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Aristocrats and Traders:
Sevillian Society in the Sixteenth Century

Ruth Pike


Chapter Three

Working Classes:
Artisans and Unskilled Laborers

[130] Workingmen made up the largest part of the population of sixteenth-century Seville, but despite their numbers and economic importance, we know very little about them. Spanish society of this period believed that manual labor was degrading, and workers, confronted by a prosperous nobility whose status was eagerly coveted by wealthy commoners, had visible evidence of this viewpoint. Therefore, craftsmen lost confidence in the dignity of their labor and in work as a means of advancement. They worked because they had no alternative, but they were fully conscious of their inferior position. The aristocratic nature of Spanish society and the ignominious status of the working class come through very clearly in the literature of the period. In the theater of the Golden Age artisans almost never appear, although they probably made up much of the audience, and many of the most famous playwrights originated from this class. When they are mentioned in contemporary novels, it is usually in a disdainful and satirical manner. (1)

[131] In such an aristocratically dominated society, workers remained a submerged majority who expressed discontent by rioting in times of economic distress, but who otherwise lived out their lives anonymously. In a city like Seville, where there were ample opportunities for enrichment through trade, many craftsmen climbed the social ladder. These are the exceptional few whose names have been recorded; the rest are forgotten.

Although we know very little about workingmen as individuals, a great deal of information is available about the organization of Sevillian industry and labor in the sixteenth century. The transatlantic trade made Seville one of the most attractive markets in Europe, but Sevillian industry never produced enough to provision that market. Even the clothing industry, which was the most highly developed, could not meet the demands of both the city and the overseas trade. Moreover, there was great emphasis on the manufacture of luxury goods. Sevillian industry was oriented toward quality production, catering to the lavish demands of the elite -- nobility and rich merchants. Among the largest crafts were those of the embroiderers, painters, silversmiths, engravers, and sculptors. (2) This luxury production was organized along guild lines typical of the period. Division of labor was occupational as far as possible, not through transverse division of the process. The guilds insisted that a worker produce a product from beginning to end by himself. Specialization related to final products; one worker produced vests, another hose. Most trades were divided into numerous specialties. There were, for example, four or five kinds of shoemakers, including [132] clogmakers, pumpmakers, cobblers, and children's shoemakers. Even the more menial trades had their special divisions, like the shad and prawn specialists among the fishermen. (3)

The continuous subdivision of the crafts led to the creation of some sixty guilds. They ranged from such craftsmen as skinners, basketweavers, and fishermen at the bottom of the hierarchy to silversmiths and pharmacists at the highest levels. In education, skill, and training, the practitioners of the two top trades were closer to the professional class than to other artisans. The difference was clearly not between the mechanical and nonmechanical trades, for the silversmiths were technically manual workers, but they enjoyed more prestige than did pharmacists. Another group of craftsmen who were greatly respected in the Sevillian guild hierarchy were the carpenters. Their favored position can be seen as a reflection of religious beliefs and the origin of their guild as a confraternity dedicated to Saint Joseph. (4)

The guilds were supervised by the city, which had the authority to approve their ordinances and oversee their operations, and by internal officials known as alcaldes (magistrates) and veedores (inspectors), who were elected annually by the membership. The powers of the guild officials were large and their duties varied; they managed the finances and courts of the organization, made police regulations, visited workshops, imposed penalties and fines, administered the master's oath, and presided at ceremonies [133] and feasts. Elections were by majority vote and usually took place on the feast of Saint John the Baptist. (5) The qualifications of candidates for these positions were carefully scrutinized: the principal requirements were good character, reputation, and skill, and conflict occurred if these criteria were not followed. In 1562, for example, a group of swordmakers sent a petition to the municipal council contesting the election of a certain Martín de Acosta as veedor on the grounds that he did not meet the character qualifications for the post because he was "universally known as a dissolute, argumentative and quick tempered man." (6)

Within the guild hierarchy there were three distinct social classes: apprentices, journeymen, and master craftsmen. Documents from the Protocols Archive make it clear that both apprenticeship and journeymen arrangements were much the same in every trade. Apprenticeship contracts covered a period of from four to five years, during which time the master was obliged to teach the apprentice his trade and to feed, clothe, and house him. At the end of the stipulated term the apprentice received a suit of clothing (often they had to be new clothes like those the painter Antonio Pérez gave his apprentice Pedro Rodríguez Palomino), a sum of money such as the 3,000 maravedís that the apprentice embroiderer Francisco Fernández accepted in 1503 instead of a new outfit, or both clothes and money. (7) Most of these Sevillian apprentices came from [134] the city itself with a small number originating from towns and villages in the surrounding countryside.

Journeymen also contracted their labor with master craftsmen through formal agreements. These contracts ran for periods lasting from a few months to two years, and the obligations on both sides were very explicit. A typical example of a journeyman contract is the one drawn up in 1560 between Cristóbal Rubio, a master embossed leathermaker, and Luis de Torrejón, a journeyman in the same trade. This agreement was valid for eight months; Torrejón was required to emboss twenty pieces of leather a day and in return to receive one real for every ten pieces that be finished. If he completed his daily quota, his earnings would amount to two reales or 68 maravedís a day, some three to four times the daily sum paid to unskilled laborers at that time. (8) If free room and board were included in these arrangements the journeyman's monetary compensation would be far less. Such was the case in 1528 when the printer Juan Varela de Salamanca hired Nicolás Dibón, a pressman, for two years at a salary of 938 maravedís a month plus food and lodging. (9)

The number of workers in each shop was determined by the volume of business rather than the kind of goods produced. In 1572, Martín de Acosta, a swordmaker, had two journeymen working for him, while Juan de Trujillo, an embroiderer, employed four journeymen and three apprentices. (10) In general, two to four journeymen and two apprentices was the rule in most shops. Masters labored [135] alongside their workingmen, taking part with their own hands in the more important operations of their craft, but they also played an important role as foremen and trainers. Artisans could increase their productivity by hiring temporary unskilled laborers, many of whom were free Negroes or slaves.

Regardless of the social distinctions among artisans, there existed a sense of community among craftsmen, symbolized by their cooperation in public ceremonies, with their dignitaries clad in brilliant liveries, their banners, and the insignia of their trades. Within this larger community were the single crafts representing spontaneously cohesive groups, whose members met together on regular occasions for brotherly comfort and cheer, to elect the officers of their guild, and to formulate the ordinances for the conduct of their trades. They possessed a spirit of brotherhood and charity, which was embodied in their fraternities, hospitals, and organizations for the help of the sick, widows, and orphans. With their trade as a center, they fabricated their whole lives in cooperation and friendly rivalry with other guilds. (11)

Common interests and objectives promoted artisan solidarity, but governing authorities also encouraged association among craftsmen for purposes of regulation, control, and taxation. After the reconquest of Seville from the Moslems in 1248, King Ferdinand III of Castile decreed that men of the same craft should be settled in specific areas and the streets where they resided should bear their names. As early as the fourteenth century, however, modifications [136] in the original plan began to appear, and although the designated districts (barrios) and streets continued, on the whole, to carry their assigned names, they began to reflect a more diversified population. In the sixteenth century Sevillian craftsmen (with the exception of a few like the skinners who were required by municipal law to confine themselves to a specific area because of the foul odors connected with their work) were scattered all over the city, but members of the same trade still tended to dwell together. (12)

Artisans like most Sevillians rented rather than owned their homes. Most city property was owned by the church and the city government and rented to private individuals on long-term (ninety-nine-year) leases. Rent was minimal, but tenants were required to make all necessary repairs at their own cost, a system that opened the door to serious abuses. Over the years, tenants were forced to undertake all kinds of improvements and repairs so that in many instances they practically remade their homes. Moreover, since a large number of dwellings had been hastily constructed to meet the needs of the city's expanding population, they were defective to begin with and deteriorated within a few years. Some of them had to be rebuilt from the foundations upward. The plight of the engraver Francisco Ortega, who spent 100,000 maravedís to fix up a house for which he only paid 1,000 maravedís rent a year, is typical. Furthermore, it was almost impossible to determine the real value of a building. Some of the problems [137] involved in drawing up appraisals are discussed by Diego López de Arenas in his Tratado de carpintería de lo blanco. According to the author (a successful carpenter and one of the few Sevillian craftsmen to write a manual for his trade), a house that rented for 792 reales a year was really not worth more than 2,988 reales after deductions were made for maintenance. (13)

The Sevillian building boom encouraged artisans, like other members of the business community, to invest in urban property. A study of wills and property inventories indicates that artisans actively engaged in real estate speculation. Houses and stores were acquired with the objective of subletting them at higher rents for income purposes. It was not unusual for an artisan to own two or three houses besides his own residence; the silversmith Luis de Ribera owned all the houses on one block of the Calle de Vírgenes at the end of the century. Nor was this speculation confined to the more prosperous or to those at the top of the craft hierarchy; it also involved moderately placed craftsmen. A good example is the previously mentioned engraver Ortega, who left three houses and two stores to his heirs in 1575, or the embroiderer Gabriel Carvajal, whose possessions at the time of his marriage in 1523 included three houses. (14)

Rural land provided another investment opportunity in which artisans of different economic levels participated, especially in the first half of the sixteenth century when American demand for oil and wine from the Andalusian countryside caused the market value of land to rise. A [138] surprising number of artisans held land in the Vega of Triana and the rest of the surrounding countryside during this period, but their holdings were small, often no more than a quarter or half of a parcel of farm land or a portion of a vineyard. The possessions of Diego de Estrada, a saddler, can be considered representative of most artisan holdings during these years. They consisted of part of a small vineyard and half of a piece of cultivated land with a total value of 10,000 maravedís. Often the investment included the funds of two craftsmen, like the vineyard in the Vega of Triana that was acquired by Juan Rodríguez, an armorer, and Diego Sánchez, a quilt maker, in 1548. (15)

Most of the capital that artisans invested in real estate came from savings. Although the returns from their crafts fluctuated with economic conditions, in normal times when their services and products were in demand, there were opportunities to save. One of the most important factors in most crafts was operating costs. Some of them required elaborate equipment; others required costly materials or a combination of both. Furthermore, salaries had to be paid to journeymen, and apprentices had to be maintained. These expenses, plus overhead (rent, taxes, and fees) and living costs all cut into their profits. It is very difficult, given the dearth of documentation, to determine the incomes of artisans as individuals or as a group. Some idea of the amount of business done by a few Sevillian crafts can be obtained from their alcabala payments for the years 1554-1555. The alcabala was a tax on sales, which was compounded with each guild paying a fixed sum. According to these statistics, the largest volume of business in [139] Seville was done by the cordagemakers, shoemakers, potters, and leather workers, with the painters and sievemakers at the bottom of the list. Few craftsmen earned more than 1,000 ducats from their trade, and the majority made far less. The hosiers and the hatters, for example, two of the largest clothing guilds in Seville, registered a mere 64,218 ducats' and 22,940 ducats' worth of business, respectively, during this two-year period. (16)

Wills and property inventories bear out the alcabala figures. Even those at the pinnacle of the craft hierarchy left little cash and few possessions of real value. One of the few exceptions was the silversmith Alonso de Medinilla, whose fortune in 1618 totaled 11,850 ducats, but most of it was inherited wealth obtained through trade and speculation. More representative was the silversmith Miguel de Monegro, who served as prior of his guild and was one of the best-known members of his craft during the last quarter of the sixteenth century. At his death in 1572 his heirs inherited some 82,477 maravedís (around 220 ducats, all in juros), several houses, and two female slaves. Even the enterprising silversmith Juan de Oñate, who was so active in the transatlantic trade during the first part of the century, left an estate consisting of 541,420 maravedís in [140] credits (1,444 ducats), but debts of 675,000 maravedís (1,800 ducats), no real estate besides the house he lived in, and the tools of his trade described as "very old and well used." (17)

The contributions of artisans to charity also reflect their limited means. Even the prosperous Alonso de Medinilla only left 156 ducats for charitable purposes: 56 ducats to be divided evenly among four religious orders and 100 ducats to the Confraternity of San Eloy to help defray the costs of a statue of Saint Eligio, patron of the silversmiths. Among their favorite charities were the Mercedarian and Trinitarian Orders, who ransomed Christian captives from the Turks and North African pirates, and the leper hospital of San Lázaro in Seville. The donations of the sculptor Pedro Millán are typical: 10 maravedís to the Church of San Esteban which contained his tomb, 5 to the Santa Cruzada, 5 to the Trinitarians and Mercedarians for the redemption of captives, 2 to the Hospital of San Lázaro, and 6 for the completion of the Seville Cathedral, a total of 28 maravedís. (18)

Some of the capital that artisans invested in real estate was apparently drawn from dowries. Two houses and a store belonging to the sculptor Millán were obtained with the dowry of 27,000 maravedís brought to him by his first wife. The same was true for the embroiderer Nicolás Martínez, who invested his wife's dowry of 30,000 maravedís in their residence and other properties. Marriages were contracted with an eye to obtaining as large a dowry as possible and were considered an important part of an artisan's wealth. There was wide variation, but in general dowries ranged from 20,000 to 80,000 maravedís. Dowries above 80,000 maravedís occurred infrequently and among the daughters of artisans at the top of the craft social scale, the majority of whom had augmented their fortunes through investment in trade or whose talent had brought them prominence, such as painters and sculptors. A good example is the famous painter Pedro de Campaña, who gave his daughter Catalina a dowry worth 108,870 maravedís (75,000 in cash and the rest in household furnishings). On the other end of the scale, anything under 20,000 maravedís was equivalent to poverty status and on the same level as the dowries that were distributed yearly among orphans and poor girls by several Sevillian charitable organizations (usually between 15,000 and 18,700 maravedís). Servants traditionally received 10,000 maravedís, as did Constanza de Ribera, a maid in the house of the noble Ribera family, upon her marriage to Diego Fernández, a swordmaker, in 1501. (19)

Artisans as a group were active participants in the transatlantic trade. As has been pointed out, many of the early Sevillian merchants were originally artisans who combined commercial activities with their craft. Some of them eventually gave up artisanry and became full-time traders, but a larger number continued to labor at their crafts while augmenting their income through trade. Those at the top of the craft hierarchy (silversmiths, printers, pharmacists) invested in sea loans, gave sales credit, and shipped slaves [142] and merchandise to the New World; their enterprise differed little from that of professional merchants. An especially lucrative business for Sevillian pharmacists was the sale of established European drugs and medicines in America. One of the most active pharmacists in this trade in the first half of the century was Juan Bernal, who was closely associated both in trade and professionally with the prestigious Sevillian physician Dr. Alvarez Chanca. Together they shipped medicinal products to their representative in Santo Domingo, Ordoño Ordóñez, also a pharmacist. (20)

In contrast to the well-rounded entrepreneurial activities of the upper echelons of artisanry, the participation of average craftsmen was primarily commercial, that is, shipment of small quantities of merchandise to the New World, often in association with other artisans. Very few craftsmen had the funds to sustain continuous or large scale enterprise; their investments tended to be occasional. Shipments consisted of inexpensive staple goods, such as the 102 varas of coarse frieze that Miguel Martínez, a tanner, sent to Santo Domingo in 1536 and the 29 arrobas of honey, 1 quintal of soap, 7 quintals of wax, and 11 arrobas of olive oil bound for the New World in 1508 in the name of Salvador Martín, a candlemaker. (21) Participation in the [143] transatlantic trade was confined to certain kinds of craftsmen. Most of the artisans whose names appear in the documents were shoemakers, clothiers, and leather workers, all of whom belonged to the most prosperous crafts in the city. Members of the building trades (carpenters, masons), for example, are almost never found, and painters, sculptors, and workers in ferrous metals occur infrequently. Many of the artisans who were most active in the transatlantic trade were of converso descent. We can never determine the exact proportion of Sevillian artisans with this background, but they were widely represented in most crafts and in some, such as the silversmiths, clothiers, and pharmacists, they made up a majority. In general they predominated in the trades that required more skill and education, and few were in the heavier and more manual crafts. Some sixty-one different trades and professions are mentioned in the Sevillian composition of 1510, but with few exceptions they are the more skilled and less menial occupations. None of the 390 individuals included in this list, for example, was employed in the construction industry, an important but strenuous and low-paid craft. (22)

The conversos were most numerous in the clothing trades. As tailors, hosiers, and doublet makers they belonged to one of the largest industries in Seville. Their guild, the Confraternity of San Mateo, was among the wealthiest in the city, and the brothers enjoyed many privileges, not least of which was a preferred place in the Corpus Christi celebrations. The clothiers were active guildsmen -- they met regularly for social, religious, and business purposes and maintained two hospitals and a chapel in the prestigious [144] Monastery of San Francisco. The members of the Confraternity of San Mateo were also among the most conspicuous participants in the many receptions and processions that were a part of the ceremonial life of the city. In 1579, for example, two hundred guild members (mainly tailors) took part in the procession accompanying the remains of King Ferdinand III of Castile that were being transferred from their traditional place in the Cathedral to a new location in a chapel built expressly for that purpose. All were lavishly dressed in gold-trimmed velvet breeches with matching hats. These outfits reputedly cost the brothers from 200 to 300 ducats apiece, but given the economic position of the guild, these expenses were not considered exorbitant. (23)

A representative member of the clothiers' guild during the first half of the sixteenth century was Hernando Morcillo, grandfather of the famous Sevillian humanist Sebastián Fox Morcillo. (24) The Morcillos were a large family of converso artisans, five of whom, including Hernando, appeared as residents of the Calle de Génova in the district of Santa María in the census of 1534. Like other New [145] Christians, Hernando, a hosier by trade, participated in the Sevillian composition of 1510 (number 221 on the list), along with another family member, Alvaro Morcillo, a silversmith (number 91). Hernando Morcillo and his wife Isabel de Carmona were the parents of several children. whose names appear frequently in Sevillian documents. Among them were Gonzalo, married to Leonor de Burgos, who followed the trade of his father, and Juan, also a hosier. A third brother, Francisco, was a silversmith, which meant that he occupied a higher social position than his father and brothers. (25)

Besides engaging in their respective crafts, the Morcillos, like other well-to-do artisans and businessmen, took advantage of the opening of commercial relations between Spain and the New World to increase their fortunes. They granted loans in the form of money and credit to needy persons departing for the Indies. In addition, both Juan and Gonzalo traveled to the New World to sell merchandise there. The first of these undertakings, a joint enterprise, occurred in 1513. Several years later Juan crossed the ocean again, leaving Gonzalo in charge of all his affairs in Seville. Whether or not Juan remained in the New World or returned to Spain is not known since no further trace of his career can be found among the Sevillian documents. We can assume that Gonzalo continued to interest himself in the transatlantic trade, for in 1534 his son Alonso went to the New World to take care of his father's business there. (26)

[146] Like his two brothers, Francisco Morcillo also invested in the transatlantic trade, but he preferred to devote most of his time to his craft. In 1541, for example, he fashioned several elaborate silver ornaments for the Cathedral. During this same period he played an active role in the organization of the Confraternity of San Eligio, the silversmiths' guild. He signed a document containing the original statutes for the guild in 1554. Three years later he participated in a guild lawsuit against the city government. (27)

Silversmith Morcillo and his wife Violante de Fox were apparently the parents of Sebastián Fox Morcillo and his brother Fray Francisco Fox Morcillo. Sebastián was probably born to the couple while they were still living in Gradas, the business district of Seville located in the Santa María quarter. The family apparently moved frequently. In 1534 they are listed as residents of San Ildefonso Parish; five years later they were again living in a rented house in Gradas. Both Sebastián and Francisco received excellent primary and secondary school training in their native city. They studied Greek and Latin under the renowned classicist Fray Alonso de Medina, whom Sebastián later acknowledged as one of his most important teachers. (28) As we have seen, it was not unusual in sixteenth-century Seville for prosperous merchant and artisan families like the Morcillos to spend considerable sums of money on the education [147] of their offspring since a good education was a means to social and economic advancement.

While the Sevillian documents give us some information about Fox Morcillo's paternal line, we know almost nothing about his mother's family. Undoubtedly they were also New Christian artisans, but compared with his father's family were relative newcomers to Seville. There is probably some truth to Fox Morcillo's own account of the migration of his family from Catalonia to Seville during the reign of the Catholic kings. In 1487 King Ferdinand introduced the Inquisition into Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia, and as a result many conversos left the country or moved to other parts of Spain. The family of Violante de Fox may have fled to Seville at that time. The only reference to the Fox name in Seville in the sixteenth century is a Foz or Fox, a painter who appeared as a witness at the marriage of a fellow artist, apparently also a converso, in 1582. (29)

The Fox family was closely related to the Abregos, also conversos. Luisa, a sister of Violante de Fox, was married to the silversmith Antonio de Abrego, a friend and colleague of her sister's husband. Antonio's brother Luis was a scribe, who in 1546 was commissioned by the Cathedral clergy to copy an illuminated choir book for them. He received 1,500 maravedís on account, the rest to be paid on completion of the work. (30) In fact, the Abregos, as scribes, silversmiths, and merchants in sixteenth-century Seville, practiced all the favorite professions of the New Christians. [148] The large number of conversos among the artisan class, especially in the upper ranks, was one of the reasons for the failure of the Comunero revolt in Seville. Since Figueroa and his followers were against the conversos, they alienated the artisans (as they had the nobles and merchants), whose support was essential for a successful revolt. It is significant that the only artisans who rallied to Figueroa's cause belonged to the lower crafts, specifically those with the least number of conversos. One of these men, Francisco López, a cheese maker, was eventually tried and condemned to death as a traitor for his participation in the revolt. He took part in the seizure of the Alcázar under the orders of Figueroa and, once taken, it was alleged that with sword in hand and in the presence of a large multitude, he raised the cry: "Long live the King and the Comunidad." It was further charged that he personally seized the vara (symbol of office) from the chief magistrate of Seville and throughout the revolt made strenuous but unsuccessful efforts to stimulate the masses to rise up in support of Figueroa and his cause. (31)

All Sevillian artisans, conversos or not, were vulnerable to periods of economic depression when their services were in little demand and their incomes correspondingly low. Agricultural conditions were a determining factor, for crop failures could produce disastrous food shortages in the cities. Although the Andalusian countryside was one of the most fertile agricultural areas in Spain, comparatively little grain was grown, and drought, floods, and locusts were common occurrences. There was hardly a year in [149] which there was not a serious shortage of wheat in Seville, caused either by these natural phenomena or by the manipulations of speculators, who often included members of the city council. The situation was made more critical by the city's demographic increase during the course of the sixteenth century. Higher food prices affected the artisans as consumers -- they had to spend more of their income on basic necessities; higher prices also led to a general curtailment of their production, since all elements of the population reduced their expenditures. Under these conditions artisans often expressed their discontent by rioting, which drew attention to their grievances and brought about some immediate redress. The threat of rioting kept city officials ready to control prices and to distribute wheat and food-stuffs in times of acute scarcity. By the establishment of a public granary in 1505 the municipality hoped to meet the frequent subsistence crises that caused rioting. (32)

One of the most famous of these mass uprisings, known popularly as "la Feria y Pendón Verde" occurred in 1521 and was brought on by a combination of food shortages (wheat was selling at 700 maravedís a fanega as compared to 70 maravedís the year before) and unsettled conditions resulting from Juan de Figueroa's Comunero revolt. Driven into the street by hunger, the residents of the impoverished Feria district (parish of Omnium Sanctorum), with those of San Gil and San Martín, seized a quantity of arms from the palace of the Duke of Medina Sidonia and, taking as their standard a green Moorish banner that had been preserved in the parish church of Omnium Sanctorum, ran riot through the city attacking the homes of the rich and opening [150] the jails. After three days of continuous violence and disorder, they were put down by the armed nobility. (33)

Since journeymen and members of the lower crafts were most severely affected by fluctuations in prices and by food shortages, it is not surprising that they usually formed the leadership and the nucleus of any movement of mass protest. Unskilled laborers also joined the rioters as well as criminal elements out for loot, but these groups, oppressed by intense poverty and the hopelessness of their position, were incapable of starting or sustaining a riot. They merely followed the leadership of the artisans, whose collective power helped to keep a corrupt and ineffective municipal government responsive to their immediate needs. (34)

Although vital to the city's economy, the unskilled laboring population was isolated, disorganized, and largely ignored by other urban classes. Without resources, organization, or sense of purpose in society, they eked out a miserable day-to-day existence. In Seville the position of the Old Christian laborers was especially difficult because of competition from other depressed elements at the bottom of the social scale -- slaves, freedmen, and Moriscos -- who virtually monopolized the limited number of unskilled jobs. Moreover, the steady flow of migrants from the countryside into town during the course of the sixteenth century flooded the labor market and caused chronic unemployment. The streets of the city were soon overrun with [151] beggars, vagabonds, and unemployed who wandered from one monastery to another in search of food. Begging, thieving, and prostitution became their only means of livelihood. (35)

Both trade and industry employed unskilled workers in the lesser capacities. They did hauling and digging in construction work and carried goods within the city. They worked as stevedores on the docks and porters in the public granary and market places. They also did odd jobs around the city -- mainly in the slaughterhouse and port area. Wages were low -- just enough to meet their basic needs -- and work was temporary, usually on a daily or seasonal basis, especially in the construction industry. Low pay and frequent unemployment kept workers at subsistence level and dependent on charity. Furthermore, guild regulations effectively prevented them from rising higher than unskilled, low-paid jobs. The expense of going through a period of apprenticeship and of fulfilling the requirements related to entrance into the guilds was beyond the means of the unskilled laboring population. As a result, they remained trapped in a vicious cycle of infrequent, low-paid employment, poverty, and destitution.

Outside of the construction trades only one other Sevillian industry employed substantial numbers of unskilled workers --  the soap industry. Since the Moslem period, the abundance of oil had fostered the development of soap manufacturing in Seville, and in the sixteenth century it was an important export item. There were two factories in operation during this period, one in the San Salvador parish and the other in Triana. The Triana factory, owned by the [152] Dukes of Alcalá, was leased for periods of ten years at 20,000 ducats a year, but this did not include the cost of materials and the slaves and other workers necessary for production. (36)

Personal service also absorbed a portion of the unskilled laboring class, although there were fewer opportunities for this kind of work in Seville due to the existence of so many slaves. Although servants (especially lackeys) could be hired for short periods of time (by the day, week, or month), most of them were employed on a more permanent basis. The relations between masters and servants were determined by formal contract agreements. Servants pledged themselves to be continuously at the command of their masters and to carry out all orders, provided that they were "licit and honest." In return they received free room and board and some kind of monetary compensation. (37) Generally the conditions provided were meager and salaries low, but service in a noble household, even if it meant being underpaid and poorly fed, was preferable to no employment at all. Besides it offered security -- a steady job and care in times of sickness and old age -- and a sense of personal importance. Servants of the wealthy and noble shared in the prestige of their employers, for some of the luster of the master inevitably rubbed off on the servant. In Castillo Solórzano's Bachiller Trapaza, for example, the servants of the pícaro Trapaza deserted him when they discovered that he was not the nobleman don Fernando de [153] Quiñones that he claimed to be, for "they were ashamed at having served someone who was lower than themselves." (38) Finally, contemporary opinion held that, in contrast to trade and the crafts, personal service was honorable, since it was often performed by people of noble rank. Many impoverished hidalgos served in the households of wealthier and more important lords, but despite their lineage, their position and duties were not very different from those of other servants.

For those not absorbed in industry, trade, or domestic service, there was nothing left to do but peddle flowers, fruits, and like goods on the streets and in the public markets. If this should fail, begging or crime were all that remained. Many unskilled workers lived by doing occasional labor and the rest of the time by begging and thievery which seemed to go hand in hand.

Although the poverty and misery of the Old Christian laborers was acute, there were other groups in Seville whose position was even more desperate. Moriscos, slaves, and freedmen suffered the same economic hardships as the Old Christians, but were also subjected to prejudice and discrimination that made them veritable outcasts, especially the Moriscos because of their unassimilable character. They were above all the most depressed elements in Sevillian society.


Notes for Chapter 3

1. Charles Aubrun, La comedia española, 1600-1680 (Madrid, 1968), pp. 70-71.

2. Carande, Carlos V, p. 253.

3. Montoto de Sedas, Sevilla, pp. 114, 127-128.

4. Ibid., p. 119; J. Vicens Vives, Historia social y económica de España y América, III (Barcelona, 1957), 124.

5. Antonio Rumeu de Armas, Historia de la Previsión social en España (Madrid, 1944), pp. 188-195.

6. Gestoso, I, 236.

7. Ibid., II, 78; III, 28.

8. Ibid., III, 214.

9. Hazañas y La Rua, La imprenta, II, 277.

10. Gestoso, 1, 40, 236.

11. For a discussion of confraternities and hospitals see Montoto de Sedas, Sevilla, Chapter III.

12. Peraza, Historia, as quoted in ibid., pp. 24, 117; R. Carande, "Sevilla, fortaleza y mercado," Anuario de historia del derecho español, II (1925), 292.

13. Domínguez Ortiz, Orto y Ocaso, pp. 43-44; Gestoso, I, 60, 395.

14. Gestoso, III, 30; I, 395.

15. Ibid., II, 332, 376.

16. BNM, MS. 3449, folios 184-188. These statistics should be viewed with caution since the guilds probably reported lesser figures so as to reduce their tax. This document has also been published by Domínguez Ortiz, Orto y Ocaso, pp. 103-105. A similar account is in the manuscript "Censo estadístico y tributario de España desde 1550 a 1556," folios 18-19v, in the Escorial Library (Biblioteca de El Escorial). I was able to use the copy made by Señor Ramón Paz through the courtesy of the Instituto Juan Sebastián Elcano in Madrid.

17. Gestoso, III, 171-172, 255-256, 431-432.

18. Ibid., p. 225.

19. Ibid., pp. 50, 163, 283. For information about dowries distributed by charitable organizations, see Morgado, Historia, pp. 377-379.

20. APS, M. Segura (IV), 6 Oct. 1513, Libro IV, fol. Carece "Indias, 2." Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca accompanied Columbus on the second voyage as the fleet's physician. His account of the trip is in M. Fernández de Navarrete, Vida y Obras de Martín Fernández de Navarrete, in Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, LXXV (Madrid, 1954), 183-196.

21. APS, Becerra (IV), 2 March 1536, Fragmento de un libro, fol. Tercer tercio del legajo; ibid., Vallecillo (XV), 18 Oct. 1508, Libro II, fol. Segundo tercio del legajo.

22. Guillén, "Un Padrón de conversos," pp. 89-98.

23. Francisco de Sigüenza, Traslación de la imagen de Nuestra Señora de los Reyes y cuerpos reales a la real capilla de la Santa iglesia de Sevilla, p. 14v, as quoted in Montoto de Sedas, Sevilla, pp. 132-133.

24. Sebastián Fox Morcillo was born in Seville between 1526 and 1528. Around 1548 he studied at Louvain and published commentaries on Plato and Aristotle, in which he endeavored to reconcile their teachings. His numerous works on philosophy and style brought him wide acclaim, and in 1559 he was appointed tutor to Don Carlos, son of Philip II. He did not live to assume his post, however, for he was lost at sea on his way to Spain in 1560. The following discussion is based on R. Pike, "The Converso Origin of Sebastián Fox Morcillo," Hispania, LI (Dec. 1968), 877-882.

25. AMS, Varios Antiguos, carpeta 125, p. 46; Gestoso, II, 261, 430.

26. APS, J. R. Porras (III), 20 March 1515, Libro I, fol. 4360; ibid., Aguilera (VII), 22 Aug. 1520, Libro II, fol. 27 del cuaderno 12; CPI, I, nos. 1162, 4040.

27. Gestoso, I, 261.

28. S. Fox Morcillo, De philosophici studii ratione, as quoted in U. González de la Calle, Sebastián Fox Morcillo (Madrid, 1903), p. 17; Gestoso, II, 261. Regarding Alonso de Medina, see Justino Matute y Gaviria, Hijos de Sevilla señalados en santidad, letras, armas, artes o dignidad (Seville, 1886), I, 125.

29. Gestoso, II, 65; Lea, History of the Inquisition, I, 183.

30. Gestoso, I, 207; II, 127. Luis de Abrego perished in the auto of 1559 as a Lutheran along with his relative Fray Francisco Fox Morcillo (BM, Add. 21.447).

31. BNM, MS, 3449 = K-165, "Sevilla: Varias noticias y documentos," fol. 171; Giménez Fernández, Bartolomé de las Casas, II, 970.

32. Ortiz de Zúñiga, Anales, III, 206.

33. Ibid., pp. 325-326; BNM, MS. 3449 = K-165, "Feria y Pendón Verde en Sevilla," fol. 172.

34. Artisans also played a dominant role in the two seventeenth century revolts of 1623 and 1652; these uprisings also were centered in the Feria district.

35. These groups are discussed in Chapter IV.

36. Morgado, Historia, p. 156.

37. Dominguez Ortiz, La sociedad española, pp. 277-279; J. Beneyto, Historia social de España y de Hispanoamérica (Madrid, 1961), p. 226.

38. A. de Castillo Solórzano, Aventuras del Bachiller Trapaza (Madrid, 1944), p. 33.