The 'Secret Jews' of San Luis Valley | Science | Smithsonian
Jewish views on slavery are varied both religiously and historically. Judaism's ancient and Jason H. Silverman, a historian of slavery, describes the part of Jews in slave trading in the southern .. In , the Nation of Islam (NOI) published The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, which alleged that Jews had. In Colorado, the gene linked to a virulent form of breast cancer found mainly in Would they have to rethink who they were—their very identity—because of a tiny . book, To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico. We will learn the essential lesson that antisemitism is not about Jews, but power. More to the point, my mother and my grandmother weren't Jewish either, I might, I thought, not stop at opposing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, that hide the machinations of the secret Jewish rulers of the world.
She had vaguely known that the women on her father's side were susceptible to the disease. When Wright was told that the mutation was characteristic of Jewish people, she recalled a magazine article about the secret Jews of New Mexico. It was well known that during the late Middle Ages the Jews of Spain were forced to convert to Catholicism. According to a considerable body of scholarship, some of the conversos maintained their faith in secret. After Judaism was outlawed in Spain in and Jews were expelled, some of those who stayed took their beliefs further underground.
The exiles went as far as the New World. For the first time Wright connected this history to memories of conceivably Jewish customs, such as sweeping dust into the center of a room and covering mirrors while mourning a loved one's death. She read up on the Spanish "crypto-Jews" in the library and on the Internet.
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Inshe and her husband made an extended visit to the valley and northern New Mexico. Tracking down as many of her paternal relatives as she could find, she alerted them to their dangerous genetic legacy and their ethno-religious heritage. I made the trek because I needed to know where I was from. It wasn't a big deal to some of them, but others kind of raised an eyebrow like I didn't know what I was talking about.
The Rio Grande begins here.
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The town of San Luis—the oldest in Colorado—is the Spanish heart of the valley. With an old church on the central plaza and a modern shrine on a mesa overlooking the town, San Luis bristles with Catholic symbols. It seems a short step back in time to the founding of the New Mexico colony, when picaresque gold-hungry conquistadors, Franciscan friars and Pueblo Indians came together, often violently, in a spare and sunburnt land.
As Willa Cather put it in Death Comes for the Archbishop, perhaps the best novel about the region, the sunsets reflected on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are "not the colour of living blood" but "the colour of the dried blood of saints and martyrs.
The ‘Secret Jews’ of San Luis Valley
The significance of the genetic work was immediately recognized by Stanley M. Hordes, a professor at the University of New Mexico. During the early s, Hordes had been New Mexico's official state historian, and part of his job was assisting people with their genealogies. Hordes, who is 59, recalls that he received "some very unusual visits in my office. People would drop by and tell me, in whispers, that so-and-so doesn't eat pork, or that so-and-so circumcises his children.
As Hordes began speaking and writing about his findings, other New Mexicans came forward with memories of rituals and practices followed by their ostensibly Christian parents or grandparents having to do with the lighting of candles on Friday evenings or the slaughtering of animals.
Hordes laid out his research in a book, To the End of the Earth: Following the Jews' expulsion from Spain, crypto-Jews were among the early settlers of Mexico. The Spanish in Mexico periodically tried to root out the "Judaizers," but it is clear from the records of trials that Jewish practices endured, even in the face of executions.
According to Hordes' research, settlers who were crypto-Jews or descended from Jews ventured up the Rio Grande to frontier outposts in New Mexico. For years, as the territory passed from Spanish to Mexican to United States hands, there was almost nothing in the historical record about crypto-Jews.
Then, because of probing by younger relatives, the stories trickled out. But after interviewing people in the region herself, she concluded it was an "imagined community. She says there are better explanations for the "memories" of unusual rites—vestiges of Seventh-Day Adventism, for example, which missionaries brought to the region in the early 20th century.
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She also suggested that perhaps some dark-skinned Hispanics were trying to elevate their ethnic status by associating themselves with lighter-skinned Jews, writing that "claims of Judaeo-Spanish ancestry are used to assert an overvalued line of white ancestral descent in the American Southwest.
But he acknowledges that Neulander's criticisms have made him and other researchers more cautious. Hordes, pursuing another line of evidence, also pointed out that some of the New Mexicans he was studying were afflicted by a rare skin condition, pemphigus vulgaris, that is more common among Jews than other ethnic groups.
Neulander countered that the same type of pemphigus vulgaris occurs in other peoples of European and Mediterranean background. Then the delAG mutation surfaced. It was just the sort of objective data Hordes had been looking for. The findings didn't prove the carriers' Jewish ancestry, but the evidence smoothly fit his historical theme.
Or, as he put it with a certain clinical detachment, it's a "significant development in the identification of a Jewish origin for certain Hispano families.
One conference attendee was a Catholic New Mexican who heartily embraces his crypto-Jewish heritage, the Rev. Bill Sanchez, a local priest. He says he has upset some local Catholics by saying openly that he is "genetically Jewish.
The Y chromosome, handed down from father to son, provides a narrow glimpse of a male's paternal lineage. The test, which is promoted on the Internet and requires only a cheek swab, is one of the more popular genealogy probes.
Sanchez noted that the test suggested he was descended from the esteemed Cohanim lineage of Jews. Still, a "Semitic" finding on this test isn't definitive; it could also apply to non-Jews. Geneticists warn that biology is not destiny. A person's family tree contains thousands of ancestors, and DNA evidence that one may have been Hebrew or Armenian or Bolivian or Nigerian means very little unless the person decides to embrace the implication, as Sanchez has done.
He sees no conflict between his disparate religious traditions. He keeps a menorah in a prominent place in his parish church and says he adheres to a Pueblo belief or two for good measure. At the Albuquerque meeting, the new evidence about delAG prompted discussion not only among academics but also among some of the subjects. Robert Martinez, no immediate relation to Beatrice Wright, teaches history at a high school near Albuquerque.
During his summer vacations he helps Hordes sift through municipal and church records in Latin America and Europe, studying family histories and looking for references to Judaism. The Spanish explorer himself had converso relatives, Hordes has found, and included conversos in the expedition. When he went to work as Hordes' assistant ten years ago, Martinez, who is 45, was well aware of the disease in his family: The Jewish connection caused no stir in his family, he says.
I want to know, Who am I? We're a strange lot, New Mexicans. We refer to ourselves as Spanish, but we have Portuguese blood, Native American, some black too. We descend from a small genetic pool, and we're all connected if you go back far enough. BRCA carriers, she tells them, have up to an 80 percent risk of developing breast cancer, as well as a significant risk of ovarian cancer.
My secret history | Books | The Guardian
Instead, she reaches into the bottom of her bag and there finds the real papers that disclose their Jewishness. Suicidally, she hands them over. They are arrested immediately. Why did his fictional mother do something so self destructive?
Grimbert supplies the motive: Why, I ask him, did he write a novel that would involve fictionalising real events? For me, in reconstituting this story that was so brief in terms of what I had been told, reconstituting it in all its duration, was all I could do. My sole tool was the novel.
Perhaps someone else could have made a film, done a painting. Somebody else could have written a history, but I couldn't. The only way I could pay homage was to write this book. It was just a few hundred metres from my home in Seine-et-Marne. There I found all these tombstones to dead dogs with loving inscription in stone. I realised that one consequence of the secrets my parents kept was that the dead - my half-brother and his mother - had been erased.
They had never been remembered properly. Laval's actions also ensured that many Jewish children died. He speaks of his brain "flowering" with long-dormant reflections on his family history after that cemetery visit, and in fact the book that resulted was originally entitled The Cemetery of Dogs. They thought a book with the words 'cemetery' and 'dogs' in the title wouldn't sell. Instead, they said it should be called Un Secret. In French, "tombeau" means both tomb and homage.
What does his family think of the book?''The Secret Relationship Between Blacks And Jews Vol. 2
But it also made me more responsible. I was the only one left to memorialise them.
Philippe the wimp's existence is a constant rebuke to his father, who is forever pumping iron and subduing wrestling opponents with his stout thighs; Philippe's mother, meanwhile, is a lithe diver. The son who died in Auschwitz was the one his father wanted. Philippe is a disappointment. Is this all true? Jews are supposed to be hollow chested, feeble.
But to make my parents sporty and obsessed with their physical prowess seemed to me an interesting thing to do. They were Jews, but they seem like Aryans at the very moment the Aryans are coming to kill them.
Instead of having a cousin disclosing the family secrets, the novel has a friend called Louise whom the little Philippe befriends and from whom he learns about his family's secret history.
He is forgiving, now, of his parents and all the secrets they kept from him - for example, they let him grow up thinking he was a Catholic. They sought to protect themselves and me by doing these things. But discovering that I was really a Jew and not a Catholic made me into a neurotic and then into a shrink. He now divides his time between that practice, working at a medical institute for autistic adolescents, composing music and writing books.
The books include two novels and several jaunty psychoanalytical texts. Only Secret, so far, has been translated. Whether the others will be too depends on the novel being as successful here and in the US as it was in France. Across the Channel, Grimbert's novel has become something of an industry: Miller, the veteran director whose movies include La Petite Voleuse, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, has just finished filming and his movie, to be released in France this year, will star Mathieu Amalric as the adult Philippe, with Julie Depardieu Gerard's daughter as the family friend who tells the young Philippe the truth about his past.
Does Grimbert have any fears for how his book will be received?
My hope is that the telling of the story is more than a Holocaust memoir, but says something more about family history and secrets.
In the book, Philippe's father is not proud to be a Jew. He had no particular cultural affiliations with other Jews. He felt himself to be French.