Conversos in New Mexico

  • The earliest exploration of New Mexico occurred in 1540 under Francisco Vazquez de Coronado.
  • The first Converso adventurer was Gaspar Castano who was identified as Portuguese.
    • He accompanied Alberto del Canto in the founding of Saltillo and served as alcalde mayor of San Luis Potosi.
    • In 1583 he served under Luis Carvajal, the Governor. He was granted land in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon.
    • He was appointed the lieutenant governor of Nuevo Leon.
    • Stanley Hordes, Martin Cohen, and Richard Santos describe Castano as a
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      Converso and related to at least one Judaizer in Nuevo Leon.

    • Luis Carvajal at his trial stated, “ I know that Manuel de Herrera, Portuguese, and relative of Captain Castano, is a Jew and observes and believes in the saw Law [of Moses].”
    • Castano was also related to another Crypto Jew, Simon de Paiba.
    • By July 27, 1590, 5 months after Carvajal was penanced, Castano abandoned Almaden, depopulated the European population there, and headed toward New Mexico.
  • The conviction of Carvajal by the Mexican Inquisition and his presence as a penitent in the auto de fe of February 1590 is the likely motivation for the flight to northwards.
  • Castano left without permission from the viceroy. He requested permission but did not receive a reply. He left with approximately 170 people.
  • No priest accompanied the small group.
  • 80% of the settlers are unidentified.
  • Alonso Jaimes is one individual that is identified.
    • Born in the Canary Islands
    • He tried to present pure lineage (Old Christian) but was caught by the Inquisition.
    • The Inquisition had traced his family back 5 generations to Jews from Spain.
    • He still managed to emigrate to New Spain.
  • Juan de Victoria Carvajal was possibly the cousin of the former Governor.
  • Juan Rodriguez Nieto was the likely cousin of Diego Diaz Nieto.
  • Gaspar Castano was arrested by order of the Viceroy on March 29, 1591.
  • Most of the survivors of the expedition settled in Saltillo or likely joined Diego de Montemayor in establishing the city of Monterrey in 1596.

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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