Al Jazeera World

In Search of My Roots | Al Jazeera World

Jan. 20, 2021

When Spanish director Paula Palacios embarks on a road trip across Spain to uncover her roots, she discovers her own Muslim past and a very different version of history to the one she learned at school. Her journey pieces together a centuries-old jigsaw and the largely untold story of Christian Spaniards of Muslim origin. In 1502, shortly after the fall of the last Muslim state in the Iberian Peninsula, Muslims in Spain faced a stark choice: convert to Christianity or be exiled to northwest Africa. Those who stayed formed a new social class, Christians of Muslim origin, known as the Moriscos. In 1609, however, a royal decree demanded that the Moriscos be expelled completely. Palacios' trip takes her across Spain where she talks to archaeologists, historians, architects and anthropologists, as well as descendants of the Moriscos. She discovers solid clues that suggest that thousands of Moriscos had indeed remained in Spain, backed up by modern historians who contend that many had lived quietly under the radar. She also gathers compelling circumstantial evidence that her own family are direct descendants of the Moriscos. Palacios' story is an informative modern-day odyssey with deep historical roots which casts a surprising light on ancient history.

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