Spain's Aragon Region Confronting Controversial Past





Giles Tremlett, The Guardian (London), 19 Oct. 2004

Authorities in the Spanish region of Aragon, whose kings helped evict the Moors from Spain 500 years ago, has stirred controversy by suggesting that the severed heads of four Moors should be removed from its heraldic shield.

The heads have upset the semi-autonomous region's growing population of Muslim immigrants, provoking its socialist administration to propose that the heads be erased from its bottom left-hand quarter.

"This is the ideal moment . . . to revise our symbols," the regional government's president, Marcelino Iglesias, said."We should think about one of the quarters that are on the current shield."

The Moors' heads are on the shield to mark the conquest of the northern Aragonese city of Huesca by one of the region's first Christian kings, Pedro I, in 1096.

That was in the early stage of the Christian reconquista that eventually saw the last Moorish king driven out of Spain in 1492, 700 years after they conquered most of the Iberian peninsula.

Opposition politicians yesterday accused Mr Iglesias of trying to airbrush the event out of Spanish history.

"We don't really think that the people of Aragon care about this," said Antonio Suarez, of the conservative, People's party opposition."Should we also take the crosses off our shield because they might offend other religions?"

"Changing an emblem of this category should not be done lightly," Guillermo Redondo, a historian and expert in Spanish heraldry, told the local Heraldo de Aragon newspaper."There is a fair amount of ignorance and ingenuity (in this idea)."

Mr Redondo pointed out that the four heads were similar to those carried on the shields of Corcega and Sardinia and said that they reflected the region's past as a land of both Christian and Islamic cultures.

"It is the sum of the Christian culture, because of the crosses, and Islamic culture, because of the heads. There is no blood on them - as there is on other pieces of iconography," he said.

But the proposal has won support from others.

"It is about time," said Adolfo Barrena of the local, far left, United Left-Aragon party."Symbols like this do nothing to favour integration and multiculturalism."

"It is a positive thing that would favour coexistence (between religions), in Aragon," agreed the general secretary of the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain, Riay Tatary.


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