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Volume 18, Number 2
February 25, 2012

Learn Spanish Online with Habla Ya's Skype Spanish Lessons

lifestyle

Also in this section:
Morning transportation nightmare
National Men's Baseball Tournament Schedule
The 1925 Dule Revolution
The PANAM Network's school vacation workshops in Colon
Enter the Dragon: Jeremy Lin
The court in Cartagena that Panama's religious minorities feared
Pollo de palo: wildlife around the house, or in a pinch, dinner
Kermit Nourse's photos of Carnival in Panama City
Scenes from Carnival around Panama
Promoting safer sex at Carnival in Chitre
Jumbo Man --- the government's symbol --- was an onstage pervert at Carnival
Scenes from this year's Antillean Fair
Panama in the 2014 Winter Olympics?
Renewing a tourist visa in Panama

A lot of articles from other publications and general commentary by various people about different aspects of life in Panama --- and freewheeling discussions about them --- can be found on our constantly updated Facebook page



So, you didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition in The Panama News? But nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition...

The court that Panama's religious dissidents feared

photos by Allan Hawkins V., story by Eric Jackson

Panama is the only country other than Israel that has had two Jewish presidents, and Jews play important roles in our economic and political life. We also have a substantial Muslim community here, with a number of prominent individuals in important public roles. There are many Protestant denominations in this mainly Catholic country. The Evangelicals and the Muslims are most the successful in their efforts to convert Panamanians to their faiths in recent years, and as quiet models they have those who are arguably the country's two most famous athletes, New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (an Evangelical) and WBA featherweight champion boxer Celestino Caballero (a Muslim).

However, it has not always been that way. At the time when Panama was colonized by Spain, it was illegal to be a Jew, Muslim or Protestant in the Spanish Empire. There was a special religious court, the Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición, set up in 1480 by the Spanish crown and blessed by the Vatican, to suppress clandestine Jews, Muslims and heretics. In popular culture that court and its subsidiary is better known in the English-speaking world as the Spanish Inquisition.

The Inquisition's reputation among the English-speaking people is especially colored by the ferocity in the religious wars of the Reformation in the Netherlands of one of its subsidiaries, the Council of Troubles under whose auspices some 6,000 people, almost all of them Protestants, were executed. Here in Panama, the Inquisition and the Wars of the Reformation are subjects avoided in schools and popular culture, but they are very much a part of our history. Francis Drake's and Henry Morgan's raids on Panama had their clear religious aspects, which made Catholic churches and institutions primary targets of their attacks. Morgan, a Welsh Protestant fanatic and later Great Britain's Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, massacred the surviving defenders of Fort San Lorenzo precisely because they were Catholic.

And what, other than the scene of some famous battles, was Fort San Lorenzo? Although its batteries of cannons guarded the mouth of the Chagres River, its primary function was as a Spanish-era prison. Just before its abandonment at the time that Panama became independent from Spain, it was a place of imprisonment and in at least one case execution for leaders of the independence movements of the Americas. Well before that time, it was a place where one suspected of religious offenses might be held en route to an Inquisition court in Cartagena, now part of Colombia.

Just before the 1492 fall of Granada, the last bastion of Arab Spain, Spain issued the Alhambra Decree, which ordered that all Jews and Muslims must convert to Catholicism or leave the Spanish Empire. The numbers of those affected given by historians vary widely, for example with estimates of Spain's Jewish population at the time of the edict ranging from 80,000 to 800,000. There were mass emigrations, Muslims generally to North Africa; Jews to Portugal, North Africa, Italy, Turkey and the Levant. Five years after the Alhambra Decree, Portugal issued its own expulsion order against the Jews.

A number of Jews went underground, remaining in the Spanish Empire and outwardly presenting themselves to neighbors as Catholics but secretly maintaining their Jewish faith. They were the prinicipal targets of the Spanish Inquisition and its most infamous Inquisitor General, Tomás de Torquemada. A number of these fled to the Americas, to get as far away from the Inquisition courts as one could in the Spanish Empire. One of the famous places where Crypto-Jews fled was Albuquerque, in the present US state of New Mexico. In Panama, there are legends that David, in Chiriqui, took its name from Crypto-Jewish founders, and that Los Santos was also a place where clandestine Jews settled.

The Inquisition courts also came to the Americas, although they were stripped of their jurisdiction over the religious practices of indigenous peoples after the abuses were exposed in the writings of Bartolomé de las Casas. Starting in 1570, the Inquisition court in Lima had jurisdiction over cases from Panama. In 1610 an Inquisition court was established in Cartagena and had jurisdiction over cases from Panama. The old Inquisition court in Cartagena is now a museum, which Allan Hawkins recently visited and photographed.

The surviving Inquisition court records from Cartagena are fragmentary, but from those and other records we know that in that venue about 1,100 cases were heard and that at least three people were executed under Inquisition auspices. We don't know how many of the cases arose in Panama. We also know that in Cartagena the Inquisition's most infamous persecutions and its first execution were directed against African slaves who persisted in their observances of West African religions. The Spanish Inquisition courts also had jurisdiction over the detection and "conversion" or punishment of homosexuals, witches and sundry "minor heretics."

The fury of the Spanish Inquisition gradually subsided, but the institution still existed at the time of Panama's independence from Spain. By then it was mainly an office concerned with the banning of books, but still managed to be enough of an irritant to such notable freemasons as Simón Bolívar as to be one of the causes of Latin America's separation from Spain. Indeed, one doesn't really understand the liberation of South America if one doesn't see the contest as in part a struggle between the Masons and the Catholic Church.

The legacy of the Spanish Inquisition has taken on lives of its own. In Northern Ireland it is still cited (and exaggerated) by Protestant bigots as reason for the persecution of Catholics. In England and the United States it is mainly known by way of Protestant caricatures. Throughout most of the 19th century and until Panama's separation from Colombia in 1903, the incessant Colombian civil conflicts pitted the Conservatives, who wanted to adopt Catholicism as the official state religion, against the Liberals, who were for freedom of belief and against any state religion.

















   
 

Also in this section:
Morning transportation nightmare
National Men's Baseball Tournament Schedule
The 1925 Dule Revolution
The PANAM Network's school vacation workshops in Colon
Enter the Dragon: Jeremy Lin
The court in Cartagena that Panama's religious minorities feared
Pollo de palo: wildlife around the house, or in a pinch, dinner
Kermit Nourse's photos of Carnival in Panama City
Scenes from Carnival around Panama
Promoting safer sex at Carnival in Chitre
Jumbo Man --- the government's symbol --- was an onstage pervert at Carnival
Scenes from this year's Antillean Fair
Panama in the 2014 Winter Olympics?
Renewing a tourist visa in Panama



Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine



© 2012 by Eric Jackson
All Rights Reserved - Todos Derechos Reservados
Individual contributors retain the rights to their articles or photos

email: editor@thepanamanews.com or

e_l_jackson_malo@yahoo.com or

thepanamanews@gmail.com

phone: (507) 6-632-6343

Mailing address:

Eric Jackson
att'n The Panama News
Apartado 0831-00927 Estafeta Paitilla
Panamá, República de Panamá

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