Sunday, October 22, 2006

Anousim, Marranos, Crypto Jews

Photo is courtesy of "yvern99" who published it on Flickr. This Texan tombstone belongs most likely to a Jew who was forced to convert to the Catholic religion. Somehow his family succeeded in smuggling Stars of David under the prominent Cross.
The Marranos aka Crypto Jews aka Anousim are the descendants of the Jews of Spain and Portugal who were forced to convert to Christianity more than 500 years ago. Stars of David on gravestones and in churches are among the traits that help the Marranos identify their origins. The power of ancient history to manipulate our modern actions is an amazing phenomenon. Somebody sometime started using this peculiar symbol and that was enough to help his remote descendents after so many generations to succeed in finding their way home.


Anonymous said...

it's true. i'm from deep south texas (bordering mexico) and have recently found out both my parents are descendants of crypto jews. My mother in particular is crypto jewish from both sides of her family, they still practice these rituals and still intermarry each other in this part of the state.

Rick said...

My family is from New Mexico and has crypto-Jewish ancestry. My great-grandparents are buried in a small church cemetery in a tiny New Mexico town. On their graves there are no Christian symbols, though they are surrounded by crosses, angels and saints on other graves. Instead, there headstones show an open book on top - no lettering- and below this are depicted gates on pillars opening inward with clouds behind. I described this to an expert in crypto-Jewish gravestones whom I met at the Crypto-Jewish conference in El Paso two years ago. She instantly recognized it and told me that this was a classic crypto-Jewish symbol she had encountered in various known crypto-Jewish burial sites. While it could be easily understood as biblical, thus not offending Christians or giving away the "secret," it also was entirely Jewish. The book is the book of life and the gates opening into heaven symbolize that the deceased has had their name inscribed in the book of life and are now in heaven. It's a wonderful example of Jewish meanings hidden behind inoffensive, seemingly Christian symbols.

Anonymous said...

I would like to share the following site:

zeevveez said...
Kathleen Alcalá read “A Star of David on Christmas,” from her new collection of essays, The Desert Remembers My Name , from the University of Arizona Press (review on page 10).

She spoke of trips to visit family in Saltillo , Mexico , which once had a settlement of crypto Jews. Her descriptions showed the variety with which her family takes note of their Jewish ancestry. On one visit, her aunt Julietta wore a Star of David, as did her sister Kathleen, whom Alcalá portrayed wearing “a Star of David on her red Christmas sweater.”
Juan Sandoval reconceived his folk-art offerings. He scrapped his Native American and Christmas inventory and replaced it with hardened-clay menorahs and "chia" rabbis whose beards contained seeds that sprouted when watered. The new line sold well in Judaica gift shops, and Sandoval began supplementing his earnings with honoraria for lectures about his hidden past. In 1996 he spoke at the annual meeting of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, in Albuquerque, and was introduced by his new name: Yehoshuah ben Avraham. The audience listened raptly as he described how his father, a Catholic, had kidnapped him after learning that his grandmother was a secret Jew, and how, years later, when he discovered his roots, neighbors shot at his family and forced him to sell his property, which he said was worth $1 million, for only $65,000. Juan illustrated his story with a photograph of the family cemetery in Mora. In the center was a gravestone with a Star of David.
Now several Jewish women across the country, in addition to a Valley rabbi, Sandoval's Catholic family in Scottsdale, and members of the Sephardic Jewish community in New Mexico, have come forward to say that they have been deceived by Sandoval - that Sandoval used an exaggerated story of his Jewish roots to sell sculptures, to be paid to lecture, to escape family responsibilities, and to be embraced by wealthy Jews who opened their homes, and in some cases their pocketbooks and even their hearts, to him.