Did you know that Mojácar had a “Jewish quarter”?

Well, according to the tourism department it does.

The bland and innocuous turismo de mojácar facebook page dedicates itself not to actually promoting the municipality, or advertising forthcoming events that may be of interest, but to publishing a never ending series of blurred and skewed holiday snaps sent in from the camera phones of locals, usually captioned with a happy good morning!!  OK, sometimes they publish a nice one, but you always get the feeling it’s by accident, or because the photo has been sent in and is just too good not to be published.

Sometimes they drop the buenos dias!! / good morning !! and stretch their linguistic wings (they should start by finding the inverted exclamation point on their keyboards for the Spanish bit). We are then in for a treat of mangled prepositions (to instead of of, a particular bugbear, such as in a view to Mojácar) or a bit of Google translate.

Anyway, a recent offering tells us that Mojácar has a “Jewish quarter“:

Feliz Viernes. Casa típica situada en el Arrabal / Happy Friday. Typical house located in the Jewish quarter

No it doesn’t.

The problem stems from the use in their original Spanish of the term arrabal. An arrabal is literally a medieval suburb, an urban area outside the town walls where the poor people lived (call it a slum if you like). These areas would be regulated by the town as if they were urbanisations outside of the city proper, and every so often would be incorporated into the town defenses when they were updated.

The Moors, Islam at the time being a more enlightened and nice religion than Catholicism, had Jewish quarters but they were voluntary – Jews went to live there because they were among friends and family. It was the Catholics who cornered them into certain sections of their cities to keep an eye on them and forbid them to live elsewhere.

When Mojácar was taken over by the Catholic Kings, all the Moors (and Jews, if there were any, which I doubt, it was a fairly tiny settlement) were expelled and sent to live elsewhere. They weren’t allowed to settle within a league of the sea or the town of Mojácar. (See my book Turre – a history for more on this). So Mojácar certainly didn’t have a “Jewish quarter” like Lorca did, a certain area of the city dedicated for Jews (also known as a ghetto).

The Catholics allowed the Jews to continue to live in Spain for a few more years until Felipe III told them to get out in 1610, at gun point if necessary. At which point the juderías, the ghettos, were taken over by the poorer part of society since they were nicely quartered off from the decent Catholics living in the nice part of town (which is why Córdoba’s survived, for example).

So no, an arrabal is something different from a judería. Anyone (usually poor) could live in the slum of an arrabal, but only a Jew could live in a judería (and they weren’t allowed to live within a league of the town, anyway).

//rant over!

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