Why the Year 1492 Changed the History of Granada


Amanda Vasi is a student at Agnes Scott College and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain

Within one walk into downtown Granada, it’s easy to see all the cultural influences in the diverse architecture from Arabic, Jewish to Christian. After all, Granada was under Moorish, or Arabic-Islamic influence for hundreds of years, starting from the late 11th century. Under this ruling, Jews and Christians mainly experienced a high degree of social and religious freedom. Although there were some taxes imposed, restrictions levied and times of tension. It was the year 1492 that ended the Islamic Nashrid dynasty after the Granada War and the surrendering of King Boabdil to the Catholic Kings, Isabel of Castile and Fernindad of Aragon, on the footsteps of the Alhambra.

The Alhambra, the Moorish Palace and citadel rebuilt and completed by the Sultans in the 13th century.

The year 1492 is an important date for Spain as a whole, but especially in the small, luscious city of Granada. It marked not only the end of the last Islamic dynasty, but also the birth of Christopher Columbus travels to the ‘New World’ and his search for the Indias. After several rejections in Italy, Columbus was able to receive the funding support from the Catholic Kings, who were interested in expanding their empire after unifying Spain as a country. On October 12th of the same year, he arrived in San Salvador, beginning his colonization and ‘purification’ of the natives by spreading the Christian religion through forceful and violet means.

Monument located in the city’s center in La Plaza de Isabel la Católica of Queen Isabel granting Christopher Columbus permission to travel to the Indias under the Spanish monarch.

As a result, these conquests brought both the Spanish language and culture to Latin America and the Caribbean as well as pumped economic wealth into Spain. This is a day most Spaniards regard with pride and celebrate as El Dia de Hispanidad each year. For Granada in particular, there are many monuments throughout the city that reference to the signing of Columbus’ grant for his travels. The city is also where the Catholic Kings chose as their final burial site due to the Granada’s impact on their success as the monarchs of Spain.

1492 also marks the year of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the Alhambra Decree as an effort to religiously cleanse the population. Most Jewish people were given four months to either leave the country or convert to Christianity. If neither option was chosen, execution would be the crime. Approximately 200,000 Jews chose to convert while around 40,000-100,000 chose to leave. The Jews who converted or fled are called Sephardic Jews. Although the property and wealth of the Jews were confiscated after exile or execution, Spain still wasn’t able to fully heal its Empire after the long Reconquistion. Initially granted freedom, the Muslims in Granada soon found themselves in the same situation as the Jews, but this occurred later in the year 1502. After years of Christians’ forceful and violent means of conversion under the leadership of Cisneros, Muslims organized a revolt in 1499 to which led the Catholic Kings to remove all their freedom and decree their final expulsion or conversion.

The Barrio Realejo is a neighborhood with ancient Jewish influence located near the city’s center.

It is difficult to pinpoint the effect of the religious cleansing on Granada specifically but it’s likely to have had an impact of the cultural richness and development of the city that was once so influenced by its diversity. After the expulsion of these groups, many Jewish homes were demolished and mosques either destroyed or converted into churches. With the still standing cultural influences and the growing revival of Jewish and Muslim populations in the city, however, the history is never forgotten as harmony is found once again while these groups return to their lost homes within the modern, culturally-embracing arms of Granada.

The year 1492 is one to understand before coming to Granada as it’s the city source of pride and identity. From Columbus’ expeditions to the expulsion of religious groups, this year marks an important significance on its history richness and diversity that shines through to the modern-day.

The world awaits…discover it.

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