Diego y Gonzalo de Morales and the Mexican Inquisition

Gonzalo had arrived in the Indies 1520s. Gonzalo eventually owned  a store in Mexico City. He was initially arrested by Fray Vicente de Santa Maria in his capacity as Inquisitor in the summer of 1528. The initial charge was fornication, but the Bishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Alonso Manso sent word regarding a sister of Morales that had been burned at the stake under his authority. Gonzalo, according to his sister’s testimony had violated a crucifix. A witness against Hernan Alonso also claimed that Gonzalo had violated another crucifix.

Uchmany points that the desecration of religious symbols was often carried out by individuals who were believers in them. Crypto-Jews were often accused of these practices as were black slaves. Occasionally, some natives were also accused of this practice.

Diego was arrested on various charges. He was accused of denying the holy chrism, Jesus, the Virgen Mary, the saints and the apostles. He was also charged with drawing an imaginary cross and then beating the “image” with his hand. Diego did not deny any charges, but argued that he did not remember the incidents. He accepted the charges based on the testimony given. The witnesses again Diego alleged he was the son of Conversos and his father, Hernando de Morales originally from Seville had been penanced by the Inquisition. His mother, Leonor Marquez, originally from Utrera had been relaxed to the secular authorities by the Inquisition.


Despite all this, while the alleged desecrations were serious, Uchmany points out that no specific “Judaizing” charge was levied against Morales. Morales was reticent to admit his Jewish background, but was forced to recognize his mother’s Jewish background. Regarding his father, he maintained that he was from the mountainous regions near Seville. His father, he admitted had married a Conversa. Uchmany, however notes, that Conversos often claimed to be the descendants of peasants or mountain folk. Definitively proving the background of these indivuduals was hard if not impossible. Diego’s live was spared. All his belongings were seized and he witnessed the death of his brother.

Diego attempted to hide the shame of having been sentenced by the Inquisition. He moved to Oaxaca. In 1538, he was arrested yet again by the Inquisition, this time for blasphemy. He was fined but escaped with his life. Diego’s misfortunes pursued him wherever he went. The stain of having been arrested and penanced by the Inquisition could not be undone.

In 1558, he was again denounced to the Inquisition. Antonio Nunez, a tailor, testified that Diego had cursed the king for taking everything he earned. Nunez also claimed that Diego had stated that he “did not have fever like his brother…who had been burned in Mexico.” He also accused Diego of selling on Sundays and holy days.

Juan de Victoria testified that Morales had renounced G-d, three times. He also “pesase” G-d four times.  Morales was also accused of having fathered a child with a Morisca. Morales was purportedly proud of the fact that the boy could read the Bible and the Koran.

Many of Morales’ accusers were business competitors. The tailor Fernando Marquez claimed that Morales had attempted to force a slave to renounce the Christian faith. He also claimed that Morales belitted the last unction and even stated that the person who entrust their soul to the devil. Lope de la Pena stated that Morales had denied G-d had a son. He also claimed that if indeed Jews had injured/badly treated G-d, he had more than amply paid them back for their sins. Nunez de Gibraleon also stated that Morales mocked the host by using a tortilla. Morales was accused of violating sacred objects including crucifixes. A former servant declared Morales never ate pork and grew enraged if it was ever placed in a pot. He pretended to eat it only to spit it out. He was also said to have a crucifix under the saddle of his horse as a means of desecrating it. He was said to have called the Virgen Mary, “that woman.” During his stay in Guatamela, a failed attempt to escape his notoriety as a reconciled penitent, his neigbors were said to visit him in the hope of determining whether he ate pork or not.

Diego was sentenced in July 1558. Surprisingly , he was not relaxed to the secular arm. He was fined heavily once again. His entanglement with Inquistors would continue, though he was able to garner support from various procurators of the Audencia Real which ultimate secured his absolution of the religious charges levied against him.

Posted by Rabbi Juan Bejarano Gutierrez the director of the B’nei Anusim Center for Education and the author of  Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Judaism

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