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Castrillo Matajudíos: Spanish village votes to change name from 'Camp Kill Jews'

This tiny village in northern Spain will drop "Kill Jews" from the town's name.
This tiny village in northern Spain will drop "Kill Jews" from the town's name.

A small village in Spain with a population of only 56 people is gaining worldwide attention. Results were finalized on Monday, as the residents of Castrillo Matajudíos voted in favor to change the name of the town. Why change the town’s name when it has stood as is since 1623? Because Castrillo Matajudíos directly translates to “Camp Kill Jews.”

Of the 48 voters, there were 19 votes against the name change, but 29 votes were in favor to change it from Castrillo Matajudíos; the rest of the town either did not vote or submitted blank slips. Castrillo Matajudíos resides 160 miles north of Madrid in the province of Burgos. The town’s name will be changed to its original name, Castrillo Mota de Judíos; which is a much more mild translation that means “Camp Hill of the Jews.”

The origin of Castrillo Matajudíos’ name may have been lost in translation over its nearly 1,000-year existence. The Star of David is located within the city seal, therefore the link of Jewish people to this small village is undeniable. The town was named Castrillo Mota de Judíos until 1623. After the Reconquista, the Christian military campaign that took nearly 800-years to expel Muslims from the European mainland; and Spain’s kings didn’t leave much room for tolerance for those who were not Catholic. Jews and Muslims were given the ultimatum of forcibly converting to Catholicism or leave Spain. It’s possible that the convert residents of Castrillo Mota de Judíos changed the name to Matajudíos to portray their loyalty to King Philip IV.

Spain has a rich history of prejudice; a town named Castrillo Matajudíos shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The Conquistadors weren’t open-minded by any means, yet they are still celebrated as heroes. After all, Spain was sympathetic to the Nazis during WWII although they maintained neutrality. And have you ever tried to argue bullfighting to a Spaniard? No matter how articulate it’s put, you will fail to convince them that it is a remotely cruel act.

The mayor of Castrillo Matajudíos, Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez, is quite pleased with the results of the vote. Before the vote took place, he had made clear that he would have resigned if the measure had lost. Changing the town’s name to Castrillo Mota de Judíos is expected to take up to a year to enact.

The next Spanish town that could be due for a name change is Valle de Matamoros, which translates to “Valley for killing the Moors.”

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