Siria's Reviews > In the Shadow of the Virgin: Inquisitors, Friars, and Conversos in Guadalupe, Spain

In the Shadow of the Virgin by Gretchen D. Starr LeBeau
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's review
Nov 02, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: european-history, history, nonfiction, religious-history, spanish-history
Read from November 02 to 12, 2010

This excellent book analyses the interactions between conversos (converts from Judaism to Christianity and their descendants), Old Christians, friars and the Inquisition in late fifteenth century Guadalupe, Spain. Starr-LeBeau challenges the existing historiography—which has tended to make monoliths out of people's identities, to remove complexity and depth and shade from people's interactions—by re-examining Inquisition records and carefully teasing out interpersonal dynamics.

Through careful use of documentary evidence, Starr-LeBeau shows that a person's sense of self is never simple, and that even those people who claim (or who have imposed on them) the same identity may conceive of that identity differently, or engage in a very different set of actions and practices. Some of the trial evidence makes for gripping reading in and of themselves, as with the case of Inés Gonsalez whose bitter testimony and insistence that her conversa mother was a 'true Jew' succeeded in condemning her own mother to death.

Moreover, Starr-LeBeau demonstrates that institutions such as the Inquisition and the Spanish crown have a vested interested in "creating oppositions out of ambiguities"—in reifying those fluid, multifaceted identities into discrete categories—as a means of bolstering their own power. Starr-LeBeau's arguments are persuasive and well-written, even if at times (as she acknowledges) based on scant documentation.

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