Portuguese Crypto-Jews in New Spain

Crypto-Jewish activity in New Spain is often characterized as a Portuguese Crypto-Jewish phenomenon. I

  • Mexican Inquisitional documents note the following:
    • 73% descended from Portuguese born grandfathers

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    • 57% from Portuguese born grandmothers.
  • Mexican Inquisition was elevated to the status of a formal tribunal in 1571.
    • -Between 1589-1604, ~200 individuals were tried for Judaizing.
    • Subsequent activities focused on other heresy including blasphemy, bigamy, witchcraft, sexual improprieties.
  • In Mexico City, most Crypto Jews lived near each other in a three block area.
  • Most Crypto-Jews were endogamous. More than 95% of marriages were within the community.

It is important to note that these Portuguese Crypto-Jews were largely in fact of Spanish origin. That is most of them were descended from Castilian or Aragonese Jews who journeyed to Portugal in light of the Edict of Expulsion of 1492.

Posted by Rabbi Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez the director of the B’nei Anusim Center for Education. For a more complete review of Iberian Jewish history and the Crypto- Jewish Experience see The Rise of the Inquisition and Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Judaism


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