TEJANOS, MANITOS AND THE SEPHARDIC CRYPTO JEWS

presented by
Richard G. Santos
at the
University of Texas at San Antonio
downtown campus
March 24, 1998


Section II - Sephardic Jewish contribution to the culture of the Tejanos, Nortenos and Manitos


A BREIF HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF REGIONAL RELIGIOUSITY AND WORLDVIEW


On August 8, 1580, the Crypto Judaic laden ship "La Santa Catalina" arrived at the Port of Tampico. Disembarking on that historic date were well over the 100 soldier colonists who had registered with the authorities at Sevilla contracted by converso [i.e. New Christian] conquistador Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva for the founding of El Nuevo Reyno de Leon [now comprised of South Texas and the abutting Mexican states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, and part of Chihuhua]. The Royal Colonization Charter described the "New Kingdom of Leon" as being 200 square leagues beginning at the mouth of the Panuco River opposite the Port of Tampico. This automatically included the 1577 settlements of Portuguese Captain Alberto del Canto [i.e. born on the "third Island of the Azores" and reported to have been a Crypto Jew}. The settlements were present-named Saltillo and Monclova (in the present State of Coahuila), Cerralvo and Monterrey [in the present State of Nuevo Leon]. Along with del Canto, Don Luis recruited former acquaintances from the mining village of Mazapil (and prehaps relatives), captains Gasper Castano de Sosa (reported to have been a Portuguese Crypto Jew) and Diego de Montemayor (of highly questionable background). None of the three captains, however, were ever arrested or tried by the Inquisition. Therefore, their true identities and religious beliefs have gone undocumented for over four centuries.

As the mis-named Holy Office of the Inquisition of the Viceregency of New Spain seated in Mexico City would determine in its trials and Autos de Fe from 1590 through 1649, however, the sister of Don Luis, her husband and children, as well as all his first and second cousins, uncles, aunts, in-laws, and many of the soldier-colonists and acquaintances, were New Christian Crypto Jews. Although few of the original soldier colonists actually settled in the Nuevo Reyno de Leon, those who did were destined to become the founding families of Nuevo Leon, Texas, Coahuila, Tamaulipas and New Mexico. They were joined, and later mixed through marriage, with the settlers of El Reyno de la Nueva Vizcaya founded by Basque conquistador Francisco de Ibarra. As with the del Canto settlers who served under the Ibarras, many of the soldier-colonists of the "New Kingdom of Bizcay" were Crypto Jews, conversos, Basques, Creoles and mestizos from the Pacific Coast Reyno de la Nueva Galicia and south-central Kingdom of New Spain. Many were the founding soldier-colonists of Nuno Beltran de Guzman and a few had come with Hernan Cortes or Panfilo de Narvaez. Like the Perez de Onate of the "Kingdom fo New Galicia" many were Basque Crypto Jews and conversos.

It should also be noted that 160 family units of the del Canto-Carvajal y de la Cueva settlements entered New Mexico in 1591 under Captain Gaspar Castano de Sosa where they were arrested and returned to the Zacatecas-Santa Barbara area. In 1598, many of them joined the New Mexico colonization expedition of Juan Perez Nariahonda de Onate [founder of San Luis Potosi] whose father, Don Cristobal [founder of Guadalajara and Zacatecas], had been identified as a Jew by his own brother Juan de Onate.

Hence it is not surprising that in describing the people of the Nuevo Reyno de Leon in 1596, the Viceroy reported to the King that "they recognize neither God or King". Neither is it surprising to read in the 1610 published history of the Onate expedition into New Mexico, that "this land is infested with prohibited people". Finally, from Mexico City on November 30, 1646, Senior Inquisitor Juan Saenz de Manosca reported to the King that "it is well known that the practicing Jews are in control of the Kingdom of New Spain".

The people prohibited by law from migrating to the New World, were New Christians, Jews and descendants of people penanced by the Inquisition. Technically, Moors, heretics [i.e. Protestants] and witches were also listed among "the prohibited people". However, like the term "Portuguese", the phrase "prohibited people" was synonymous with "Jewish". The handful of Moors and several dozen Protestants {primarily British and French pirates} were inconsequential when compared to the dominance of the "prohibited people", that is, the New Christian conversos and Crypto Jews who not only controlled the economy of the Viceregency, but colonized the northern frontier kingdoms.

In light of this, it mattered not if the people of Sphardic descent were conversos, anusim, Crypto Jews or openly practicing Jews. They were the ruling class. As such, they unintentionally and unwittingly influenced the people and cultures around them. Be they Old Christians, Indigenous, mestizos or castas, the worldview, values, lifestyle and culture of the Sephardi were intentionally imitated and unknowingly adopted.

It would be impossible to trace the origin of the anti-clericalism of northern Mexico, Texas and the U.S. Southwest to the Sephardi. Yet, as recorded in the trials of the Inquisition and Autos de Fe, the Sephardi manifested severe anti-clerical and anti-Catholic sentiments. At the same time, many Crypto Judaic families allowed or encouraged at least one family member to become a nun or cleric so as to have claim to Old Christian lineage. The resentment bordering on hatred and intolerance was reflected in the actions and disdain documented by the Inquisition. Also revealed in the Crypto Judaic trials are the references to those priests and missionaries who illegally took it upon themselves to absolve Crypto Jews and kept, or discouraged, them from denouncing themselves to the Inquisition. At the same time, some priest, such as Reverend Pedro de Alvarado, curate at the church of San Agustin in Zacatecas, was denounced to the Inquisition in 1624 for reportedly stating "that simple fornication between consenting (unmarried) adults was not a sin." His companion priest, Reverend Diego de Herrera was reported to the Inquisition as stating it did not matter if infants died without being baptized (or receiving the Sacrament of Last Rites). Many non-clerics had been severly penanced by the Inquisition for uttering identical statements, but these two priests were not. During the same period, the curate and Commissioner of the Inquisition at the City of Monterrey, capital of the Nuevo Reyno de Leon, was a full fledge business partner of the ruling class. And, as documented in the civil archives of Monterrey, the curate was declared co-owner of numerous mine claims and received a percentage of all profits. Again, one cannot help but wonder if that business association of the Commissioner with his parishioners kept him so busy that he never instigated any investigations or trials of suspected Crypto Jews such as captains Alberto del Canto, Gaspar Castano de Sosa and the mysterious Diego de Montemayor. Moreover, the curate of Saltillo filed complaint against Monterrey resident Captian Diego de Villareal, who reportedly "bore arms, rode a horse, wore silk clothing and jewlry even though he was a descendant of parents baptized as adults" {i.e. forcibly converted anusim}. Nothing came of the charges and complains filed against captains Villareal or del Canto, nor of the suspicions regarding Castano de Sosa.

In New Mexico, meanwhile, Fray ALonso de Benavides reported to the Inquisiton on June 29, 1626, that Govenor Juan de Eulate never missed an opportunity to discuss with whoever was present the fall of Bishops and clerics. "The ignorant espanoles of this area" reported the Friar, "had a bad impression of the clergy and the Governor has encouraged them a great deal in these discussions". Fray Benavides identifed Sargent Major Francisco Gomez and Captain Alonso Varela as two of the Governor's closest accomplices who should be penanced by the Inquisition for being the most outspoken [anti-clerical] and opposed to Ecclesiastic authority. The Friar specifically denounced Captain Varela to the Mexico City Inquisition for saying that it was not a sin to lie under oath and that he had done it many times.

Fray Benavides was also very concerned about a Crypto Jew he had personally seen penanced by the Inquisition of Hispanola. The Friar was convinced that New Mexcio resident Donayre de las Misas [i.e Lord Wind of the Masses] was none other than medical doctor Francisco de Soto, a native of the Canary Islands. As reported by Fray Benavides, he was sure of this because he had served as High Constable for the Inquisition of Hispanola and had been present at his torture, penance, reconciliation and exile to Sevilla. Yet, de Soto, now using the insulting name, was living freely in New Mexico and was denying Benavides' assertions. Adding to Benavides' chagrin, the man changed his name to Juan Pecador [i.e John the sinner] when pressured by the Friar. Estevan Perea, a friend of de Soto, was also reprted to the Inquisition by Benavides as suspected of being a Crypto Jew.

Meanwhile, twenty year old Zacatecas-Monterey resident Vicente Guerra Zaldivar, of the economically and politically powerful Perez de Onate-Guerra Reza-Mendoza Zaldivar extended family of the northern kingdoms of the viceregency, paid a meaningless fine for uttering blasphemous and heretical statements because, as noted in 1615 by the Commissioner of the Inquisition of Zacatecas in a letter to the Mexico City based Inquisition, "considering that the accused is an outspoken and daring young man who is very powerful in this area, if he were charged his trial would cause great inconveniences".


Click here to read an excerpt from Autos de Fe of the Portuguese Conspiracy held by the Holy Office of the Inquisition of Mexico City 1646 - 1648


Click here to learn more information about the author Richard G. Santos


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