Limpieza de sangre (Spanish: [limˈpjeθa ðe ˈsaŋɡɾe]),
Limpeza de sangue (Portuguese: [lĩˈpezɐ ðɨ ˈsɐ̃ɡɨ],
Galician: [limˈpeθa ðe ˈsaŋɡe]) or Neteja de sang
(Catalan: [nəˈtɛʒə ðə ˈsaŋ]), literally "cleanliness of
blood" and meaning "blood purity", played an important role in the
modern history of the Iberian Peninsula.
It referred to those who were considered pure "Old Christians",
Muslim or Jewish ancestors, or within the context of
the empire (
New Spain and Portuguese India) usually to those without
ancestry from the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Asia, or Africa.
1 After the Reconquista
1.1 Procedure to judge purity of blood
2 Spanish colonies
3 See also
4 Further reading
6 External links
After the Reconquista
By the end of the
Reconquista and the conversion or expulsion of
Muslim mudéjars and Sephardi Jews, the populations of
Spain were all nominally Christian. Out of Spain's population of 7
million, this included up to a million recent converts from Islam and
200,000 converts from Judaism, who were collectively referred to as
"New Christians". Converts from Judaism were referred to as conversos
or more pejoratively marranos, and converts from Islam were known as
Moriscos. A commonly leveled accusation was that the New Christians
were false converts, secretly practicing their former religion as
Jews or Crypto-Muslims. Nevertheless, the concept of purity of
blood came to be more focused on ancestry than of personal religion.
The first statute of purity of blood appeared in Toledo, Spain,
1449, where an anti-converso riot succeeded in obtaining a ban on
conversos and their descendants from most official positions.
Initially, these statutes were condemned by the monarchy and the
Church; however, in 1496,
Pope Alexander VI
Pope Alexander VI approved a purity statute
for the Hieronymites.
This stratification meant that the
Old Christian commoners could
assert a right to honor even if they were not in the nobility. The
religious and military orders, guilds and other organizations
incorporated in their by-laws clauses demanding proof of cleanliness
of blood. Upwardly mobile
New Christian families had to either contend
with their plight, or bribe and falsify documents attesting
generations of good Christian ancestry.
The claim to universal hidalguía (lowest nobility) of the
justified by intellectuals like Manuel Larramendi (1690–1766)
Umayyad conquest of Hispania
Umayyad conquest of Hispania had not reached the Basque
territories, so it was believed that
Basques had maintained their
original purity, while the rest of
Spain was suspect of miscegenation.
The universal hidalguía of
Basques helped many of them to positions
of power in the administration. This idea was reinforced by the
fact that, as a result of the Reconquista, a large number of Spanish
noble lineages were already of Basque origin.
Tests of limpieza de sangre had begun to lose their utility by the
19th century; rarely did persons have to endure the grueling
inquisitions into distant parentage through birth records. However,
laws requiring limpieza de sangre were still sometimes adopted even
into the 19th century. For example, an edict of 8 March 1804 by King
Ferdinand VII resolved that no knight of the military orders could wed
without having a council vouch for the limpieza de sangre of his
Official suppression of such entry requirements for the Army was
enacted into law on 16 May 1865, and extended to naval appointments
on 31 August of the same year. On 5 November 1865, a decree allowed
children born out of wedlock, for whom ancestry could not be verified,
to be able to enter into religious higher education (canons). On 26
October 1866, the test of blood purity was outlawed for the purposes
of determining who could be admitted to college education. On 20 March
1870, a decree suppressed all use of blood purity standards in
determining eligibility for any government position or any licensed
The discrimination was still present into the 20th century in some
places like Majorca. No
Xueta (descendants of the Majorcan conversos)
priests were allowed to say Mass in a cathedral until the 1960s.
Procedure to judge purity of blood
The earliest known case judging Limpieza de Sangre comes from the
Church of Cordoba, that explained the procedure to judge the purity of
blood of a candidate as follows: Kneeling, with his right hand placed
over the image of a crucifix on a Bible, the candidate confirmed
themselves as not being of either Jewish or Moorish extraction. Then
the candidate provided the names of their parents and grandparents, as
well as places of birth. Two delegates of the council, church or other
public place would then research the information to make sure it was
truthful. If the investigation had to be carried out of Cordoba, a
person, not necessarily a member of the council, would be appointed to
examine the witnesses appointed by the candidate. This researcher
would receive a sum per diem according to the rank of the person, the
distance traveled and the time spent. Having collected all the
reports, the secretary or the notary must read them all to the council
and a vote would decide whether the candidate was approved. A simple
majority was sufficient, after which the candidate had to promise to
obey all the laws and customs of the Church.
See also: Casta
The concept of Limpieza de sangre, was a significant barrier for many
Spaniards to emigrate to the Americas, since some form of proof of not
having recent Moorish or Jewish ancestors was required to emigrate to
the Spanish Empire. However, within Spain's overseas territories the
concept evolved to be linked with racial purity for both Spaniards and
indigenous. Proofs of racial purity were required in a variety of
circumstances in both
Spain and its overseas territories. Candidates
for office and their spouses had to obtain a certificate of purity
that proved that they had no Jewish or
Muslim ancestors and in New
Spain, proof of whiteness and absence of any in the lineage who
engaged in work with their hands.
Additionally, as early as the sixteenth century, shortly after the
Spanish colonization of America was initiated, several regulations
were enacted in the
Laws of the Indies
Laws of the Indies to prevent
Jews and Muslims and
their descendants to emigrate and settle in the overseas colonies.
There was a thriving business in creating false documentation to allow
conversos to emigrate to Spain's overseas territories. These
provisions banning emigration are repeatedly stressed upon on
following editions of the Laws, which provides an indication that the
regulations were often ignored, most likely because colonial
authorities at the time looked the other way, as the skills of those
immigrants were badly needed. During the period when
Spain were ruled by the same monarch (1580-1640), Portuguese
merchants, many of whom were so-called crypto-
Jews passing as
Christians) became important members of the merchant communities in
the viceregal capitals of Mexico City and Lima. When Portugal
successfully revolted in 1640 from Spain, the Holy Office of the
Inquisition in both capitals initiated intensive investigations to
identify and prosecute crypto-Jews, resulting in spectacular autos de
fe in the mid seventeenth century.
Alberro, Solange. Inquisición y sociedad en México, 1571-1700.
Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica 1993.
Beinart, Haim. Conversos ante la inquisición. Jerusalem: Hebrew
Gitlitz, David. Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews,
Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2002.
Gojman de Backal, Alicia. "Conversos" in Encyclopedia of Mexico.
Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, vol. 1, pp. 340–344.
Gojman Goldberg, Alicia. Los conversos en la Nueva España. Mexico
City: Enep-Acatlan, UNAM 1984.
Greenleaf, Richard E. The Mexican
Inquisition in the Sixteenth
Century. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 1969.
Hering Torres, Max S., et al., eds. Race and Blood in the Iberian
World. Berlin: Lit, 2012.
Kamen, Henry. The Spanish Inquisition. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson
Lafaye, Jacques. Cruzadas y Utopias: El judeocristianismo en las
sociedades Ibéricas. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica 1984.
Lanning, John Tate. "Legitimacy and Limpieza de Sangre in the Practice
of Medicine in the Spanish Empire." Jahrbuch für Geschicte 4 (1967)
Liebman, Seymour. Los Judíos en México y en América Central. Mexico
city: Siglo XXI 1971.
Martínez, Maria Elena. "Limpieza de Sangre" in Encyclopedia of
Mexico, vol. 1, pp. 749-752. chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
Roth, Norman, Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews
from Spain, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995.
Seed, Patricia. To Love, Honor, and Obey in Colonial Mexico: Conflicts
over Marriage Choices, 1574-1821. Stanford: Stanford University Press
Sicroff, Albert A. Los estatutos de limpieza de sangre. Translated by
Mauro Armiño. Madrid: Tauros 1985.
^ a b Estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre, Pablo A. Chami.
^ Maria Elena Martínrez, Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de sangre,
religion, and gender in colonial Mexico. Stanford, Calif: Stanford
University Press 2008.
^ Manuel de Larramendi, Corografía de la muy noble y muy leal
provincia de Guipúzcoa, Bilbao, 1986, facsimile edition of that from
Editorial Ekin, Buenos Aires, 1950. (Also published by Tellechea
Idígoras, San Sebastián, 1969.) Quoted in La idea de España entre
los vascos de la Edad Moderna, by Jon Arrieta Alberdi, Anales
1997-1998, Real Sociedad Económica Valenciana de Amigos del País.
Limpieza de sangre in the Spanish-language Auñamendi Encyclopedia
^ Aranzadi, Juan (7 March 2012). Milenarismo vasco: Edad de Oro, etnia
y nativismo. Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial España.
pp. 508–509. ISBN 978-84-306-1581-0.
^ Codigos Españoles Tome X. Page 225
^ Colección Legislativa de España (1870), p. 364
^ Colección Legislativa de España (1870), page 365
^ Colección Legislativa de España (1870), page 366
^ Los judíos en España, Joseph Pérez. Marcial Pons. Madrid (2005).
^ Sicroff, Albert A. Los estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre.
^ Maria Elena Martinez, Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre,
Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico. Stanford: Stanford University
Press 2008, p. 270.
^ Martinez, Genealogical Fictions, p. 273.
^ Maria Elena Martínez, "Limpieza de Sangre" in Encyclopedia of
Mexico, vol. 1, p. 751. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
^ Alicia Gojman de Backal, "Conversos" in Encyclopedia of Mexico,
Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, vol. 1, p.341.
^ Avrum Ehrlich, Mark (2009). Encyclopedia of the Jewish diaspora:
origins, experiences, and culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 689.
^ Jonathan I. Israel, Race, Class, and Politics in Colonial Mexico,
1610-1670. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1975, p. 245-46.
Attestment of the purity of blood of Justo Rufino de San Martín
(brother of José) in Paredes de Nava, 1794. Note - Google translation
from Spanish to English.
Douglass, William A. (2004) Sabino's sin: racism and the founding of
Basque nationalism in Daniele Conversi (ed.), Ethnonationalism in the
Contemporary World. London: Routledge, pp. 95–112.
Códigos Españoles Concordados y Anotados Tomo Décimo. Calle Jesús
del Valle #6, Madrid; Google Books: M. Rivadeneyra. 1850.
Colección legislativa de España: Continuación de la colección de
decretos (Primer Semestre de 1870) (Tomo CIII). Madrid; Google Books:
Ministerio de Gracia y Justicia. 1870.
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See also: Desegregation