Friday, May 26, 2006

Franciscans, Franciscans, Franciscans!

(I wrote this in Tetouan, but I didn't have internet access there and just remembered that I hadn't posted it now.)

I got back from Spain on Sunday and I’m currently in Tetouan, where I really should have been spending more time all along because Tetouan is one of the case study cities for my dissertation. The library here (the public one, anyway) is none too user friendly: other Moroccan libraries have, if nothing else, printed catalogs of their collections that, believe it or not other libraries actually have. So, while in Rabat, I am actually able to look up some of the books and manuscripts that I might need that are in Fez. Granted, the Qarawiyyin library’s catalogs do break down after volume four. But I digress.

Tetouan has no such thing; what Tetouan has is a single spiral-bound typed copy of their different sets of holdings (there is a different volume of the Spanish rare books collections—which is actually printed, but not actually really available anywhere but the library itself—and another volume of the manuscripts collections.) The catalogs are located in the actual room where those particular pieces are (granted, there are all of three rooms in the library.)

The manuscripts and rare books room has strange hours (they close from one to four) and so, during those long hours in the middle of the day, it is impossible to look through the catalogs. Not that looking at the catalog is that useful anyway, being as the catalog information is limited to the title, the category of work (fiqh, tarikh, etc.) and the catalog number. The Qarawiyyin catalog, while I’m certain it’s incomplete, and while it isn’t the most user-friendly thing in the world, has a description of each of the items listed (number of pages, dimensions, date.) The Tetouan library catalog lacks all three of those descriptors; the one that I’m particularly interested in is the date, since what I’d like to read are things produced during that specific time period.

Anyhow, I did actually read a couple of things yesterday, and one of them was an account, written by an expelled morisco, of how his brother organized a group of twenty-four expelled moriscos to go back to Spain to recover some of the worldly possessions that they had buried when they were being expelled. Once they reached the shores of Spain, they discarded their clothes and changed into the robes of Franciscans (for one of the people involved in this enterprise, before they were expelled his brother had been a manufacturer of such garments.) They all then proceeded to the place on the road between Madrid and Alcalá de Henares, where the organizers of the expedition had buried their jewels and cash.

They get caught, and the organizer, who was the letter writer’s brother, was torn to bits, or somehow otherwise killed, to serve as an example to everyone (it was something graphic involving disemboweling.)


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