By the time of El Cid, the Lord (1043–1099), the Reconquista, the Reconquest of Iberia from Muslim rule was a big mess, if it was a concept and a goal at all.
Christians were fragmented and by no means a united front. Kings and princes and castles were abundant and frequently fought each other. The Muslim faced an identical situation. They too were fragmented and frequently fought each other.
Over three centuries ago, up north, things had been pretty clear: a small Christian kingdom, united and determined, facing and defeating a united and determined Muslim army.
But no more. By the 11th century, the Moors had retreated and lost half of what they had conquered three centuries before. The small kingdom up north (Asturias) had survived and expanded, but it was no longer a united front. In fact, it was no longer just the Kingdom of Asturias. It was part of a larger kingdom, at war with other kingdoms.
It was not different for their old Moorish enemies, now fighting not just Christians, but new Arab tribes wanting a piece of what they called Al-Andalus, the territory that would one day be called Spain.
It is in this confusing melting pot of blood and war that El Cid would make his mark on History. At times he fought Christians. At times he fought Muslims. At times, he sided with Muslims against atrocious Christian and Muslim rulers. Yet, it is said, he fought for his vision of a united Christian Spain, that would include Muslims, but no longer as rulers.
I would need to learn much, much more, to understand El Cid and his period. I’ll try. But it can not be denied that El Cid had the bravery and the wisdom to face this complex period of History successfully, both as warrior and diplomat.
In the end, only war ended his life, and only war expelled the Muslim and united Spain, in 1492.
Coincidentally, that very same year, someone called Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, carrying the banner of the newly formed Kingdom of Spain.
But it was no coincidence…