A Surprising Number of Latin Americans Have Jewish Roots, Study Finds

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“Captives to the Auto-da-fé for Sentencing,” 19th-century engraving.
“Captives to the Auto-da-fé for Sentencing,” 19th-century engraving.Credit: Prisma Archivo/Alamy Stock Photo
Asaf Ronel
Asaf Ronel
Asaf Ronel
Asaf Ronel

For centuries, the Americas – the New World – were a place of refuge for people fleeing the Old World. It offered them the chance to start a new life far from the rules and restrictions of life in Europe. The continents of North and South America were “discovered” by Christopher Columbus, after being dispatched on behalf of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, in 1492 – the same year the Spanish monarchs declared that all their country’s Jews must either convert to Christianity or be expelled. It’s no surprise, then, that many of those who immigrated to the Americas were Spanish Conversos, the “New Christians,” who had given up practicing Judaism under duress but still sought to escape the terror of the Inquisition.

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