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Moore awarded research prize for his book on jailed 17th-century Iberian “mulatto pilgrim”

  • September 15, 2021
John K. Moore Jr., Ph.D., has been awarded the 2021 Prize for Research on the Road to Santiago and Pilgrimages for his 2020 book, which is both a critical study and scholarly translation of the case.

Environmental shot of Dr. John K. Moore, PhD (Associate Professor, Foreign Languages), 2017.John K. Moore Jr., Ph.D.A book by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s John K. Moore Jr., Ph.D., has been awarded the 2021 Prize for Research on the Road to Santiago and Pilgrimages.

The prize, from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, was given in recognition of “Mulatto • Outlaw • Pilgrim • Priest: The Legal Case of José Soller, Accused of Impersonating a Pastor and Other Crimes in Seventeenth-century Spain” (Brill). The book was published in 2020. 

Moore is a professor of Spanish in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. The award is given through a collaboration between the University of Santiago de Compostela and the Tourism Board of the Council of Galicia in Spain. The selection committee gave the highest scores to Moore’s book in the categories of “originality of the work,” “new contributions” and “methodology.” 

As part of the award, Moore is invited to give the opening lecture of the 13th Lecciones Jacobeas international conference at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain on July 19, 2022, when the Prize for Research will be officially presented in a public ceremony. The book award is endowed with a roughly $1,200 cash prize. 

The book tells the story of a man jailed for impersonating a priest in 1693 Spain, when he was likely trying to escape racial persecution. It gives readers a fascinating look at a centuries-old legal case against a man on pilgrimage and shows how Iberians of Black-African ancestry faced discrimination and mistreatment.

It is both a critical study and scholarly translation of the case from the late 17th century, in which the Hapsburg Empire brought charges against Soller, who was on pilgrimage from Lisbon, Portugal, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Moore has long been fascinated by the case, titled “His Majesty’s Representative v. José Soller, Mulatto Pilgrim, for Impersonating a Priest and Other Crimes.” 

moore 3Cover illustration: Clinton Lariscy, "José Soller in the Vineyards," 2019, watercolor on paper, 20×20cm. Private collection belonging to the author. Original artwork commissioned by the author.“It is a particular honor that my book is receiving this award from the University of Santiago de Compostela, where my research for this project began, in the very place where José Soller traveled on pilgrimage,” Moore said.

A news release on the award, translated to English from Galician, says records of the legal case were “housed in the Archive of the Kingdom of Galicia and unpublished until now.”

Galician is one of Spain’s regional languages and an official language, alongside Castilian Spanish, in Galicia, located in northwestern Spain. This is the fourth time the book project has been awarded.

Moore devotes himself to researching and teaching Hispanic literature and pilgrimage studies. Since 2000, he has explored several routes to Santiago with students, colleagues and friends. At the same time, Moore has written various essays on the Camino de Santiago, medieval pilgrimage and Saint James the Greater.