regiones de espanaAndalucía, the southernmost region of Spain, takes its name from Al-Andalus, a territory and period of advanced culture (roughly 700 – 1500 AD) when Jews, Muslims and Christians lived and worked together and sought knowledge from scholars and translators as far away as Persia and Syria.

Things were going pretty well until 1492, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel exiled all Jews unwilling to convert to Catholicism. The situation got even worse when Muslims were exiled seven years later. Although Jews and Muslims were mostly not allowed to take their material wealth with them—and sometimes not even their children, as in Portugal where Jewish children were kidnapped to be raised as Catholics—they did leave with their knowledge of medicine, pharmacology, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, horticulture, architecture, agriculture, water systems, and other subjects that contributed to a high quality of life in the region. Once the Muslims were gone, the Catholic church and Spanish monarchy wasted no time knocking down mosques or converting them to churches.

The bell tower of the Church of San Jose, just down the street from us, was built on top of a minaret. You can also see an aljibe, or cistern, in the foreground.

The bell tower of the Church of San Jose, just down the street from us, was built on top of a minaret in the 16th century. You can also see an aljibe, or cistern, in the foreground.

Physical evidence of the region’s layered history is preserved all over the Albaycín, and includes several Catholic churches with bell towers built on former minarets.

2 thoughts on “Andalucía

  1. merediemartinez

    Saludos from la familia Martinez en Luquillo, Puerto Rico! Your post is very timely and exciting since we just discovered that David’s ancestors were from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain). His DNA match is 35% to the region (very strong). We are still researching the topic, but preliminary results indicate that David’s ancestors came over during one of the migration waves from Andalucia to the Caribbean/Puerto Rico during the 1800’s. We are reaching out to the Archdiocese of San Juan to see if they can help us track down David’s ancestors. If there are any Genealogy centers/organizations in Andalucia that you can recommend, we’d be very grateful… we can research from both ends! Enjoy the adventure and do keep us posted on these fascinating history lessons!


    1. ellentveit Post author

      Hi Meredith,
      A lot of what I’ve learned about Al-Andalus comes from a book by American writer/poet Steven Nightingale titled Granada: A Pomegranate in the Hand of God. The book has occasionally felt like a slog–maybe because Nightingale is so passionate about Al-Andalus that he goes into great detail, namedropping mystics and poets who lived nearly a thousand years ago–but there are also parts that I want to reread because the history is so interesting and complicated.

      I’ll ask someone local if there are genealogy centers here. : )


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