I am sitting here in my kitchen while watching Samuel Bronston’s Production “El Cid” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Cid_(film)). For most foreigners, this is one of the few familiar images of spanish Middle Ages… (dammit…. Charlton Heston was a terrible swordsman!) Honestly speaking, the world tends to ignore most of the 8 centuries of fight and convivience between our european background and the arabic and north-african peoples that settled here after the invasion in 711 AD.
It seems that it’s more important to praise and enhance the importance of the short crusades period in Holy Land. Maybe because here, other nations had very little role to play, out of some personal interventions (that of the Black Prince, for example).
I doubt there’s any other country in the whole world (except maybe Turkey) which can represent better than Spain the bridge between east and west, between Europe and the Arabic Mediterranean Crescent. El Cid has been a somehow mythical figure in our national historical heritage.
Not in vain the first spanish epic poem was made to tell his life and adventures (with quite a nice dose of realism, compared to other heroes of the time), and his arabic Nickname Al-Sayyed or Sidi, bastardized to spanish as El Cid, became an important referent of the spanish model of a hero.
Far from the typical religious siding of the times of the crusades, Rodrigo Diaz had friends and foes on both, christians and muslim dominions, and faced both in combat serving different kings of that old Spain.
In certain way, he was a must’arib, too. He was a christian, and a castillian, but he lived among muslims and served them in Saragusta and Ishbiliyah, against Lleida and Gharnata, ruled by other muslim kings supported by christian mercenaries. He had an arabic nickname that survived until today and prevails over that one of “Campeador” that named him among christian spaniards.
Even when he was a warrior and wars were his life, he can still be considered today a good example of how things were here during those centuries, and how spaniards learnt to deal with differences that made them fight to death… or to get over those same differences for a common sake. Not meaning that northern spaniards ever considered muslims to be as aboriginals and entitled to this land as they saw themselves. But enhancing the fact that both, muslims and christians, (together with jews), considered themselves spanish, born here and linked to this land.
Unfortunately it was religious intolerance (Al-murabitum, Al-muwahyid, Banu Merin….) , mainly coming from north-africa, what made northern christians request help and support from crusaders and veterans of the Holy Land expeditions, together with military orders such as Templars. This religious impulse confronted that of the muslims and finally made impossible to find other Cids through history.
That same religious intolerance on both sides made impossible to find real must’aribs anymore after these 13th century. Muslim integrists expulsed christians and jews from their madinas in an attempt of making sure that religious purity was the real link that kept Al-Andalus joint. Northern christians, together with roman church reforms disliked those arabized christians who escaped north. They found their rituals, language, dressing codes and whole culture banned and considered as contamined by “infidels”. Certainly when intolerance grows it’s those who are able to get the best of two “purities” who are going to become the first victims. It happened in many other places, and not only in Spain. Wars dislike rational people. And those Must’aribs living with muslims and seeking refuge among christians were a too rational concept for their time. There was no place for them in history. Same as there was no place for many more Rodrigos who deserved to be called Al-Sayyed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Cid).
….btw… this damn movie is full of historical inexactitudes and false facts!!. Mostly it was made to please Franco’s wishes, as it was a condition to let Mr. Bronston film his huge productions here. Franco wanted the world to meet a spanish hero. One that according to him represented the whole of Spain. Maybe he chose well. Yes, he did… even trying to ignore the fact that Rodrigo was more than uniquely a castillian christian who took a side. He was a man of his time. With many sides, many friends and many foes. And a great skill for battle and war. He was also an opportunist. All this among nationalism and religion. And that’s what made him perfect for the role of Spanish Hero. Determination, planification, will, flexibility and opportunism. Those who followed this guideline in spanish history were the ones who made us go forward. Pity these were too few. Pity there were very few Cids.