Limpieza de sangre
Limpieza de sangre (Spanish: [limˈpjeθa ðe ˈsaŋɡɾe]), Limpeza de sangue (Portuguese: [lĩˈpezɐ ðɨ ˈsɐ̃ɡɨ], Galician: [limˈpeθa ðe ˈsaŋɡe]) or Neteja de sang (Catalan: [nəˈtɛʒə ðə ˈsaŋ]), meaning "cleanliness of blood", played an important role in modern Iberian history. It referred to those who were considered pure "Old Christians", without Muslim or Jewish ancestors, or within the context of the empire (New Spain and Portuguese India) those without Amerindian, Asian or African ancestry.
After the end of the Reconquista and the expulsion or conversion of Muslim Mudéjars (Moors) and Sephardic Jews, the population of Portugal and Spain was all nominally European Christian. However, the ruling class and much of the populace distrusted the recently converted "New Christians", referring to them as conversos or marranos if they were baptized Jews or descended from them, or Moriscos if they were baptized Muslims or descended from them. A commonly leveled accusation was that the New Christians were false converts, secretly practicing their former religion as Crypto-Jews or Crypto-Muslims. Nevertheless, the concept of cleanliness of blood came to be more focused on ancestry than of personal religion. The first statute of purity of blood appeared in Toledo, 1449,1 where an anti-Converso riot succeeded in obtaining a ban on Conversos and their posterity from most official positions. Initially, these statutes were condemned by the monarchy and the Church; however, in 1496, Pope Alexander VI approved a purity statute for the Hieronymite Order.1
This stratification meant that the Old Christian commoners could assert a right to honor even if they were not in the nobility. The religious and military orders, guilds and other organizations incorporated in their bylaws clauses demanding proof of cleanliness of blood. Upwardly mobile New Christian families had to either contend with their plight, or bribe and falsify documents attesting generations of good Christian ancestry. The Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions were more concerned with repressing the New Christians and heresy than chasing witches, which was considered to be more a psychological than a religious issue, or Protestants, who were promptly suffocated.
The claim to universal hidalguía (lowest nobility) of the Basques was justified by intellectuals like Manuel de Larramendi (1690–1766)2 because the Moorish conquest of Iberia had not reached the Basque territories, so it was believed that Basques had maintained their original purity, while the rest of Spain was suspect of miscegenation. In fact, the Moorish invasion also reached the Basque country and there had been a significant Jewish minority in Navarre, but the hidalguía helped many Basques to official positions in the administration.3
Tests of limpieza de sangre had begun to lose their utility by the 19th century; rarely did persons have to endure the grueling inquisitions into distant parentage through birth records. However, laws requiring limpieza de sangre were still sometimes adopted even into the 19th century. For example, an edict of 8 March 1804 by King Ferdinand VII resolved that no knight of the Military Orders could wed without having a council vouch for the limpieza de sangre of his spouse.4
Official suppression of such entry requirements for the Army were enacted into law in 16 May 1865,5 and extended to naval appointments on 31 August of the same year. In 5 November 1865, a decree allowed children born out of wedlock or illegitimate, for whom ancestry could not be verified, to be able to enter into religious higher education (canons).6 In 26 October 1866, the test of blood purity were outlawed for the purposes of determining who could be admitted to college education. In 20 March 1870, a decree suppressed all use of blood purity standards in determining eligibility for any government position or any licensed profession.7
The discrimination was still present into the 20th century in some places like Majorca. No xueta (descendants of the Majorcan conversos) priests were allowed to say Mass in a cathedral until the 1960s.8
The earliest known case judging Limpieza de Sangre comes from the Church of Cordoba, that explained the procedure to judge the purity of blood of a candidate as follows: Kneeling, with his right hand placed over the image of a crucifix on a Bible, the candidate confirmed not being of either Jewish or Moorish extraction. Then the candidate provided the names of the parents and grandparents, as well as places of birth. Two delegates of the council, church or other public place would then research the information to make sure it was truthful. If the investigation had to be carried out of Cordoba, a person, not necessarily a member of the council, would be appointed to examine the witnesses appointed by the candidate. This researcher would receive a sum per diem according to the rank of the person, the distance traveled and the time spent. Having collected all the reports, the secretary or the notary must read them all to the council and a vote would decide whether the candidate was approved. A simple majority was sufficient, after which the candidate had to promise to obey all the laws and customs of the Church.9
Being a medieval concept that targeted exclusively the Jewish or Moorish population in Spain, Limpieza de sangre was never an issue among the native population in the colonies of the Spanish Empirecitation needed. However, those who applied to enroll at the service of the Spanish Army or the Catholic Church in the Spanish colonies and their spouses had to obtain a certificate in the same way as those in the Peninsula did, that proved that they had no Jewish or Moorish ancestors.
Additionally, as early as the sixteenth century, shortly after the discovery of America, several regulations were enacted in the Laws of the Indies to prevent members of those religious groups and their descendants to emigrate and settle in the overseas colonies. These provisions are repeatedly stressed upon on following editions of the Laws, which provides an indication that the regulations were often ignored,10 most likely because colonial authorities at the time looked the other way, as the skills of those immigrants were badly needed.
- The discussion of Casta makes it appear as if differentiation based upon privileges applied only to the distinction between mulattos, blacks and others in Nueva España. However, originally limpieza de sangre was used in the Iberian Peninsula to distinguish clearly between Spaniards and Moors/Jews.
- Caste system
- Ethnic cleansing (or ethnic purification)
- Estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre, Pablo A. Chami.
- Manuel de Larramendi, Corografía de la muy noble y muy leal provincia de Guipúzcoa, Bilbao, 1986, facsimile edition of that from Editorial Ekin, Buenos Aires, 1950. (Also published by Tellechea Idígoras, San Sebastián, 1969.) Quoted in La idea de España entre los vascos de la Edad Moderna, by Jon Arrieta Alberdi, Anales 1997-1998, Real Sociedad Económica Valenciana de Amigos del País.
- Limpieza de sangre in the Spanish-language Auñamendi Encyclopedia
- Codigos Españoles Tome X. Page 225
- Colección Legislativa de España (1870), p. 364
- Colección Legislativa de España (1870), page 365
- Colección Legislativa de España (1870), page 366
- Los judíos en España, Joseph Pérez. Marcial Pons. Madrid (2005).
- Sicroff, Albert A. Los estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre. p. 121.
- Avrum Ehrlich, Mark (2009). Encyclopedia of the Jewish diaspora: origins, experiences, and culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 689. ISBN 1-85109-873-9.
- Douglass, William A. (2004) Sabino's sin: racism and the founding of Basque nationalism in Daniele Conversi (ed.), Ethnonationalism in the Contemporary World. London: Routledge, pp. 95–112.
- Códigos Españoles Concordados y Anotados Tomo Décimo.. Calle Jesús del Valle #6, Madrid; Google Books: M. Rivadeneyra. 1850.
- Colección legislativa de España: Continuación de la colección de decretos (Primer Semestre de 1870) (Tomo CIII). Madrid; Google Books: Ministerio de Gracia y Justicia. 1870.
- Attestment of the purity of blood of Justo Rufino de San Martín (brother of José) in Paredes de Nava, 1794. Note - Google translation from Spanish to English.