Posts Tagged ‘September 20th’

Learning Discretion

Posted in General on September 20th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

September 20. 1596:  Monterrey, Mexico is Founded…again

cactusThe first time the settlement had a zoning problem.  The governor, his family and most of the original settlers were not in compliance with the “Catholics Only” requirement.  There had been a slight change in Spanish colonial policy, but Luis de Carabajal and the other settlers evidently took too Talmudic an interpretation.

Some sixty years earlier, at the time of Cortes, Spanish colonial policy was rather ecumenical.  As long as you were greedy and murderous, no one cared how pious a Catholic you were.  If any monks were checking codpieces, it was probably a hobby rather than a theological examination.  The Conquistadors went where the gold was–southern and central Mexico–and there they established Spanish rule: slaughter, enslavement and rape, followed by haciendas and Cathedrals.  However, Northern Mexico did not offer such riches, so it was largely spared such Spanish benefits.

After the initial conquest, with all its sociopathic liberties, civilization began encroaching on the Spanish colony.  In the mid-16th century, Spain had adopted racial laws that discriminated against anyone with Jewish ancestry.  By the standards of the Limpieza de Sangre (the Purity of Blood), you were irretrievably tainted if you had even one Jewish great-grandparent.  This policy was applied to Spain’s colonies in the New World, and the Inquisition was always eager to enforce it.  No one was supposed to live in Mexico who was more than 1/16th Jewish.

Luis de Carabajal y Cueva certainly failed that test.  He had been born Catholic but neither of his parents could have made that claim.  Nonetheless, he had demonstrated skill as a soldier, explorer and slave trader; so the Spanish government was willing to overlook his incriminating ancestry.  The Spanish Crown had now decided to establish settlements in Northern Mexico, and toward that end it was prepared to waive the restrictions of the Limpieza de Sangre.  New Christians–as they were called–would be tolerated there, and Luis de Carabajal was named the founding governor.

Arriving in Mexico in 1580, with his family, relatives and friends, Carabajal moved north to found the settlement that became Monterrey.  Nearly everyone there was a New Christian; and it was no secret.  Who else would want to be in that wilderness, hundreds of miles from Mexico City?  But some of the colonists overestimated either Spanish tolerance or their distance from the Inquisition.  Many thought that they were free to resume being Jewish.  In 1590, the Inquisition corrected them.  The colony was depopulated, most of its residents arrested and brought to Mexico City for interrogation.  The rack and the waterboard prompted a number of confessions.  Luis de Carabajal died in custody.  Most of his family and some hundred others were burned alive.

Six years later, a new colony was founded on the site of Carabajal’s settlement.  Once again, the pioneers were New Christians but these people had no delusions about their safety.  There were no further heresies, just a series of idiosyncrasies.  For instance, chickens in Monterrey were killed in a way vaguely kosher.  And many headstones in Monterrey featured a pair of hands as if in benediction.  It is, but not a Catholic one.  At least in death, one could make a last, defiant Jewish gesture.

How Not To Die of Old Age

Posted in General, On This Day on September 21st, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment


September 20, 1586:  Chidiock Tichborne Becomes a Public Spectacle

Anyone named Chidiock Tichborne would be used to martyrdom. He certainly did not improve his prospects by plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I. Basketball had yet to be invented so Catholic Youth organizations sponsored extra-curricular competitions to put Mary Stuart on the English throne. Chidiock signed up with the Babington team, a group of conspirators who would have inspired the Keystone Kops. The Babington gang had mastered the game of trash talk; they let everyone know that they intended to kill Elizabeth. They put in it writing–tactless and incriminating messages to Mary.  They probably had press releases in Loyola University alumni newsletters.  Believe it or not, they even put it in painting. The Babington boys commissioned a group portrait. They refused to be ignored.

Of course, that is not the best approach to a conspiracy. The Babington boys were arrested, tried and executed in 1586.   In their case, execution might be an euphemism.  When you are hanged, drawn and quartered, death is almost an afterthought.  The public castration is only socially fatal; while vivisection and disembowelment  can be done at a very leisurely pace.  So much for the Babington boys:  all they managed to accomplish was to incriminate Queen Mary; she was tried and executed the following year.  (She was merely beheaded.) 

While awaiting his death, the 28 year-old Tichborne proved that he was a better poet than plotter. His only known work, it is all too appropriately called “Tichborne’s Elegy.”

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The Elizabethans did have a superior way of saying “Hey, dude. Bummer.”