|The Fall of Granada: King Boabdil gives the keys of the City to Isabel and Fernando|
If we explained to a Briton, for instance, the full story which is merrily celebrated as the Moors and Christians festival in June, which is based loosely on something more than a Christian army clutching a bottle of rum making its way up to the Town Square, then there might be a few surprised looks.
Muslim and Christian Spain spent a few centuries in wars between each other, but it wasn't necessarily Moors against Christians, because in those times, Moors fought against Moors, Christians and Muslims united against Moors and vice versa - because these weren't wars of religion but rather of political struggles in which all were fighting to conquer new territories and to increase their power.
The 'Catholic Kings' - Isabel and Fernando - were set on conquering new lands from the Moors, and looking to take the main prize: the city of Granada. To do this, they planned to take the coastal land in order that the Nazari kingdom of Granada could not be helped by the Muslim armies from the various states of North Africa and thus to edge ever closer to the city of the Alhambra Palace.
And so let us put ourselves in the historical moment of the last years of Muslim era in Mojácar, or Moxacar as it was known then. Things were developing well; In 1486, the Catholic Kings had occupied the lower plains of Granada: Loja, Illora, Moclín, Montefrío and Colomera. The following year, they took Vélez Málaga and Málaga itself.
The Christian forces turned their attention in 1488 to the province of Almeria, with attacks from the border area with Murcia - principally from the frontier town of Puerto Lumbreras. The following towns, with the dates not always certain, would fall to the Christians: Vera and Cabrera were taken on June 6th, 1488, then a few days later - between the 10th and 13th June according to sources, Mojacar, Cantoria and Huércal; between 10th and 20th June, Vélez Rubio and Vélez Blanco both fell to the superior forces; while Nijar [Nixar] and Huéscar [Huisca] were collected a few days later. With these achievements the maritime border was closed, which prevented possible aid from Africa. The following year, 1489, the unstoppable armies were still moving towards Granada, having subdued a large number of towns, which in geographical order from east to west were: Baza (December 4th 1488), Serón [Soreo] (December 18th, 1489), Purchena, Gor, and finally Almería [al-Miraya] which surrendered on December 23rd, 1489.
The Christian troops were based at their headquarters installed in the Real de Antas, ('Real' means 'Royal') and on June 10, 1488, leaders, headmen and alcaides from the whole region flocked to surrender to the Catholic Kings, yet the commander of Moxacar was not among them. This alerted the Christians since Mojácar's strategic situation together with its considerable number of inhabitants was one of the significant towns of the region. the Catholic Kings sent, as a measure of prudence, an embassy led by Captain Garcilaso to Moxacar with an invitation to surrender. Today, there's a memorial cut into marble at the Mojácar fountain to recall the visit.
On June 12th 1488, the town of Mojácar with its forces surrendered and in exchange Isabel and Fernando granted the town the title of Ciudad - city. It is recorded that the Moors were immediately expelled from Mojácar. They were allowed to go to Africa or to settle in the hills behind Turre: in Teresa and Cabrera, where they founded 'Mudéjar' communities. Mojácar was repopulated with a hundred Christian families from the kingdom of Murcia. These people - principally from Lorca - are the ancestors of most of today's Mojaqueros. The coexistence between the Christians of Mojácar and the Muslims of Turre, Teresa and Cabrera was not easy. The loyalty of this colony was shown in the 'War of Las Alpujarras', when Aben Humeya attempted to re-establish once again Arab power in Spain. After the defeat of the Moriscos came the final expulsion of the Moors - although we do not know if some of them were baptized and remained in the area as converts.
In 1530 Emperor Charles V received such support for the house of Hapsburg from Mojácar that the city was awarded the coat of arms of a two-headed eagle. Later, Philip II added the slogan: La muy noble y muy leal ciudad de Mojácar, llave y amparo del Reino de Granada: 'The very noble and loyal city of Mojácar, key and guardian of the Kingdom of Granada'.
The story has it that the interview for the surrender of Mojácar was held at the Fuente, between Captain Garcilaso for the Christians and the Muslim leader Alavez who was asked for the surrender of the town.
According to legend, this is his reply:
I'm as Spanish as you, my people have over seven hundred years of living in Spain and now you tell us to leave. I never raised arms against the Christians; I think we should be treated like brothers, not like enemies and we should be allowed to continue to work our land. But know this: before I surrender like a coward, I will die like a Spaniard.
True or not - with this agreement Mojácar left behind forever her Muslim past, although the Christians did not take long to break their word to respect the property, culture and customs of the conquered and this soon led to the War of the Alpujarras, but that is another story .......
This article is a translation of a piece called La Toma de Mojácar por los Cristianos written for QHM by Eduardo Sánchez Cervantes.