September 3, 2015

The Latin & Jewish Heritage of Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley

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Written by: Nydia O
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Sephardic Migration

It is estimated that approximately 80% of the Hispanic population in the Rio Grande Valley have a rich  Sephardic Jewish ancestry.  If you want to find out more plan to attend the 2nd Annual Conference for Latino – Jewish Relations to be held in Brownsville at the Ringgold Civic Pavilion on Sunday, October 18, 2015. On Saturday October 17th there will be a Spanish presentation at Rancho Viejo Country Club at 3:00 pm. More details will be available soon.  In the illustration below we can track the migration pattern of Sephardic Jews after the Spanish Alhambra Decree of Expulsion. A good number of them ended in Ibero America especially in Mexico and eventually migrated north of the Rio Grande River.

The term Sephardi means “Spanish” or “Hispanic”, and is derived from Sepharad, a Biblical location. The location of the biblical Sepharad is disputed, but Sepharad was identified by later Jews as Hispania, that is, the Iberian Peninsula. Sepharad still means “Spain” in modern Hebrew. The relationship between Sephardi-descended communities is illustrated in the following diagram from Wikipedia:

Pre-Expulsion Sephardi Jewish Population of Iberia


Spanish Alhambra Decree of 1492, Portuguese Decree of 1497


Sephardic Anusin

Those Jews in Spain and Portugal who, in an effort to delay or avoid their expulsion (and in most cases in Portugal, in an effort by Manuel I of Portugal to prevent the Jews from choosing the option of exile), are forced or coerced to convert to Catholicism up until the late 15th century, at the expiration of the deadline for their expulsion, conversion, or execution as set out in the decrees. Became conversos/New Christians in Iberia. As Christians, were under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church and subject to the Inquisition.

Clandestine migration of conversos to Ibero-America and their settlement during colonization from the 16th to 18th centuries

 Extension of the Inquisition to Ibero-America in the 16th century.


 The later generation descendants of Sephardic Anusim who remained, as conversos, in Iberia or moved to the Iberian colonial possessions  across various Latin American  countries during the Spanish colonization of the Americas Subject to the Inquisition until its abolition in the 19th century.

 Abolition of the Inquisition in the 19th century

  Reversion to Judaism in the 20th to 21st century

   Neo-Western Sephardim

 The nascent and growing population of returnees to Judaism among the Sephardic Bnei Anusim population whose recent return began in the late 20th and early 21st centuries in Iberia and Ibero-America.

The Center for Latino – Jewish Relations is a non-pr0fit and non denominational organization that seeks to educate the Latino and Jewish communities about their shared history and lineage, to facilitate a better understanding of the past, build bridges in the present, and provide a better future for all who are a part of this legacy. The CLJR seeks to build bridges between these two peoples and to explore ways by which they can support each other in the United States, and in lands of interest forthe Jewish and Latino Communities.

Feature map from the European Jewish Congress website.

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and my spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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