Bernardini - Chapter 08
Crypto-Jews and the Mexican Holy Office in the Seventeenth Century
ALTHOUGH CONVERSOS secretly practicing Judaism began arriving at
the very beginning of the conquest and colonization of what would
soon be called New Spain, their presenceâ€”if not massive, at least establishedâ€”
was not registered until the 1580s. The union of the Castilian and
Portuguese crowns between 1580 and 1640 made the passage to America
possible for families that, after the expulsion from Spain decreed by the
Catholic monarchs in January 1492, had taken refuge in Portugal, a kingdom
initially more tolerant toward Jews. From 1496 onward, however, a
repression even more severe than that which had preceded and accompanied
their expulsion from Spain was unleashed upon the conversos of Portugal.
Families that were able to fled once again. They sought refuge in
some of the cities of southwestern France, in England, in the Low Countries,
in some German ports, and, not long after, in the cities of northern
Italy, not to mention in countries of the Middle East and of the Maghreb.
Nonetheless, many stayed in Portugal, learning to live through and survive
clandestine situations made extremely difficult by the Portuguese
Holy Office, which acted against them with relentless harshness. These
were the families and individuals who took advantage of the politically
favorable conditions afforded by the union of the two crowns in 1580 to
return to Castile, from where their ancestors had fled a century before.