1492 — The Alhambra Decree expels the Jews from Spain

The Catholic Monarchs of Spain – Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon – decided, no doubt in close consultation with members of the clergy, that ordering the expulsion of Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and its territories and possessions by 31 July of 1492 (i.e. in a period of 3 months) was a good idea. The Alhambra Decree, or Edict of Expulsion, was duly made, keeping Spain among the fashionable kingdoms of Europe (expelling Jews was very much in vogue at that time).

It is unclear just how many Jews left Spain (most of them for North Africa or the Ottoman Empire), but estimates place the number between one and two hundred thousand, with another 50,000 or so converting to Catholicism to remain in Spain. Many thousands of Jews were died trying to leave Spain – murdered by brigands who wanted their wealth, betrayed by Spanish mariners (who overcharged them for passage and in some cases dumped them overboard to drown), or executed for remaining after the deadline without converting.

The Decree remained officially in force until Vatican Council II in 1968, and post-Franco Spain has pursued a policy of reconciliation with the descendents of expelled Jews (who now have the legal right to claim Spanish citizenship without satisfying the normal inhabitancy requirements).

Referenced in:

Tomas De Torquemada — Down I Go

1483 — Tomás de Torquemada named a Grand Inquisitor

The most notorious of all members of the Holy Inquisition, Tomás de Torquemada’s fervour in punishing heretics and sinners – his fanaticism is one of the chief causes of the poor repute of the Inquisition – may well have been driven by a secret shame: although many of those he persecuted were Jews, he himself seems to have had Jewish ancestry.

ALthough at first his appointment as Grand Inquisitor – Spain’s first such – was a decision popular with nobles and peasants alike, over time, de Torquemada became so hated in Spain that he traveled everywhere with armed and mounted guards in order to protect him from the people he so often found it necessary to destroy in order to save.

Referenced in:

Tomas De Torquemada — Down I Go

1519 – Hernan Cortes lands in Mexico

Hernan Cortes was 34 years old when he led the Spanish Conquistador invasion of Mexico. The initial landing took place on the Yucatan Peninsula, in what was then Maya territory. Cortes’ force was only 500 strong, but they were armed with muskets and cannons, as compared to the arrows and spears used by their opponents.

Although initially peaceful, Cortes’ mission was one of conquest, and would eventually result in the destruction of the Aztec nation and its tributaries, and the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Referenced in:

Cortez the Killer — Neil Young
Short Memory — Midnight Oil
Monetzuma Was a Man of Faith — Andy Prieboy