The Garrucha

A reader writes:

I’m an art historian specializing in 17th-century Spain, and I’m familiar with the Inquisition as part of the cultural background relevant to my field.

The use of torture by the Spanish Stress Inquisition was regulated in their statutes, which limited how and when it could be used. Three torture methods were used, called ‘potro’, ‘toca’ and ‘garrucha’. The first was the rack. The second was waterboarding, exactly as shown in the painting from the Khmer Rouge museum. The name ‘toca’ means ‘veil’ (as in a nun’s headscarf) and clearly refers to the cloth that was used to cover the victim’s face to pour water on it. Descriptions of ‘toca’ as consisting of forcing the prisoner to swallow water are inaccurate.

Finally, ‘garrucha’ was exactly the same as the ‘stress position’ involving tying the prisoner’s hands behind the back and lifting them with a pulley – there’s a drawing of it by Goya in the Hispanic Society, New York, which you can see here.

The fuss as to whether this or that torture is being carried out as it was by the Inquisition is pointless, in my opinion, but from a strictly historical point of view I’d say the reenactment is pretty accurate as far as waterboarding and ‘stress position’ are concerned.