“Portuguese slavery inherited the Roman peculium, the practice by which slaves could have their own property and reap the fruits of their work. Portuguese slavery, like its Spanish counterpart, rested heavily on the Roman, Visigothic, and Muslim law and practice. That is, slavery was a temporary situation in which freedom was always the ultimate goal. In the search for workers, Portuguese colonizers used different free and coerced labor, including free workers, Iberian migrants, and Berber or black African slaves; all were put to work (under various terms) on the islands. However, the preference for slave labor on the Atlantic islands later influenced the labor patters the Portuguese would use in plantation Brazil. “

“Slavery had long been known in Iberia, but slaves never constituted more than a small percentage of society. By 1492, although more than 35,000 black slaves had been introduced in Portugal, most of them were intended to be reexported to other European markets and to the Americas. By 1550, there were 9,500 African slaves in Lisbon–comprising nearly 10 percent of the total population–and 32,370 slaves and 2,580 freedmen in Portugal as a whole. Black slaves increasingly replaced slaves from other racial origins as the Portuguese became less involved in the wars against the Turks in the Mediterranean and in general against Muslims.”

“The Moors were visible in Portugal in the most southern part of the country, where a relatively large population of Christianized Moors (Moriscos) toiled the fields and worked as artisans in towns and cities.  The term Moors, derived from Mauritania, designated those Muslims and their descendants from the north of Africa who established themselves in Spain through different waves of Islamic invasions beginning in 711. In general, the Christian monarchs, who conquered Iberian dominions from Islam during the Middle Ages respected the customs and religion of the Mudejar, or Muslims among Christians, in exchange for obedience and heavy taxes. These mudejars, in spite of their marginal status, reached important numbers at given times and places.”

“Towards the end of the fifteenth century, mudejars constituted a minority in Castile and Navarre. On the other hand, in the Kingdom of Granada, the mudejars vastly outnumbered old Christians. Large groups of Moors also resided in Aragon and, above all, in Valencia, where nobles received and protected them in their seigniorial dominions in exhcange for submission and cheap labor. In spite of apperanaces, there was always a fraigle equilibrium in the coexistence not convivencia (harmonious cohabitation), between Muslims and Christians.”

“In addition to an ancestral hatred, those Chistians who, encouraged by the Crown, settled in the Moors’ territory also usurped their principal economic resources. At the same time, ecclesiastical authorities persistently worked to coerce and to assimilate the Islamic population. Together, these circumstances produced an inevitable clash of civilizations. Such confrontations culminated in the rebellion of the Moors of the Alpujarras region of Granda in 1499, which led the Catholic Monarchs to order the general conversion of all the mudejars of Granada to Christianity and the expulsion of those who refused baptism. The forcefully converted were known as Moriscos or new Christians. Although Charles V conceded the moriscos forty years grace from the Inquisition in order to achieve full integration in the Christian population many continued practicing their religion and defending their customs against the acculturating policies of Church and Crown.”

“The title and the practice of granting hidalgo status for meritorious service to the Crown began when the Christian kings of the northern peninsula first set out on the Reconquista, the campaign to drive the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula, a quest that lasted more than 700 years. By 1492, when the southernmost Moorish stronghold of Granada was finally overcome and Jews were also compelled to convert to Christianity, it became all the more imperative for men from central and southern Iberia, especially those whose purity of blood (religious heritage) might otherwise be questioned, to validate their loyalty, merit, and service by somehow achieving the status of Hidalgo.” 

See Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History 3 Vols: Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History (Transatlantic Relations), 3 Volumes Set

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