Desperate Venezuelans scour family records for any hint of Jewish ancestry


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September 4, 2019
Desperate Venezuelans scour family records for any hint of Jewish ancestry
By Monica Showalter

Once upon a time, people who were Jewish or who had Jewish ancestry would go all out to hide it, becoming known as "Marranos," which was a derogatory name.
Socialism in Venezuela has made having Jewish ancestry a matter of survival for some. Venezuelans are scouring their family records for any sign that one of their forefathers might just have been Jewish.
They might be looking for a reason to get to Israel, and some have converted to Judaism to achieve this. But most are looking to take advantage of a law passed in Spain, attempting to right previous wrongs by permitting the re-entry into Spain of the descendents of Jews who were expelled by the Spanish monarchs in 1492.
The Caracas Chronicles has a superb explainer describing what is going on in this:
A new historical paradox was thus born: The citizenship law for Sephardic people has reverted the logic behind the "blood purity" statutes installed in Spain during the Inquisition to discriminate Jews that had converted, and their descendants. There are people now who, unlike those hiding from the Inquisition to save their lives, want to prove that Sephardic blood runs through their veins.
When the law was approved in 2015, I got several calls from Venezuelans who wanted to know about the Sephardic residence, and tried to find their last name in lists online. Interest increased further, not only because of a deteriorating Venezuelan crisis, but because there's a deadline: Applications will be accepted only until October.
What irony that the remnants of persecution — previously hiding their pasts — might just now have a lifeline.
It's actually changing the culture, too, as people hunt for their roots:
Different sources have told me about the emotional impact of this research on people who didn't even know what a Jew or a Sephardi were. They've discovered, for instance, the religious persecution, the exile and double lives of enforced Catholicism to hide Jewish origins (converted Jews were derogatorily called marranos, "pigs".)
For Latin America, this can only be a good thing. Read the whole thing here.