History of the Jews in Mexico by Dena Falken

History of the Jews in Mexico by Dena Falken




The history of Jews in Mexico is very old. Throughout my travels in Mexico, it has always been quite fascinating to learn and see the rich culture in this country.

When walking in downtown Polanco, a stunning area of Mexico City, one is captivated by the amount of culture, restaurants of every ethnic persuasion. A beautiful building is there as well,,, the Jewish Synagogue.

I have always been interested in the Jewish contribution to the Culture in Mexico and how the Jews arrived in Maxico. While Mexico has fabulous Jewish restaurants, museums and art, I thought I would explore how the Jewish culture arrived and what the history was.

I learned the following….

The arrival of Jews in Mexico in the 16th century from Spain and Portugal. This arrival took place in the midst of the Spanish Inquisition. The Jews at this time were “ conversos”. These are Jews in Maxico who had been forcibly converted to Chrisitanity, but secretly practiced Judaism.

However, the Inquisition also traveled to the New World and anyone even suspected of practicing Judaism was burned at the stake. It was not until the Inquisition was abolished in 1813 that Jews in Maxico could practice their culture and faith.


The History of Jews in Mexico And Why They Immigrated To Mexico

Jews in Mexico and Conversos were part of the conquest and colonization of Mexico and were important actors in transatlantic and transpacific trade networks, as well as in the development of internal trade. The Conversos succeeded Hernán Cortés in 1519. They were members of Jewish families who forcibly converted to Christianity to avoid expulsion from Spain after the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The reconquest was followed by the Spanish Inquisition, which made the Converses one of its targets and accused them of returning to Jewish practice.

During this time, there were two types of Converts: crypto-Jews and Jews who had fully converted to Catholicism. Jews who converted were used to register crypto-Jews in the Catholic Church and were later rewarded with high positions in the Catholic Church. In addition, the Catholic Church at that time was responsible for social assistance and was the most powerful entity. Converso’s migration to the new Spanish colony began in 1530, after most of the violence since the conquest of the Aztec Empire had subsided and the Spanish Inquisition continued. For decades, families were able to live in peace, integrating into the Mexican elite, with some becoming prominent Catholic clerics and some returning to Jewish practice.

An interesting fact is brought out by David Nathan. He suggested that the first coins minted by the Spanish conquerors in the Western Hemisphere in Mexico City contained the Hebrew letter aleph (), indicating evidence of Jewish presence or influence in Mexico in 1536. He noted that almost all of the matrices were prepared during the first Aleph appraiser instead of the powerful symbol of the Christian cross, which is almost common on medieval Spanish and Mexican coins, Nathan still considers the possible connection of a Jewish family with the famous Mexican coin workers.



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