanish aristocrats found themselves either barred or forced to forge Gentiles on the family tree. Consider the irony: it was easier for a Spanish peasant to prove his racial purity. (Sancho Panza brags about it, while Don Quixote maintains an intriguing silence on the topic.)

Furthermore, one exception had to be made to the Blood Laws restrictions: the monarchy. Had the Laws been enacted in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella would have had to expel themselves. The Queen of Castille was one eighth Kosher, and the King of Aragon was 3/16ths. The fact that they were first cousins did not dilute the fraction in their children. Their grandson and successor Charles V, thanks to his all-Aryan dad, got the fraction down to about 3/32s but then he had to marry his Portuguese cousin (and she was about one eighth). So His Most Catholic Majesty–and pinup of the Inquisition–Philip II is approximately 3/16th you-know-what. In fact, an antagonistic Pope made an Anti-Semitic remark about Philip. Philip and his heirs did make a practice of marrying their Austrian cousins, finally diluting the Jewish factor to an acceptable Gentile fraction–but also increasing the tendency toward congenital idiocy.

And while one could denounce Santa Anna as an incompetent tyrant, he could not be called loud or pushy. His pedigree proves it.