Spanish racial identity in 1492



Spanish racial identity in 1492, when Columbus arrived in the Americas, was in its early stages. Most people in Spain did not yet clearly think of themselves as white – even though they had been ruled by darker-skinned Moors from Africa for hundreds of years! Yet it was from this very time and place that Western ideas of race got their start.

In the 700s Spain fell under Arab Muslim rule. They came to be known as Moors. Most were from northern Africa and were generally darker. In Shakespeare they can be “tawny”, even “coal-black”.

  • The Moors were not racists, so skin colour was not a big deal.
  • The Moors allowed people to practise their own religion – so much so that Jews prospered under their rule, becoming important in the arts, scholarship, banking and trade.

The Christian kings in the north took back Spain bit by…

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