One of the less researched topics regarding the encounters between the Spaniards and the Amerindians in the early sixteenth century is the impact that the Amerindians’ outer appearance and physical attributes had on the construction of the relationship between the two meeting ethnic groups. It is in this precise aspect of the encounter that Renaissance concepts of beauty should be brought to the fore. Since antiquity, and especially during the early modern period, beauty had not just aesthetical meanings but also moral and religious implications. A differentiation between what could be called an ‘ideal beauty’ as opposed to an ‘attractive allure’ existed in religious as well as in philosophical and literary writings of the sixteenth century. Each of these two different types of beauty also implied moral qualities or vices: the ‘ideal’ pointed to virtue and morality, whereas the ‘attractive allure’ implied a sensual personality, naturally inclined to sin. The question that arises is then whether in analysing sixteenth-century sources describing the American encounter, it is possible to identify with which of these two categories the Spaniards identified the Amerindians and whether or not it is possible to indicate the nature and weight of the influence of this beauty-based perception of the Other on the construction of the approach towards the natives. In order to answer these questions a clear understanding of notions of beauty in early modern Europe is needed. These notions, then, need to be compared with the images of the Amerindians that transpire from the sources writing on their nature trying to establish whether or not a direct and overt linkage was established by the sources between the Amerindians’ outer appearance and their moral values.
Books, Censorship, and the Evolution of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation of London as a Linguistic Community, 1663–1810
In Lost in Translation, Found in Transliteration, Alex Kerner examines London’s Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ congregation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as a community that delineated its identity not only along ethnic and religious lines, but also along the various languages spoken by its members. By zealously keeping Hebrew and Spanish for prayer and Portuguese for community administration, generations of wardens attempted to keep control over their community, alongside a tough censorial policy on book printing. Clinging to the Iberian languages worked as a bulwark against assimilation, adding language to religion as an additional identity component. As Spanish and Portuguese speaking generations were replaced with younger ones, English permeated daily and community life intensifying assimilationist trends.