Many historical examinations of the Spanish Inquisition and their victims are organized by the type of “crime” in question—e.g., Protestantism, blasphemy, Judaism, bigamy, etc. While this is a very logical way to proceed, it can unfortunately lead to certain significant distortions. For example, most of those put on trial for being crypto-Jews in colonial Spanish America were of Portuguese descent. Due in large part to the rich nature of inquisitorial trial records, this has led many scholars to project the experiences of this rather atypical subset onto the broader Portuguese immigrant population as a whole. Even for those historians who do not believe that most Portuguese settlers in the Spanish Indies were secret Jews, the basic assumption of Spanish antipathy towards the Portuguese remains firm, frequently based again on the inquisitorial archive. Taking aim at these historiographical suppositions, this presentation re-examines the influence of the Inquisition on Spanish-Portuguese relations throughout the circum-Caribbean. Instead of merely focusing on those cases of Portuguese crypto-Judaism, as has been done previously, I analyze all cases, regardless of crime, involving Portuguese defendants brought before the Cartagena Inquisition during the most active half-century of the tribunal’s history (1610-1660). These cases reveal unexpected insights into both the ideological motivations of the inquisitors and the lived experiences of ordinary Portuguese settlers. In addition to the inquisitorial trials themselves, this presentation also considers the hitherto neglected roles of individual Portuguese who served the Holy Office as lay officials and functionaries, underscoring how Portuguese immigrants were both agents and victims of the Inquisition—and, by extension, of the Spanish imperial project as a whole.
This event is part of the 2016-17 Fellowship Brown-Bag Series, which features informal talks by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere’s Rothman Faculty Summer Fellows, Tedder Doctoral Fellows, and Rothman Doctoral Fellows. Fellows will speak for 20-30 minutes in length about their funded work, leaving ample time for questions and discussion.
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Center for the Humanities
and the Public Sphere
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
200 Walker Hall
P.O. Box 118030
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611