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Posts Tagged ‘Sephardic Jews

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”*…

On the long-term effects of suppression and persecution…

From Imperial Rome to the Crusades, to modern North Korea or the treatment of Rohingya in Myanmar, religious persecution has been a tool of state control for millennia.

While its immediate violence and human consequences are obvious, less obvious is whether it leaves scars centuries after it ends.

In a new study we have attempted to examine the present day consequences of one of the longest-running and most meticulously documented persecutions of them all – the trials of the Spanish Inquisition between 1478 to 1834…

Details at “Extraordinarily, the effects of the Spanish Inquisition linger to this day.”

Monty Python

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As we tolerate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1492 that Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile took control of the Emirate of Grenada (1238-1492), the last Moorish stronghold in Spain. King Boabdil surrendered to Spanish forces in the Alhambra palace, surrendering the key to the city– an event Christopher Columbus witnessed as he received the support of the monarchy to sail to the Indies.

Pursuant to the Inquisition, Ferdinand and Isabella had targeted Muslims and Sephardic Jews (also called the Megorashim), forcing them either to convert to Christianity or to leave Spain within four months without any possessions. Failure to leave resulted in torture and/or death.

Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, Boabdil confronted by Ferdinand and Isabella after the Fall of Granada 1492 (Detail) [source]

What’s in a (sur)name?…

From National Geographic:

for larger, interactive version, click on the image above, or here

A new view of the United States based on the distribution of common last names shows centuries of history and echoes some of America’s great immigration sagas. To compile this data, geographers at University College London used phone directories to find the predominant surnames in each state. Software then identified the probable provenances of the 181 names that emerged.

Many of these names came from Great Britain, reflecting the long head start the British had over many other settlers. The low diversity of names in parts of the British Isles also had an impact. Williams, for example, was a common name among Welsh immigrants—and is still among the top names in many American states.

But that’s not the only factor. Slaves often took their owners’ names, so about one in five Americans now named Smith are African American. In addition, many newcomers’ names were anglicized to ease assimilation. The map’s scale matters too. “If we did a map of New York like this,” says project member James Cheshire, “the diversity would be phenomenal”—a testament to that city’s role as a once-and-present gateway to America.

 

As we ruminate on roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1654 that the Portuguese issued the Capitulation Protocol, giving Jewish and Dutch settlers three months to leave Brazil.  Approximately 150 Jewish families of Portuguese descent fled the Brazilian city of Recife, in the state of Pernambuco.  By September, twenty-three of these refugees had established the first community of Jews in New Amsterdam (now, of course, New York City).

These “Sephardim” (Jews of Spanish-Portuguese extraction) had followed a tortured path. In December 1496, following Ferdinand and Isabella’s Spanish example, King Manuel I of Portugal had expelled all Jews from Portugal, driving many to flee to more tolerant Holland.  From there, some migrated to Pernambuco, a colony of the Dutch West India Company in modern-day Brazil. That community flourished until the Dutch eventually surrendered Pernambuco to the Portuguese– and the Sephardim were again forced to flee.

After being driven ashore in Jamaica by Spanish ships, twenty-three members of the community, along with a group of Dutch Calvinists, made their way to New Netherland (New York)– another colony run by the Dutch West India Company.  Even then, the trials were not past: Peter Stuyvesant governor of New Netherland, feared that the indigent newcomers would burden the colony; but when he motioned to eject the Jewish newcomers, the Company (many of the shareholders of which were Jewish) refused his petition… and the wanderers found a home.

Accuratissima Brasiliæ tabula
[Inset of Pernambuco.]
by Hendrik Hondius, 1630
(source: Library of Congress)

 

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