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Gender and Struggle for Identity: the Moriscas in Sixteenth-Century Castile1

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The Castilian community of Arcos possessed the second largest concentration of Moriscos in the jurisdiction of the Inquisition tribunal of Cuenca, and offers an excellent case study in which to focus on women's share in the daily struggle to maintain Morisco traditional lifestyle under Christian oppression. Nearly half of the extant trials from Arcos concern women, and as such they enable a partial reconstruction of family structures, kinship relations, and women's activities as well as their social networks. The disappearance of Islamic religious and legal institutions following the forced conversion of Castilian Mudejars (Muslims living under Christian rule) may actually have created a greater opportunity for women to participate in unofficial leadership of crypto-Islamic practices. This article presents the cases of the sisters Beatriz and Maria del Sastre, who drew the attention of "old" Christian neighbors, their Morisco brethren, and eventually the Inquisition.

Affiliations: 1: Tel Aviv University


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