Crime and Society in Early Modern Seville

Mary Elizabeth Perry


City Fathers and Street People

[12] A narrow winding street, the Calle Sierpes, led to the heart of early modern Seville. From the town palace of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, Sierpes wound past the Royal Prison, which received some 18,000 prisoners each year. (1) Not far from the prison, the street ended at the city hall and the major square of the city, the Plaza de San Francisco. Across this plaza and next to the Archbishop's palace stood the Cathedral, the third largest in all Christendom. Here on the steps leading down from the Cathedral merchants gathered to make business deals.

In los Olmos and los Naranjos, two patios immediately next to the Cathedral, a scruffier group of people congregated. Many were beggars, and a few carried secondhand clothing or fruits and vegetables, which they hawked in the streets. Most had a knife or other weapon; some carried marked cards and loaded dice. Few of these people appeared in a parish register in the city, for they were part of the large floating population that formed the underworld of Seville.

Seville was really two cities. It was the city of an oligarchy that included land-owning nobles, wealthy merchants, and leaders of the Church. It was also the city of an underworld that retained an identity separate from the dominant culture of the city. Any study of crime and society in Seville must begin with a discussion of these two groups.


The Reconquest produced a nobility in Seville which owed its strong position to the Crown. As the Crown of Castile led Christian forces southward against Moslem rulers in the thirteenth century, large areas of land in Andalusia suddenly fell into the hands of the Christians. The Crown awarded these areas intact, replacing the former Moslem overlords with a few Christian nobles and the three religious military orders. Here there was no need to establish settlements of small-holders, for the Moslem rulers were unable to resist the advancing armies of the Christians. The rapid capitulation of the Moslem rulers helped to ensure the continuation of a system of latifundia, or vast landholdings, which had persisted in southern Spain since Roman times.

Urban policy of the Crown of Castile during the Reconquest further strengthened the position of nobles loyal to the Crown. When Ferdinand III of Castile (1217-1252) entered Seville in 1248, he found a well-developed city that lacked only Christian overlords to rule in his name. Instead of having to found an outpost and buy its support against the Moslems with guarantees of special local rights, as the Crown had to do earlier in the North, Ferdinand III simply superimposed a Christian hierarchy over Moslem society. Just as Moslem mosques were converted into Christian churches, the urban oligarchy was transformed into a government by Christian nobles. Seville received from the Reconquest a nobility that was urban, loyal to the Crown, and dependent on the Crown for its position of strength.

A city council developed to govern the city. Luís Peraza, who wrote a description of the city's government in the mid-sixteenth century, listed city council members in the order of their importance: the asistente, a Crown-appointed mayor; the alguacil mayor, or chief sheriff; six alcaldes mayores, who were the head judicial officers; thirty-five veinticuatros, similar to senators, originally twenty-four; and fifty-six jurados, two representatives from each parish. (2) With the exception of the asistente, who, [14] as noted above, was a noble sent from another region to Seville, all of these positions were filled by local nobles. Before the reign of Philip II, these offices were granted by the Crown in thanks for special services that the nobles had performed. Offices of veinticuatros were usually granted in perpetuity, but the Crown attached certain conditions to other offices. For example, when the Marquis of Alcalá was appointed alcalde mayor in 1538, he complained because the king refused to allow him to assume the office with sword, a privilege that he had granted his predecessor, the Duke of Medina Sidonia. (3)

The wealthiest nobles of Seville lived off income received from leasing their lands. The Duke of Medina Sidonia controlled vast stretches of land and received annual income that was twice the amount of that of the next leading noble, the Marquis of Tarifa. As a large landholder, the Duke had recognized that the Crown's policies of taxation and land use favored his own interests. The Duke of Medina Sidonia put down the local Comunero revolt in 1520 and was rewarded by the Crown with additional lands. Later the Duke was commander of the king's army in Andalusia.

Lesser nobles made money through commerce. The noble Enriquez family received a substantial income from the production of soap, and the Espinosa family exported wine and oil. These commercial nobles mixed comfortably with the most prestigious merchant families of Seville, and there was intermarriage between the two groups. (4) Both merchants and commercial nobles used profit from trade to build magnificent palaces, courtyards, and gardens. The "incomparable and rich city of Seville" became world famous, noted for the grandeur and wealth of its merchants and nobles. (5)

The City of Seville in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Prepared by Noël Diaz, Staff Cartographer, U.C.L.A.

Merchants, shippers, artisans, and bankers could be city fathers [16] in Seville, although bankers were usually held in low esteem. Some merchants bought noble status with the purchase of an office from the Crown. Others participated in the Consulado, an organization of the merchant families of long standing. Foreign merchants could hold no office, but the Crown granted them the right to have a representative who could protect their interests. They lived in palatial homes and were said to be well educated and wealthy. (6)

For several reasons people were willing to buy offices from the Crown. Some bought them strictly for the noble status that provided tax exemptions and the privilege of carrying arms. Offices were a source of income to other purchasers, such as the sheriffs, who were allowed to keep a percentage of the money or property that they confiscated for debts. Some used the purchase of office to build up their own local positions of power. Juan Gutierrez Tello bought an office from Philip II in the mid-sixteenth century by granting the royal treasury a loan free of interest. By continuing to grant these interest-free loans annually, he received the right to enter the city hall wearing "sword and dagger." (7) The Tello family genealogy emphasized the family's long tradition of holding city offices, but family members were probably as concerned with power positions as with community service.

The least wealthy nobles of Seville guarded their privileges very carefully, particularly tax exemptions. When they needed cash, they mortgaged any land they held and sold off family possessions. An impoverished noble in Quevedo's novel, El Buscón, lamented: "The only thing I've got left to sell is my 'don' [a title of respectability], but my luck's so bad I can't find anyone to buy it." (8) There is reason to believe that some of these nobles were among the mutineers in the Comunero revolt in Seville in 1520. A contemporary reported that the Comunero rebels of [17] Seville were city residents who most resented the rising fortunes of local Conversos. (9)

Noble families with dwindling estates often purchased clerical positions for younger sons. In sixteenth-century Seville there were two hundred chapels with positions for fifty-seven chaplains, as well as 3500 chapels and 611 simple benefices within the diocese of the Archbishopric. (10) These positions usually guaranteed an annual income.

A few churchmen received very large incomes from their clerical offices. A canon in the Cathedral of Seville received an annual income of 300 ducats in the beginning of the sixteenth century; by the end of the century this had grown to 2000 ducats. (Appendix I gives the comparative value of Spanish coins in this period.) At the beginning of the sixteenth century the Archbishop of Seville had an annual income of 24,000 ducats, which had grown to 80,000 by the end of the century. (11) The Archbishop's income gave him the appearance of considerable power, even though the money was always at the disposition of the needy.

Although churchmen rarely held secular offices in Seville, they can be considered city fathers. The Archbishop was a principal symbol of authority, and secular parish priests were often influential leaders in their neighborhoods. Monks who were preachers helped to form public opinion. The Monastery of San Pablo in the mid-sixteenth century was an order of preachers and contained eighty monks who were described as "very learned." (12) The Jesuits, who came to Seville in the early 1550's, founded a house and a school with the help of a rich relative of one of the members. They were tireless missionaries within the city, preaching on the streets and in the brothels, visiting prisoners, educating young boys, and training actors to dramatize religious stories. (13)

[18] These civic leaders did not always agree with one another, and the rivalry between the noble families of Guzmán and Ponce flared openly in the Comunero revolt of 1520. Juan de Figueroa of the Ponce family led the mutiny in Seville. For a time he and his followers held the Alcázar, a Moorish palace that had become a stronghold in the city. The Duke of Medina Sidonia, a member of the Guzmán family, quickly rallied his own men, however, and those of other local nobles who were eager to prove their loyalty to the new king, Charles I. The Duke of Arcos sided with the loyalists, even though he was the brother of Juan de Figueroa and a long-time rival of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. The rebels were routed, and both the Duke of Medina Sidonia and the Duke of Arcos rode out to welcome Charles I and assure him of the city's loyalty when he visited the city some months later.

Other rivalries split the city oligarchy. Nobles with waning fortunes especially resented the growing wealth of merchants and bankers. Jesuits and Dominicans clashed over the proper preparation for death of a condemned man in the city's Royal Prison. Priests accused one another of heresies. Churchmen who were officers of the Inquisition in Seville challenged the jurisdiction of some secular officers. Justices of the audiencia, a court of Crown-appointed magistrates from outside Seville, feuded with the local nobles who were members of the city council.

Despite their many differences, city fathers considered themselves collectively as the governors of Seville. They agreed upon the traditional bases for this government: the fueros (rights) granted by the Crown of Castile in the thirteenth century, the code of law compiled under Alfonso X (1252-1284), the royal ordinances of successive Crowns of Castile, pronouncements of the Church, and regulations adopted by the city council. They agreed upon the traditional mechanisms for making policy through the Crown, Church, and city government. To preserve this system, they would look for some common ground when they disagreed; often this common ground was an alliance against an enemy, such as the vagabonds and people of "low life" in the city.


Contemporaries commonly associated la gente de mal vivir, or underworld people, with particular occupations. Though frequently traveling actors, minstrels, puppeteers, palm-readers, and beggars, they were also slaughterhouse workers, soldiers, and sailors. City residents looked upon boatmen as potential criminals, for they knew that many underworld people were galley slaves and smugglers, using ships on the Guadalquivir River to enter and leave the city illegally. (14) Although these occupations were closely associated with the underworld, not all of those who followed them joined the criminal subculture. Prostitution, for example, was a common occupation in the underworld, but the well-dressed courtesan kept in luxury by a wealthy man belonged to another social group.

The underworld should not be confused with the poor of the city, for many poor citizens kept a marginal place in respectable society. Furthermore, to group the underworld in one class is to ignore the variety of its members. In Seville the underworld included defrocked churchmen, impoverished nobles, discharged soldiers, and hustling retailers, as well as beggars and unemployed day-laborers. Moreover, underworld people who got some [20] money did not automatically use it to buy respectability. Innkeepers used theirs to buy stolen goods, and gamblers threw down large sums of money on the gaming tables. Many people in the underworld were very poor, but poverty is not a defining characteristic.

Another approach is to categorize inhabitants of the underworld as outlaws, not only because they engaged in criminal behavior, but also because they often were born, mated, procreated, and sometimes even died unrecognized and unregistered by the law. (15) One problem with this definition is that it fails to distinguish the underworld from gypsies, slaves, and Moriscos, who were also outlaws in early modern Seville but not necessarily part of the underworld. Gypsies lived in Triana, the suburb across the river from Seville, but there are no reports that they mingled with underworld people there. They were under special royal prohibitions, and they seemed to maintain their own distinctive culture, which further separated them from other people in the city.

Slaves, on the other hand, figured in several complaints about crime and the underworld. According to a sixteenth-century ecclesiastical census, slaves numbered 6327, in a total city population of 85,538. (16) A 1569 city ordinance prohibited any innkeeper from giving food and drink to slaves because so many got into trouble in the inns and began committing crimes. (17) Many slaves lived apart from their masters, and they usually lived in the parish of San Bernardo or Triana, neighborhoods also frequented by underworld people. Masters of incorrigible slaves frequently sent them to a workshop that produced items made from esparto grass. This workshop gained a reputation for being tough and was the scene of a murder committed by a mulatto in 1615. (18)

[21] Slaves were both white and black. One contemporary reported, "There is an infinite number of Negroes from all parts of Ethiopia and Guinea," brought to Seville from Portugal. (19) However, many slaves were white Moors or Moriscos, usually captured during war with the Turks. Most of them worked to earn money that could buy their freedom. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, a male slave was worth 100 ducats, a female slave, 50 ducats. Some masters granted freedom to their slaves, and these people either tried to return to their homelands or stayed in their own settlements within Seville. (20)

Free Moriscos in Seville often worked as carters, muleteers, and street vendors. After a Morisco uprising in the Sierra Bermeja near Granada in 1568, Philip II ordered their dispersal throughout Castile. More than 4000 were sent to Seville, where nervous city fathers imposed severe restrictions on them. Forbidden to live together or gather in city inns, they nonetheless formed little neighborhoods, particularly in San Marcos, a parish famous as the center of smugglers and fences. (21) Always suspected of being more loyal to the Turks than to the Christian masters who had forcibly baptized them, Moriscos were formally expelled from Spain in 1609. The royal decree of expulsion not only accused them of endangering the state, but also asserted that they had committed many murders and robberies against "old Christians." (22) Moriscos were often prosecuted for crimes in Seville, but this may reflect religious persecution as much as a genuine participation in a city underworld.

Too vague to distinguish underworld people, the term "outlaw" as a definition has other limitations. It implies that all other inhabitants of the city behaved legally, but studies have shown that illegal behavior was common in all parts of society in early [22] modern Spain. (23) Furthermore, restricting the underworld to criminals presents a distorted picture, for information about criminals is usually obtained from judicial documents concerned only with the failures who had been caught. (24)

A better approach is to define the underworld as a subculture within the city. It grew up in a context of rapid urban development. It was spawned in congestion, commercial activity, and anonymity. As an alternative culture that spilled over from city to city, the underworld offered one solution to the social dislocations of rapid urbanization. Seville's population grew very rapidly in the sixteenth century. Figure 3 presents two estimates of population growth. The figures of Domínguez Ortiz are higher than those of Carande Thobar because Domínguez Ortiz includes an estimate of a floating population that represents the underworld and other people not appearing in official registers.

A parish census of 1588 indicates that population density grew unevenly among the parishes (see Appendix II). Even though these statistics may not include the underworld, they suggest that this subculture developed in a city in which population growth outstripped most housing and social services. Most reports on underworld activity come from the parishes of San Marcos, San Gil, and San Bernardo, as well as the Cathedral, the port, and Triana.

Two estimates of population growth in sixteenth-century Seville.
According to Ramón Carande, Carlos V y sus banqueros; La vida económica en Castilla 1516-1556, Madrid, 1943; and Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, The Golden Age of Spain, 1516-1659, London, 1971.

As an urban subculture, the underworld can be distinguished from banditry, which was a rural activity. Banditry has been characterized as a conservative reaction against the attempts of authorities to displace with a new order the traditional and popularly accepted concept of justice. (25) The social bandit makes a [24] gesture of defiance against the rich and is helped by the sympathetic or fearful poor of the countryside to escape the authorities. In the city, underworld people also defied the authorities, but their gestures of defiance were most commonly a deliberate violation of a commercial regulation. Francisco de Ariño, who wrote a chronicle of Seville in the late sixteenth century, described how one wily woman resold meat after she had colored it on the outside. The city's asistente had her arrested, sentenced her to 200 lashes, and drove her through the streets. "Her shrieks were terrific, and all the distributors of cargo remained wary, and their friends returned to advise them to watch out because they would not be able to help them." (26)

Police could be more effective in the city than in the countryside, as this anecdote shows, Even though fugitives could disappear into crowds and the mazes of narrow streets, the confines of the city helped to concentrate police power. Moreover, police had the support of city residents who objected less to the onerous retail regulations than to being cheated by meat retailers or having to compete with them. The anecdote told by Ariño suggests that underworld people would find help not so much in an appeal to the people against the authorities as in their own underground network of warnings.

The underworld was also distinguished by antisocial livelihoods. Opportunities for making a living in Seville were restricted because the city's guilds limited the numbers of people who could become skilled laborers or artisans. They also denied membership to Jews, Moriscos, and slaves. The merchant guilds were more powerful than all other guilds of the city, and trade rather than industry dominated the local economy. To the man with no money and no training, commerce offered few jobs; he could be a sailor, teamster, hawker, messenger, or domestic servant - jobs which could easily be combined with criminal activity.

Some rather large industries employed thousands of people in the city, but there is little evidence that underworld people worked in the city's workshops and factories producing soap, [25] pottery, silk, and gunpowder. Long working hours in a factory may have used up the time and energy that could otherwise be spent in endeavor outside the law. Perhaps there was a more basic incompatibility in outlook between the man who would work in a pottery factory and the man who loved to gamble. An underworld conservatism seemed willing to exploit the traditional forms of commercial trickery, but unwilling to adapt to industrial production. Performing routine, monotonous tasks in a confined factory might provide a salary, but it would also reduce to a passive machine the man who delighted in living by his wits, outsmarting others in a good deal, and risking huge stakes.

People of the underworld favored three classes of activity that could be combined with crime. First, they employed a variety of retail ruses. Some specialized in quickly reselling stolen property, and others bought products like vinegar, oil, wine, sugar, honey, and wax which they adulterated and resold. One clever retailer sold to a noble a piece of a ewe which he disguised as a quarter of beef by sewing testicles on it. Unfortunately for the retailer, the noble's cook had sharper eyes than his master; the rascal was caught, whipped, and banished from the city. (27)

A second major underworld livelihood was begging. Many masqueraded as cripples or religious hermits, and it was difficult for city residents to distinguish them from the monks who begged alms for genuinely charitable purposes, such as support for the poor in prison. The city council finally decided in 1597 that they would have to examine and license each person who wanted to beg in Seville. They warned able-bodied beggars to get a job or leave town, and they threatened a whipping to anyone caught begging without a license. (28)

[26] The many forms of entertainment were a third major livelihood of the underworld. Gambling was a favored occupation, and prostitution brought money to both men and women. Many underworld people performed as singers, dancers and actors, professions that were commonly associated with theft and loose women. City residents delighted in street satires, even while suspecting actors of immoral and criminal behavior. They sought out underworld people who could read palms, tell fortunes, and sell potions and poisons.

Although the underworld can be considered antisocial, it had a distinct sense of justice and honor that is evident in romances germanescas, the folk poetry that had been transmitted orally in Spain by street people and vagabonds. One poem describes a young student, Pantoja, "very brave and inspired." (29) Dying from a wound, he beckoned his friends to come close so he could tell them his life story. He had left his "noble parents in their respected estate" when he was only seventeen years old. Once after wounding a sheriff and a scribe in a knife fight and fighting with another man over a "woman of style," he quickly enlisted in the army. "Many wanted me, that is certain." He left the army in another scuffle and survived five wounds, finally arriving in Seville, "the abridged map for good and evil." There he kept company with the most prestigious nobles until he killed a man in a fight over another "woman of style." Thrown into prison after informers had betrayed him to a city magistrate, Pantoja found the prisoners divided between friends of the man he had killed and people willing to side with him. He wrote to the Duke of Arcos from prison, and finally got his freedom "through the love of the Duchess." Pantoja promptly left prison and found one of the informers who had betrayed him. "I killed him eating supper in his house." Fleeing to Portugal, he was caught up in another rivalry. "We both took out our knives; mine found its mark first, and his after he had fallen. He fell dead in the sand and I fell into a boat."

Pantoja's highest values were survival and personal honor. He used violence and flight to survive, and he defended his honor [27] with bravado and vengeance. He regarded women as objects to fight over or use for his own purposes. Other men were rivals, traitors, or people he could use. Pantoja's world was full of conflict, and he had no vision of a better world nor hope to improve this one. His fatalism is evident throughout the poem, for he knows that his end has come, that he is dying. He tells of seeking asylum in "the Church that has never failed me," but his listeners know that neither God nor Church can work a miracle now.

It is true that a similar attitude pervaded other groups in the city. It is also true that there were some loners in the underworld who shared no sense of honor with anyone. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify the underworld with a fatalistic world view, a code of ethics based on personal honor and survival, a concept of justice in which the weak are exploited by the strong and the crafty.

Although survival and honor suggest individualism, the underworld was not simply a collection of individuals; it was also a social organization with prescribed roles, an established hierarchy, and some social control over its members. One contemporary described it as a "religious fraternity." (30) Cervantes discussed underworld organization in his story of two boys, "Rinconete and Cortadillo." (31) These two young ruffians had drifted into Seville. Assuming that "stealing was a free trade," they quickly found that they had entered a very tightly controlled guild led by the fatherly Mr. Monipodio. This organization offered the boys some advantages in protection from the law and tips on good opportunities within the city. In return, the boys were expected to share their "earnings" with the organization and to report their activities to Monipodio. Citizens who had an old score to settle with an enemy contacted Monipodio to carry out a beating or vandalize a house. He kept a notebook listing each job, the person who got the assignment, and the payment received for it.

Monipodio granted the boys full membership in the organization [28] without the customary year of probation. This was a considerable privilege, since it meant that they would not have to pay half the proceeds of their first theft, nor do menial jobs all that year. They could drink wine without water in it and have a party whenever they wished without asking permission. Best of all, they could have a share right away in the winnings of the senior members of the brotherhood.

As he received the two boys into his organization, Monipodio gave them new names; Rincón became Rinconete, and Cortado became Cortadillo. He specified their occupations: "Rinconete, card sharper; Cortadilo, pickpocket." He also assigned definite territories to the new members, for "it's only right and proper that no one should encroach on someone else's territory." The two boys "kissed his hand for the kindnesses done to them, and promised him to carry out their duty faithfully and well, with all diligence and caution." In turn, Monipodio embraced them and gave them his blessing. The boys were reminded to return on Sunday when Monipodio would give them "an important lecture on matters concerning their craft."

Monipodio's organization is fictional, and Cervantes' motives in writing this story must be examined. Undoubtedly he wanted to delight his public as well as to describe in loving irony a society that he had known on the streets and in the Royal Prison of Seville. The many details he included and the evidence of criminal organization he amassed suggests that he was consciously trying to make a point about it. His story satirized a society in which each person had his role and his territory secure so long as he did not question the people above him who took a share of his earnings.

Other contemporary accounts corroborate the existence of underworld organization. Luis Zapata wrote in the late sixteenth century of a society of thieves in Seville. Its chief was called the "prior," a term often given to the head of a monastery, and other officers were "consuls," ordinarily titles for government representatives. Members of this society deposited their loot in a chest that was locked with three keys. There is also evidence that some prostitutes were organized in houses under the direction of bogus "abbesses." Another account reports that "hot" fugitives [29] often accepted the role of servant to other underworld characters in return for some protection. (32) Organization must have been essential to the survival of an underworld character in a city swarming with other underworld people who were also trying to evade city regulations and city police.

The underworld not only worked together; it played together in distinctive forms of amusement that are another defining characteristic. Underworld people shared with other social groups in the city some amusements, such as gambling and street plays. Working class people undoubtedly enjoyed the Sunday gang fights at the gates of the city walls as much as the underworld. A Jesuit who worked among the poor people of the city from 1578 until 1616 described the people sitting on the city walls, lustily cheering their favorite gangs. (33) Bullfights in this period were still monopolized by the nobility, but underworld people joined other commoners in the city as eager spectators.

Underworld people might also enjoy drama in a theater. They could gather as noisy groups on nearby rooftops to watch the plays in the city's roofless theater, or they could sneak or strong-arm their way into the theater. Seville was notorious for the numbers of people who entered the theater without paying, sometimes provoking brawls and stabbings at the entrance. (34)

More exclusively an underworld amusement were the games that prisoners played among themselves in the Royal Prison. Pedro de Leon observed some of these when he was chaplain in the Royal Prison. He described a few, such as la culebra (the snake), in which prisoners walked about with a whip after lights were out and snapped it here and there among the other prisoners as a snake. In la mariposa (the butterfly), prisoners placed a thin stick between the fingers or toes of a sleeping prisoner, [30] lighted it, and then let it burn down to waken the sleeping man. (35) Humor was cruel in underworld games, and laughter was usually cynical.

The prisoners' names for their games suggest another defining characteristic of the underworld: a distinctive vocabulary. In Cervantes' story, Rinconete and Cortadillo quickly learned the argot as they were initiated into the underworld. The basket boy who took them to Monipodio explained some of his terms: "a cuatrero [one who does something with a cuatro, a slang word for horse] is a horse-thief; ansia [anxiety] is a torture; roznos [small donkeys] are asses, speaking with respect; primer disconcierto [first discomfort] is the first twist of the rope." (36)

The nineteenth-century Spanish criminologist Rafael Salillas studied underworld vocabulary as an index to the physiognomy, psychology, and sociology of the underworld. (37) Using the vocabularies of picaresque literature and romances germanescas, Salillas speculated on the origins of specific words. He found 108 names that distinguished various kinds of thieves, and he listed a whole series of thieves' auxiliaries who had definite titles denoting prescribed roles. For example, the levedor (one who raises or weighs anchor) carried the loot stolen by the thief; the polidor (one with many qualities or interests) sold stolen goods; and the garitero (gambler, master of gambling den) provided shelter for thieves. (38) These titles suggest not only a vocabulary characteristic of the underworld, but also a well-defined organization based on a division of labor.

Underworld jargon assumed many forms in the different cities of Spain. One form juxtaposed letters of the alphabet, altering the initial consonants of syllables or changing the places of these letters to make them read from right to left. Other forms postponed letters or placed them before words in order to make them difficult to understand. A common form in seventeenth-century Spain simply "frenchified" words by dropping [31] the last syllable of each word and speaking very rapidly. (39) Underworld people often combined the specific words of their vocabulary into characteristic metaphors. The rascal Guzmán de Alfarache of Alemán's novel described the Royal Prison of Seville in the following terms:

a fire that consumes everything, converting it into its own substance
a windmill
child's play
a miller or grindstone
a toy
a nursery that sometimes deals with murderers and highwaymen
a paradise of fools
a tardy repentance
a short inferno, long death
a port of sighs
a valley of tears
a house of crazy people in which each one cries and is concerned only with his own madness. (40)

Guzmán's metaphors imply violence (fire, grindstone), rural associations (as the windmill, miller), childhood concerns (child's play, toy, nursery), religion (paradise, repentance, inferno), and unhappiness (sighs, tears, madness). These metaphors were written by a picaresque novelist, and they may be more colorful than ordinary underworld speech. Nevertheless, their implications of violence, religion, and unhappiness echo the metaphors that Pantoja used to tell the story of his life.

Underworld language reveals a cynical humor in its word substitutions. In addition to Guzmán's metaphors, underworld people referred to the prison as madrastra, or stepmother. Pimps were called padres; procuresses were madres. One word, coto, referred to both a cemetery and a hospital. Corredor referred either to the person in charge of coordinating a theft or to a minor officer of justice. Salillas suggests that these officers may have been so described because they worked together to prosecute [32] prisoners, but underworld people may have seen a closer parallel between their own coordinators of theft and lesser city officials. (41)

The underworld was a fluid subculture. Although these people could be distinguished from the dominant culture of the city by vocabulary, social attitude, economic activities, social organization, ideology, and amusements, their world was not an isolated enclave. People were constantly moving from one place to another as drifters, emigrants, and soldiers. They also moved in and out of respectable society. In commerce, military life, religion, popular entertainments, the judicial system, and charity, the under-world and the city's dominant culture met and mingled. The margin between criminality and respectability continually shifted. Rather than a distinct line, there was a marginal area that included activities like street-hawking, military service, begging, and prostitution. The underworld was a parallel culture running through all classes, actively participating in the life of the city.

Notes for Chapter 1

1. Alonso Morgado, Historia de Sevilla (Sevilla, 1587), p. 194.

2. Luís Peraza, Justicia de Sevilla; Historia de esta ciudad (n.p., n.d., Ca. 1560), p. 1167.

3. Guichot y Parody, 2:34-36.

4. The soap industry is discussed in Antonio Domíguez Ortiz, Orto y ocaso de Sevilla; Estudio sobre la prosperidad y decadencia de la ciudad durante los siglos XVI y XVII (Sevilla, 1946), p. 19; and Morgado, p. 157. Domíguez Ortiz discussed the nobility and commerce in Orto, pp. 49-53. Intermarriage is discussed by Thomás de Mercado, Summa de tratos y contratos (Sevilla, 1571), Book II, p. 17.

5. Pedro de Texera, "Discripción de las costas y puertas de España," ca. 1619, BM, Add. 28497.

6. Peraza, pp. 1173-74. Bankers are discussed in Domínguez Ortiz, Orto, p. 38.

7. Luis Fernandaz Melgarejo, Discurso genealógico de la nobilissima y antigua casa de los Tellos de Sevila, 1660, BC, 84-3-42.

8. Francisco de Quevedo Villegas, Quevedo; The Choice Humorous and Satirical Works, trans. Sir Roger L'Estrange and others (London, n.d.), p. 149.

9. Anonymous, Discurso de las Comunidad de Sevilla año 1520 q'escrivió un clérigo apassionado de la casa de Niebla (Sevilla, 1881).

10. Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, La Sociedad española en el siglo XVII, Vol. 2, El Estamento eclesiástico (Madrid, 1970), pp. 60-61.

11. Domínguez Ortiz, Orto, pp. 54-55.

12. Peraza, p. 40.

13. Ortiz de Zuniga, p. 512.

14. For general references to occupations and the underworld, see Antonio Ballesteros, Sevilla en el Siglo XIII (Madrid, 1913), pp. 191-193; Domínquez Ortiz, Orto, pp. 69-71. Specific references to slaughterhouse workers are in Juan de M. Carriazo, "Negros, esclavos y extranjeros en el barrio sevillano de San Bernardo (1617-1629)," Archivo Hispalense, Series 2, 20 (1954), 124; and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, "The Dogs' Colloquy," Exemplary Stories, trans. C. A. Jones (Middlesex, 1972), pp. 197-198. An example of city complaints about visiting soldiers is in Guichot y Parody, 2:117. A Captain's complaints about the treatment of his soldiers by city ruffians is in AMS, Siglo XVII, Sección 4, Escribanías de Cabildo, Tomo 16, No. 20. Galley slaves and crime are discussed in I. A. A. Thompson, "A Map of Crime in Sixteenth-Century Spain," Economic History Review, Series 2, 21 (1968), 244-267. The tough reputation of boatmen is reported in Tomás de la Torre, "Traveling in 1544 from Salamanca, Spain, to Ciudad Real, Chiapas, Mexico; The Travels and Trials of Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas and His Dominican Fathers," ed. and trans. Frans Blom in Sewanee Review, 81 (1972), 461.

15. Louis Chevalier, Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes in Paris during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, trans. Frank Jellinek (New York, 1973), p. 310.

16. Ruth Pike, "Sevillian Society in the Sixteenth Century: Slaves and Freedmen," Hispanic American Historical Review, 47 (1967), 345.

17. Manuel Chaves, Cosas nuevas y viejas (Apuntes sevillanos) (Sevilla, 1904), pp. 37-38. For a broader discussion of slaves, see Pike, esp. p. 344.

18. Pedro de Leon, Compendio de algunas experiencias en los ministerios de que vsa la Compade IESVS con q practicamente se muestra con algunos acaecimientos y documentos el buen acierto en ellos (Granada, 1619), Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada, Appendix I to Part II, Case 294.

19. Peraza, p. 1175.

20. Domínguez Ortiz, Orto, p. 64.

21. For excellent discussions of Moriscos in Seville, see Domínguez Ortiz, Orto, pp. 57-58; Carriazo, p. 127; Celestino Lopez Martinez, Mudéjares y moriscos sevillanos (Sevilla, 1935), pp. 53-54, 58-59; and Ruth Pike, Aristocrats and Traders; Sevillian Society in the Sixteenth Century (Ithaca and London, 1972), pp. 154-155.

22. AMS, Siglo XVII, Sección 4, Escribanias de Cabildo, Tomo 23, No. 35.

23. For example, see José Deleito y Piñuela, La mala vida en le España de Felipe IV (Madrid, 1959), pp. 50-54; and Carlos Caro Petit, "La Cárcel Real de Sevilla," Archivo Hispalense, Series 2, 12 (1949), 41.

24. Porphyre Petrovitch (a pseudonymn for a group of historians), "Recherches sur la criminalité a Paris dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle," in A. Abbiateci and others, Crimes et criminalité en France sous l'Ancien Régime 17e-18e siècles (Paris, 1971), p. 261, discusses this problem.

25. E. J. Hobsbawm, Social Bandits and Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Glencoe, Ill., 1959); José Antonio Gomez Marín, Bandolerismo, santidad, y otras temas españoles (Madrid, 1972), pp. 10, 25-26.

26. Francisco de Aniño, Sucesos de Sevilla de 1592 á 1604 recojidos de Francisco de Ariño, vecino de la ciudad en el barrio de Triana (Sevilla, 1873), p. 57.

27. Secondhand clothing dealers are discussed in Ruth Pike, Enterprise and Adventure: The Genoese in Seville and the Opening of the New World (Ithaca, 1966), p. 23. Guichot y Parody, II, p. 156, suggests that innkeepers tried to corner the market on game and fish. The ewe-selling meat-retailer is described in Aniño, pp. 50-51.

28. Ariño, p. 47. A description of masquerades used by false beggars in Lyon is discussed by Natalie Zemon Davis, "Poor Relief, Humanism, and Heresy: The Case of Lyon," chapter 2 in Society and Culture in Early Modem France: Eight Essays (Stanford, 1975), also Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 45 (1968), 226-227. See below, pp. 163-189, for more discussion of beggars and vagabonds.

29. This poem is reprinted in John Hill, Poesías Germanescas (Bloomington, 1945), pp. 207-209.

30. Vicente Espinel, quoted in Francisco Rodriguez Marín, critical edition of Rinconete y Cortadillo by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Madrid, 1920), p. 73.

31. Cervantes, "Rinconete and Cortadillo," Exemplary Stories.

32. Luís Zapata is quoted in Deleito y Piñeula, Mala vida, p. 197. Guichot y Parody, 1:375-377, discusses houses of prostitution. Underworld servants are discussed in Quevedo, p. 135, and note in appendix on p. 402.

33. Antonio Domíngues Ortiz, "Vida y obras del Padre de León," Archivo Hispalense, Series 2, 26-27 (1957), 165-166. For a theory that gang wars in nineteenth-century Paris were descendants of journeymen's violence in the countryside, see Chevalier, pp. 420-433.

34. Hugo Albert Rennert, The Spanish Stage in the Time of Lope de Vega (New York, 1963), pp. 51, 124-126, 281.

35. Pedro de León, Part II.

36. Cervantes, "Rinconete," pp. 95-96.

37. Rafael Salilas, El delincuente español; El lenguaje (estudio, filológico y sociológico) con dos vocabularios jergales (Madrid, 1896).

38. Ibid., pp. 103, 126-127.

39. Rodriguez Marín, Miscelanéa, pp. 78-80.

40. Mateo Alemán, Guzmán de Alfarache (Strasburgo, 1699), Part III, p. 394.

41. Salillas, pp. 126-127, 172, 174.