28 March 2008

Texas: Crypto-Jewish Symposium, April 17-18

"Jews and the Inquisition in New Spain" is a two-day symposium focusing on the prominent crypto-Jewish Carvajal family which migrated to 16th century northern New Spain.

Taking place at Texas A&M University, Thursday-Friday, April 17-18, registration is free and there are accommodation discounts. Shabbat services and a reception will be hosted by Hillel.

Main themes are the European background of the Carvajal family, life and times of Luis de Carvajal and his enduring legacy, and expressions of Crypto-Jewish faith.

From a contemporary perspective, this symposium seeks to contribute to the understanding of the multivalent cultural heritage of the Hispanic people in the U.S. Southwest. With the growing importance of the Hispanic cultural in the borderlands region, this symposium intends to provide the Texas A&M University community and beyond a rare inside view of this culture’s Jewish heritage. Apart from its cultural contribution, this symposium looks to place Texas A&M at the forefront of the scholarly discourse on Crypto-Jewish Studies in the Southwest.

Among the committee members are Dr. Stanley Hordes, University of New Mexico and Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies president; Rabbi Dr. Peter E. Tarlow, Hillel Foundation; and others.

For full details and speaker bios, click on these links: here and here.

The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Hordes.

University of New Mexico's Latin American and Iberian Institute adjunct research professor Dr. Stanley M. Hordes is president of the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies. He is currently exploring the family roots of 15 families from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba, tracing their genealogies to Spain and elsewhere to see if they have converso or Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

European Background of the Carvajal Family
Rutgers University Dr. Samuel Temkin.
"Luis de Carvajal, His Family, and His Recruits," by Dr. Ricardo Elizondo, (Tecnológico de Monterrey) y Dr. Monica Montemayor Treviño (Histroirador Independiente, Monterry, Mexico)

Life and Times of Luis de Carvajal
Dr. Alicia Gojman de Backal, FES, Acatlán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Dr. Carlos M. Larralde, Independent Scholar, Calimesa, CA. "Las correspondencia, memorias, y su testamento de Luis de Carvajal, El Mozo," and "Descendants of the Carvajal Expedition,"

Expressions of Crypto-Jewish Faith
Rabbi Dr. Peter E. Tarlow, Texas A&M University Hillel Foundation. "Luis de Carvajal, El Mozo, and His Reading of Biblical Scripture," by Dr. Gregory Lee Cuéllar (Cushing Library, Texas A&M University)

The Enduring Legacy of Luis de Carvajal
Mercedes Gail Gutiérrez, Independent Scholar, Davis, CA. "Reconnecting with Crytpo-Jewish roots in the U.S. Southwest," Dr. Dell Sánchez, (Sephardic Anusim Center of the Americas).

The event has a blog to create discussion on the topic and some comments are worth reading. Speaker bios are onsite; some current research includes:

Independent scholar Dr. Carlos Montalvo Larralde has written several monographs and articles in Mexican American studies and Crypto-Jewish Studies; his doctoral dissertation, "Chicano Jews in South Texas (1978)," argued for a Crypto-Jewish presence in south Texas back to the colonial period.

Rabbi Tarlow is the Texas A&M Hillel executive director. Fluent in Hebrew, English, Spanish and Portuguese, he lectures throughout Latin America and served as rabbi of the Circulo Israelita (Santiago Chile). His rabbinic thesis was on the Portuguese Inquisition, and he has been interested in the lives and cultures of Crypto Jews especially in northern Mexican states. His presentation addresses the background of New Spain's Portuguese and Spanish immigrants and how their historical baggage impacted their lives in the New World.

Rutgers University professor emeritus Dr. Temkin has been studying the history of 16th century New Spain, and is the author of several articles on Luis de Carvajal, based on original sources.

Dr. Cuellar is currently doing research on the Crytpo-Jewish presence along the Rio Grande during the 18th century.

Alica Gojman de Backal has been a Distinguished Professor of History in Facultad de Estudios Superiores Acatlán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México since 1975 and is also the current director of the library Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Comunidad Ashkenazí de México in México, D.F. Her publications include: Los Conversos en el México Colonial (1987), Testimonios de historia oral: Judíos en México. Dirección de proyecto, (1990), Identidad y Cultura en Conversos del Siglo XVII en Puebla de Los Angeles (1995), La inquisición en Nueva España vista a traves de los ojos de un procesado, Guillén de Lampart, Siglo XVII. (2000), and Judaizantes en la Nueva Espana: Catalogo de documentos en el Archivo General de la Nacion (2006).

A retired administrator, artist Mercedes Gail Gutierrez (BA Stanford University; MA UC Berkley) is a descendent of the marrano/monverso/anousim families Perez, Carvajal and Munoz, and has independently studied Sephardic Jews in the New World Diaspora, including Mexico and Occupied Mexico (1987-current). In 2007, she participated in the "Orale Israel: Part I", Anusim conference (El Paso, TX,), "Orale, Israel: Part II", Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies conference (Albuquerque, NM). Her paper was titled: "Lech Lecha: What my mother told me."


  1. Anonymous2:11 AM

    cool material.I am from laredo...and my family has been there for generations...my mother before dying told me that we were jewish.

  2. Anonymous7:12 PM

    my name is robert aragon lucero is my name sephardim i was born in newmexico

  3. Robert, the Lucero family is considered one of the old NM families - familias viejos - and nearly all of those have Jewish roots. Lucero and Aragon are listed as Jewish names in many resources. go to www.sephardim.com and check the name search engine for more information. In one of my resources, Lucero is listed in 1480 in the city of Toledo, while Aragon is listed in several places in the 15th-16th centuries.

    It is common for secretive families to only share this "secret" on their deathbeds. It happens frequently in many places. You should try to speak to other elders in your family and ask about unusual customs or traditions. Even the smallest clue can help piece together the puzzle.

    There are many resources out there for each of you. It is also possible to do research in Spain and find information on your families as the archives are very well preserved.

    Good luck to both of you! For more information, write to me at tribeblog@jta.org with your email addresses and I will try to help with more information.


  4. This might be a stretch but I thought I'd ask your opinion. My last name is Aragon as well. I have distant relatives who are Alagon, all of us from the Philippines. I have had my Y-Chromosome tested at 12 and 21 markers at FTDNA and have been predicted as belonging to haplogroup O*, however, I match more G2C than O in ysearch albeit genetic distance ranging from 3-6. Probably just a strong coincidence considering most Filipinos were renamed to hispanic last names through conversation not necessarily lineage.

  5. Anonymous9:06 PM

    my grandmother's maiden name was avila. my grandfather's name was gutierrez de lara. any news on this?

  6. Anonymous5:07 PM

    Is the last name Jacobo a Sephardic last name? My grandmother's family has lived in South Texas for generations.

  7. Anonymous2:41 PM

    My mother's maiden name is Villarreal and I was also told by an aunt before she passed not to forget our Jewish ancestry. Please help. My mother's family on her father's side is from Nuevo Leon, Mexico.