THE LIFE OF THE CRYPTO JEW
For those that may not know what is meant by “the Crypto-Jew”, I will begin with a brief definition: Crypto-Judaism is the secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith; these are referred to as "crypto-Jews". ...
Those from the Americas are descendants of the Sephardi Jews of the Iberian Peninsula. Our ancestors fled Spain and Portugal and traveled west to the Americas.
At the time of the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion from Spain in 1492, Jews were offered one or the other; conversion or expulsion. Of course there was a split between them as some chose to leave Spain (quite a few found safety in the Muslim Ottoman Empire), but others stayed behind. Thousands of Crypto-Jews on the Iberian Peninsula converted to Catholicism, but secretly held to their ancestral Jewish faith and customs while those that left found they themselves later facing some of the same challenges.
FORCED TO HIDE
To be exiled is to be separated from ones familiar everyday life and surroundings. It is waking up one morning and feeling the breeze of a homesick life in a foreign place. If you are on vacation or on an occupational venture you know you are returning home but, to be forced from your home knowing you may never return is quite different. Notwithstanding is the idea that in this case, we are referring to being exiled from home and from identity so that no matter where you find yourself, after generations, you will have questions and feelings deep in your heart.
Many of these Crypto Jews immigrated to the New World, we call today the Americas, or the Western Hemisphere. A large percentage ended up in Latin American Countries. When the Inquisition came to Peru in 1570, to Mexico in 1571, and to Cartegena in 1610, these same people were forced again to choose to convert or to be tortured and die. In Mexico alone there was an increase in numbers especially in the central valley, Puebla, Nuevo León, and the far Northwest. In the sixteenth century, members of the famous Carvajal family of Nuevo León were tried for relapsing into Judaism; and several of them, including some women, were burned at the stake. This communicated a message to all practicing Jews. Practicing Judaism could cost them their life and the lives of their loved ones.
The only way to protect ones family was to hide even the idea of being Jewish. The best way to achieve this was to hold back this information from new generations bringing them up in Catholic homes and allowing them to be taught as if they were Catholic. Of course this repeated itself over generations and still does today. Over years this bred a people with a hidden Jewish bloodline, some suspicious names, Jewish paraphernalia found in storage maybe even a few intriguing family photos, relatives that hold on to tradition and mix it with other traditions, a unique Spanish (Ladino) with what we call “Dichos’ (sayings) that we find very Jewish and last but not least, a cry from your Soul that may lead to interviewing relatives, building family trees, DNA testing and searching until you find what you know is home for you.
Unfortunately there will always be the ignorance of profiling and stereotyping physical appearances. However this ignorance does not change who you are. Some Latinos you may have heard about have acknowledged their Spanish Jewish ancestry. Today you can walk down the street in Mexico and pass by many people who are Jewish and have no knowledge of it or in some cases may know and not want to touch it. They may be tall or short, with darker or lighter complexion. You may be shopping downtown Los Angeles in the garment district or in a mall in San Fernando Valley and be next to a person that has been labeled with one identity and has yet another. When traveling abroad you do not generally find the same kind of profiling. There is room for a much broader lens for ones identity than the lens in America. As Americans we tend to place people in a box that seems impossible to get out of. The bottom line is this, “follow your heart” because,
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
Today there are thousands upon thousands of Crypto Jews in our own backyard who are experiencing a stir within their Soul. They remember something, sense something, or just know something is hidden inside of them that have not been discovered. There are many coming to the forefront and should be welcomed by the Latino Community and the Jewish Community alike. Because when it is all said and done, “Home is where the Heart is” (" no ay mal de que por bien no venga." )
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