My Family Were Hidden Jews for Over 500 Years. Not Anymore.
When I was 15 years old, my uncle came out of the blue at a birthday party and confessed to me, “Kid, we are Jewish.” This was news to me. He continued, saying that our ancestors were Sephardic Jews who had fled the Inquisition along with other converted Conquistadors (Jewish conquistadors!).
He was right. Many years later, I traced our family genealogy and found out that my family were Crypto-Jews, descended from Jews belonging to a congregation that was dismantled in La Parra, Badajoz, Spain, who made their way to the New World in 1532, landing in the New Kingdom of Granada, a colonial entity corresponding mainly to modern-day Colombia and Venezuela.
Often called anusim (Hebrew for the forced ones), marrano (Spanish for swine), or conversos (converts), Crypto-Jews are descendants of Medieval Sephardic Jews expelled officially from Spain and Portugal in 1492. Under duress, they were converted to Catholicism but continued to practice Judaism in secret for hundreds of years as they settled in Western Europe and the Spanish Empire’s New World frontiers, where many had sought a haven.