Mallorca or Majorca are the two spellings for the same place in the Catalan-speaking Balearic Isles, near Barcelona, Spain. In 1391, the Jews of Mallorca were forcibly converted to Catholicism, some stayed, others left. They were known as Chuetas. We'll use the Mallorca spelling for this post.
Project members will have some connection to (or combination of) Mallorcan, Puerto Rican, Jewish ancestry. All data will be analyzed along with genealogical and historical information to track the once secret immigration of Jews from Mallorca to Puerto Rico.
For more information, see the project Mallorcan_Jews_PR here at FamilyTreeDNA.com.
Seham Lewis is organizing the project. She writes:
The Spanish Inquisition forced many Jews to take on new identities and relocate to other colonies, such as Puerto Rico. However, the tribunals extended to the New World forcing many to continue hiding their faith. As a result, the Jewish presence on the island has gone virtually unknown not only to the Jewish Diaspora, but to its own Puerto Rican descendants. With this project I hope to tell their story.This is a Y-DNA project for males only, whose direct paternal line comes from this area. Females can have a male relative test or investigate mtDNA (maternal) tests and projects.
Why is Seham so interested in this project?
She wants to bring awareness to both Puerto Ricans and Jews around the world that Jewish people have been on the island since its early settlement by the Spanish. Many Puerto Ricans still do not comprehend this piece of their history because the Inquisition tribunals were replicated in the New World.
According to Seham, Inquisition tribunals were also set up in the Americas covering the four Viceroyalties. Puerto Rico fell under the New Spain Viceroyalty which covered what is present day South and Central America (minus Brazil and the northeast region of South America which was Portuguese), and some of the Caribbean islands. [The Inquisitors and the Jews in the New World, summaries of procesos, 1500-1810, and bibliographic guide; Liebman, Seymour B.; 1976 edition. University of Miami Press].
Many Jews, she adds, seem to find this fact peculiar, which she is still trying to understand. Her family in Dorado, Puerto Rico, did not know there was a Conservative synagogue just 20 minutes away from them, let alone that there are four congregations: Conservative, Orthodox, Reform, and Chabad.
Studies done on present-day Mallorcan Jews have shown their DNA to be relatively homogenous and unchanged from one generation to the next.
My answer to both Jewish and Puerto Rican people is “Well, why not”. When you really think about this, it makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, the Spanish were too good at “protecting” their New World and blood line from the Jews.
However they weren’t 100% successful and one can see this by the growing number of Puerto Ricans discovering or somehow sensing they have Jewish ancestry. The scarcity of documentation on Jews in Puerto Rico forces one to be creative and analyze the topic “sideways.” The genius of Bennett Greenspan’s genetic genealogy has provided one the possibility to find connections when little or no records exist.
Athough Seham is not a scientist, her theory and hope is that a pattern will show itself among Puerto Ricans with Mallorcan-Jewish ancestry. Her first member is R1b1b2, and he has upgraded from 12 to 37 markers to receive more information.
Since many Puerto Ricans do not know that they may have Jewish lineage, she opened the project to include anyone who knows or suspects they have Mallorcan ancestry. "I can use the non-Puerto Rican DNA results as a sort of comparison. Maybe…," she adds.
Seham hopes to turn this research into a Master’s thesis, but the topic is raising much skepticism among Jews and Puerto Ricans. Therefore, she has to prove that Mallorcan Jews existed in Puerto Rico, and then find their descendants.
Initially, she wanted to trace the early Jewish presence in Puerto Rico, but quickly realized the enormity of such a project. While reading a late 1800s book on island resources, she saw that the author describes “the inhabitants” (put in quotations because his wording seemed to describe specimens and not people) of Puerto Rico.
He refers to the locals as Jibarros- those who live in the countryside. Every Puerto Rican knows the term Jibarro, and many understand its negative undertones. What many did not know, including myself, is that these Jibarros were said to be descendants of Mallorcan Jews, the Chuetas, AKA “the People of the Street.” I was unfamiliar with the term Chuetas. I kept telling myself it was such an ugly and odd name for a group of people because it sounded like ChuLetas, pork chops in Spanish.Suddenly, says Seham, a flood of Mallorcan references in her life appeared as if they were waiting for their cue. It is rumored that her mother’s paternal line is from Mallorca, but she is still searching for documentation. Her family surnames are among those found in Inquisition records for Mallorca: Correa, Rodriguez, Maldonado, Rivera and Escalera.
I guess I found the name so horrible that I didn’t make the connection until the next day.
Although not a solid genealogical indicator of ancestry, I recalled eating Pan de Majorca, a type of morning bread or sandwich. I then found two street names with Judio in 2 different municipalities in Puerto Rico: “Cuesta de los Judios” in Yauco and “Sector Judio” in Utuado.She insists that there must be a reason to have such names extant in those towns. She's currently investigating possible connections. In the meantime, she's hoping her DNA project will attract participants. She's also looking to develop a fund to defray testing costs.
Learn more about the project at the link above, and contact Seham for questions or more information at the project site link.