A recent two-week trip to Peru yielded more than a few souvenirs for Prof. Yahya Michot. He also brought back a colorful array of photos that illustrate how Muslims were depicted in Peruvian art that drew upon the symbolism and tradition of conquering Spain.
Prof. Michot set the stage by talking about the history of Saint James, or Santiago, as a figure legendary in Spain for killing Moors. Santiago was often pictured in religious art carrying a sword and sitting on a rearing horse with decapitated and trampled Moors beneath him. When Spain conquered the Incas in the 16th century, that iconic image came with them. Muslims, Prof. Michot said, were seen as a danger and a risk to the Catholic Church, just as Protestants were.
“The destruction goes hand in hand with the Inquisition, which goes across the Atlantic,” he said.
Gradually, the images of Moors began to be replaced in Peru and across the Americas with images of poor Indians being trampled and beheaded by Santiago. Such statues, images and paintings are easy to find in Peru, Prof. Michot said, and many are in churches. He talked about this transformation of Saint James the Apostle from Santiago “Matamoros” – “the Killer of Moors” – into Santiago “Mataindios” – “the Killer of Indians.”