¿Por qué Moros y Cristianos?

The year 2009 marked the 400th anniversary of the expulsion of Moriscos from Spain. As important as the infamous year of 1492, if less well known, 1609 was the beginning of the removal of some 300,000 Spanish Christians (for the Moriscos were at least nominally Christians) and marked the largest ethnic cleansing to take place in Western Europe until the twentieth century. Indeed, because Muslims had been a presence on the Iberian Peninsula for eight centuries, their expulsion was even questioned by much of the Iberian population at that time.

Our conference aims to not only commemorate the above and the Muslim era that preceded it, but also endeavors to make connections between that historical moment and its many more contemporary variations: what can we say about identity, patrimony, religious difference, and nationhood from Al-Andalus to the present? How are such topics expressed in cultural production? How are ideas about the Reconquest, the Jewish and Morisco expulsions, and otherness re-interpreted in the colonial New World? How are they understood today both in the United States and in the rest of the Americas?

Beyond the appropriate timing of the conference, the topic is particularly pertinent here in New Mexico. Many in our community, our student body, and our faculty understand firsthand the arbitrariness and permeability of borders, and the violence that can accompany state-sanctioned otherness. The conference thus aims to address not only how religious identity is defined in Al-Andalus and during the Reconquest, but also how religious and ethnic difference continue to be relevant in contemporary Latin America, Spain, and the United States. What does it mean when Osama Bin Laden invokes Al-Andalus? And, by the same token, what does it mean when Spaniards call Moroccan immigrants “moros?” Scholars attending the conference will underscore the historical continuity of questions of religious difference and violence, exploring the many ways that culture--literature, folklore, festivals, music, visual art--can provide a rich site for exchange and cross-cultural understanding.