Juan II and his lover Álvaro de Luna were the most famous homosexual couple inmedievalChristianSpain. The executionofÁlvaro de Luna, arranged by Juan’s second wife, mother of Isabel la Católica, remained into the seventeenth century an event symbolic of repression of homosexuality. In the “Farsa de Ávila,” Enrique IV was dethroned in ef igy as “puto” (faggot); his incapacityas ruler was seen as a result not ofillness, as todayseems likely, but of moral depravity. Homosexuality was tolerated in the court of Alfonso el Magnánimo after its move to Naples.
Inthe background of the conflict over Iberianhomosexualityare the Jews. Throughout SpanishhistoryJudaismand variant sexualityhave beenassociated bythose hostile to either. One reasonJews were excluded fromsome countries aftertheir expulsionfromSpain was because theyallegedly took homosexuality with them. Judaism and homosexuality are linked in Golden Age literature, as for example inQuevedo’s poetry, and inthe earlytwentiethcenturyhomosexu- als were referred to as “judíos,” and in the aggregate called a “sect.”
The discovery and publication of much poetry thought lost, and the pioneering studies of it by Schirmann and Roth, have given us surprising new perspectives onSephardic sexuality. There are scores ofpederastic poems, by the greatest Jewish authors of the period: Ibn Gabirol, Samuel ha-Nagid, Moses IbnEzra, Judahha-Levi, and others.Fromthis poetry, “refined, sensual, and unabashedly hedonistic,” we know that homosexuality was widespread among the Jewish elite while living in al-Andalus, apparently more prevalent thanamong the Muslims. Zirid Granada, a Jewish state inallbut name, was the center of “a courtly aristocratic culture involving romantic individualism [in which there was] intense exploration of all forms of liberating sexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality.”As withthe Muslims,homosexual- ityand religious devotion were combined; Israel’s love ofGod was sometimes expressed as the love ofa male. The influence of Sephardic homosexuality has yet to be traced, but it is hard not to see it inthe poetry of San Juan de la Cruz.
On Sephardic homosexuality, see Jefim Schirmann, “The Ephebe in Medieval Hebrew Poetry,” Sefarad, 15 (1955), 55-68; Norman Roth, “‘Deal Gently with the Young Man’: Love of Boys in Medieval Hebrew Poetry of Spain,” Speculum, 57 (1982), 20-51; and Roth, “‘My Beloved is Like a Gazelle’: Imagery of the Beloved Boy in Religious Hebrew Poetry,” Hebrew Annual Review, 8 (1984), 143-65. There is no comparable study of Hispano-Arabic homosexuality. A selection of relevant poems may be found in Emilio García Gómez’s Poemas arábigo-andaluces (1930), rpt. in Colección austral, and Ibn Said al-Maghribi, The Banners of the Champions, trans. James Bellamy and Patricia Steiner (Madison: Hispanic SeminaryofMedievalStudies, 1988).