Moorish Influence in Mexico

Clock given in 1910 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V to mark the centenary of Mexican Independence in Mexico City

Spanish thought and culture was influenced by nearly 800 years of Muslim occupation and European civilization in general was profoundly affected by Moorish culture. The use of aromatic herbs and spices was popular in the Old World. Empires were being built on the acquisition of the most exclusive and expensive cooking ingredients (many spices were also used as medicine) and spices too were readily taken up by the Mexicans.

Seemingly immediately after the expulsion of the Moors by the Catholic kings in 1492 (1), Columbus, under the patronage of Isabella the Queen of Castile (2) set out to sail west into the Atlantic in an attempt to find a backdoor to the islands of spice in the Indies. (3)

In one story Columbus stumbled into the New World during this voyage of discovery and in another he knew exactly where he was going (4) and the story about the Indies was a ruse.

 Scientific knowledge (science, medicine, alchemy) integrated with catholic religious dogma, Moorish empirical thought and philosophy and what was left of the Mesoamerican colleges (5). This knowledge elevated Mexican culinary practices with the addition of fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, spices and previously unknown protein sources. Both the Moorish and Mesoamerican cultures had advanced medical theories and practices compared with the rest of the Eurocentric world. The meeting of these two cultures and practices created a unique mestizaje (6) which has become an integral part of modern Mexico’s identity. Modern practices of Curanderismo integrate herbal medicine practices from Moorish, Western and Mesoamerican medicinal traditions.

The Kiosko Morisco (Moorish Kiosk).
An example of Islamic inspired architecture in Mexico City
  1. Columbus’ first journey to the Americas began on 03 august 1492, the Moors officially surrendered in January 1492
  2. Spanish: Isabel, 22 April 1451 – 26 November 1504
  3. The East Indies or the Indies are the lands of South and Southeast Asia
  4. Columbus had access to old maps. The Toscanelli Chart and (an earlier incarnation of what would become known as) the Piri Reis map, although inaccurate by modern standards these maps showed what lay on the (as yet currently unexplored) western side of the Atlantic ocean. (See Post “Did Columbus Cheat?”
  5. Telpochcalli – house of youth – run by experienced warriors who trained young men into becoming good citizens and/or warriors. Calmecac – priestly knowledge – usually reserved for the wealthy or children of merchants although anyone with promise could earn their way in – writing, calendars, astronomy, rituals, history.
  6. Mestizaje – the general process of mixing ancestries. The interbreeding and cultural intermixing of Spanish and American indigenous peoples (and later with peoples of Asian and African descent)
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