CRYPTOJUDAISM AND OPUS DEI
1. The problem of cryptojudaism in
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The subject of cryptojudaism in Spain has been consciously and
voluntarily avoided, not having the slightest idea of the existence of
the converted problem, without whose knowledge it is not possible to
understand the history of Spain, nor to explain the events that are
taking place at present (1).
Hence the imperative need, if we may, the
urgency, to bring to light such an important and transcendental
question, to divulge it, to study it calmly and carefully, to refresh
the historical memory, so broken and forgotten by the Spanish people,
so that one of the great hidden enigmas of our past that most
restlessness and rancor has oozed out against the national and the
Christian can be known.
Not knowing where the enemy is is to be condemned beforehand to be
annihilated by the enemy (2)
and therefore the law and the
clarification, the unmasking and the bet on the stage will be the first
stage of liberation.
The Jew Roth does not exaggerate when he writes that the "history of
the new Christians constitutes an inseparable part of that of Portugal
and Spain in the period of their greatest brilliance (3) being an
essential fragment of church history, with extensive connections to
politics, literature and economics. So much so that the same author
continues that "the classic country of cryptojudaism is Spain. The
tradition has been so long and general there that it is to be suspected
the existence of a brownish predisposition in the very atmosphere of
the country" (4).
Julio Caro Baroja (5)
investigates that the examination of the
Greek voice "Kryptós" and of the Latin "secretus" the
dictionaries give us the following meanings: 1) covered or concealed;
2) hidden, dark, unintelligible; 3) dissimulated, deceitful. For this
reason, Hispanic Judaism acquires the character of something hidden
when it is outside the law and when it becomes hidden it also presents
the well-known features of mendacity and dissimulation.
The converted Jews who continued to observe the Jewish rites in secret
are called "marranos", which, according to Covarrubias, the origin of
this word is to be found in the speech of the Moors, who called the
one-year-old pig "marrano". Other authors make it derive from the verb
marrar, from the Latin aberrare, to deviate from what is right, which
is why this term was coined in Spain at the beginning of the 15th
century to designate the new Christians who deviated "from the good
path initiated with the conversion" keeping the Hebrew ritual underhand
and hidden. Others have tried to derive the word from the Arabic root
which means hypocrite, or to die, apostate. It is also
related to another Hebrew word, muranita, which was the stick used to
punish the excommunicated, although in any case, marrano is equivalent
to pig or pig in Spanish.
Crypto-Jews are the clandestine Jews who in public appear to be
Muslims, Christians or of another religion, but who are secretly Jews.
They were the false converts. It is very difficult, if not impossible,
for a Jew, man or woman, to convert sincerely and truly to another
religion; when they do so falsely, they become spies or agents of
infiltration or control in the religion they falsely adopt (7).
According to Heine "The actions and gestures of the Jews, as well
as their customs, are things ignored by everyone. They think they know
them because they have seen their beards; but they have seen nothing
more than that and, as in the Middle Ages, the Jews remain a walking
mystery. The poet Heine was a Jew and knew what to expect. But the fact
that the problem is not known does not mean that it does not exist,
which happens to be an unknown problem is not understood.
Keep in mind that Judaism is indelible: there is no baptism of water or
blood that erases it. The apostates of Judaism are rare, although many
pretend to abandon it in order to serve it better (9). It does not
matter that one has been baptized. A baptized Jew does not thereby
cease to be a Jew, for it is permissible for him to deceive "idolaters"
by making them believe that they belong to his cult, for this is
prescribed by his blessed Yore of Ah. (10) For crypto Jews, water
baptism does not erase the baptism of blood in the Synagogue.
Thus speaks the Lord God, through the mouth of the prophet
Jeremiah (111:10) when he says that "the wicked Judah hath not returned
unto me with all his heart; he hath done it with a false heart.
Therefore, in whatever nation he lives, and though behind him there
have been twenty generations born in that land, the Jew always feels
himself to be a captive, like his ancestors on the banks of the rivers
of Babylon. (11).
The fictitious transhumance of religion begins in Spain from
1391, date in which there are tens of thousands of new Christians who
apparently enter to form part of the Church, having made estimates and
calculations of the Jewish-converted population in the fifteenth
century that oscillated between 250,000 and 300,000 people (12). And if
the problem of converts was already serious, it became even more so
after 1492 with the avalanche of new conversions that took place (13)
that no one could be convinced of their sincerity.
This flood of Jewish converts gave rise to the birth of a new class,
that of the converts, who soon and from their new status and situation
began to climb, hoarding wealth and honor. (14)
The converts continued in their immense majority to Judaize,
having as Christians only the name, keeping intact their relationship
with the Mosaic Law in their intimacy, and among those of their race
who inspired confidence in it. Around 1460 they founded a kind of sect
that had a certain importance and whose motto could be summarized as
follows: "in this world you will not see me suffer, in the other you
will not see me executed". (15)
They had two faces, two faces, two
names, two personalities, only one root and only one blind obedience.
The Jews throughout the Middle Ages, because they were
collectively responsible for the sin of Deicide, were repelled by the
people who also considered them usurers, cunning, arrogant and
When, for various reasons, they asked for
baptism, it was suspected that they were doing so without any faith,
which did not prevent that, since many of the false converts were from
"rich and wealthy families, there would soon be a number of
personalities of all kinds very well situated within Christian society,
coming from among the newly converted. (17) These neophytes were
usually apostates and hypocrites.
The said crypto-Jews remained faithful to their home ritualism, keeping
a more or less limited number of beliefs and prescriptions, within the
Talmudic tradition, adjusting to a social structure that would allow
them to live with a minimum of guarantees, Even practicing inbreeding
and contracting marriage between relatives to maintain cohesion and
secrecy, so that, for Julio Caro Baroja, from the end of the fifteenth
century until the beginning of the eighteenth, the great cities of
Spain were full of these crypto Jews who gave the Jewish problem itself
a more mysterious and equivocal air. (18) In the 19th century,
Pérez Galdós picked up the tradition that a large part of
the merchant families settled around Madrid's Plaza Mayor were
descendants of Jews, and that a crypto-Jewish society subsisted in
Spain at all times, which decided "the economic destinies of young and
old alike" (19).
Baptism -a formal ceremony for many Jews- is one thing, but true
conversion itself is another. Baptized Jews were still Jews, but in a
different way. They were baptized without conversion. There was a
mixture of formal Christianity, even exaggerated on the outside, and
the clandestine practice of Jewish rites, hiding the secret faith from
their own children, only to reveal it to them later, when they were
thought capable of keeping the secret. (20) The converts stubbornly
resisted in their religious ambiguity.
For a prestigious historian (21),
the crypto Jews had only one desire:
to get rich as soon as possible, emigrate their wealth and flee Spain;
their desire was to escape to the Jewish quarters of Amsterdam or
Bayonne and to live again in peace with their conscience as public
Jews, so that "that crypto Jewish machine that governed the Spanish
economy worked backwards. It was an engine no less powerful than in
other times, but its effectiveness was expressed in negative effects,
from the point of view of national interests".
The perversion of the inner crypto-Jewish group was undeniable as a
pressure group and controller of Spanish economic interests. For
Fernández Suárez (22),
Spanish crypto-Jews were in
communication with external centres resolutely devoted to destroying
the Spanish empire through politics and war, and to sucking -it was
also a way of destroying it- its financial resources. In this way the
danger to the nation, which had been tried to avoid with religious
unity, became much more acute and active as an apparatus was created
that worked against the interests of the country, inside and outside,
effectively organized, and whose destructive dynamism was nourished in
the perpetuation of the conflict secularly maintained and stimulated by
the reactions that the conflict itself provoked from one side or the
other". One more resource of cryptojudaism was its mimicry to be
embedded, in its genuine and secret folds, in the traditional Spanish
society, in which the rich converts -and even more so if they were
crypto-Jews- sought the support of a noble lineage, sometimes buying
it, pure and simple.
For Sombart, the sudden multiplication of false Christians is such an
extraordinary phenomenon, so unique in the history of mankind, that one
is astonished and stupefied every time one has the opportunity to delve
deeper into the subject, because of that unheard of and singular
struggle where the most congenital dissimulation and the most tenacious
perseverance were its best resources. The crypto Jews did not depart
from Judaism except in appearance, as combatants who adopted the
camouflage of their enemies' uniforms and flew their flag with the
intention of attacking them with greater security and to annihilate
them with more vigor.
The assimilated Christian could refrain from thinking in Hebrew or from
reading Jewish books, but in the essential character of all his
passions and of all his acts he remained intimately and intrinsically
Jewish, because the Jew cannot change "even if he wishes to" and
whatever he does, as L. confirms. Lewisohn confirms.
The processes of the Holy Office against the crypto-Jews from the 15th
to the 19th century amount to 30,847 known processes and 37,862 the
total estimated number of processes according to the breakdown
found in reference (23).
For the crypto-Jews "the Christian priests were vile persecutors
of the chosen people and retained their hatred of all things
Christian", so they used the mask of the Christian religion to continue
to materialize their business by trying to go unnoticed externally and
continuing to weave an underground internal network.
The problem of cryptojudaism has not been a circumstantial issue of a
particular moment in history, nor can it be specified to the
surroundings of March 31, 1492 when the signature was stamped on the
expulsion decree or alternatively the choice of baptism to remain
residing in the kingdoms. There were Jewish converts prior to the
Decree of Expulsion because as early as 1480 "two rabbis visited
Guadalupe to ascertain whether the converts there were adequately
observing Judaism" (24)
In the 17th century the problem of Judaism
still remained. (25)
The Spanish convert is reflected in our literature
by adopting clothing and garments of a thousand characterizations. In
Rinconete y Cotadillo, Cervantes narrates the adventures of a Sevillian
Jew who, dressed as a clergyman, was dedicated to committing all kinds
of swindles, falsehoods and deceits, a character who "seems to have
been torn from reality" (26).
Quevedo tells us about the vicissitudes and misdeeds, about the
bending and typology of the false Christians in many of his works,
since there were many Jews who were concealed and carried their
insincerity with great concealment.
In the time of Philip V, the processes against the Spanish Judaizers
reappeared and were repeated, and as an example we see how in a court
of faith held in Toledo on March 19, 1721, several Judaizers left the
land and in that same year, on May 18, in Madrid, Judaizers from those
areas appeared in a court of faith.
George Borrow, an English traveller who travelled around Spain in 1836,
in his work The bible of Spain reflects his impression when he first
saw Mendizábal thinking to himself "I have seen a glance very
similar to that amongst the Beni Israel". And he was not wrong at all.
Borrow gives us in his works a synthesis of the Spanish crypto-Judaism
that Caro Baroja establishes in the following points:
1. Crypto-Judaism has two names: one for when it
walks among the Christians, and the other, that of its lineage and its
2. Crypto-Jewish knows two languages.
3. Crypto Jews have two families, with two women.
One is the one to whom he is legally married; the other is the "friend.
But for him it is really both wives. This system of bigamy is common
among North African Jews.
4. Crypto-Jewish is ill-considered; it is suspect to
the people. But he is on good terms with influential and rich people
because his usurious business gives him economic strength. He also has
bought the lower agents of justice as bailiffs and bracelets.
5. The crypto-Jew knows those who are of the same
condition as him and is aware of the religious status of certain
6. There are crypto-Jews in all social ranks from
humble servants to archbishops of the Catholic Church (27).
In fact, the pig was the metamorphosis of public Judaism in secret,
which made it more dangerous and difficult to detect, transmitting its
underground faith from "parents to children". (28) Pérez
Galdós in his work also gives us multiple examples of the
survival of cryptojudaism in the tunnels of the Spanish society of the
19th century, as it was sharply noted by Mercedes Formica (29) when she
detected that her critical characters revealed to us the enigmatic
"Fortunata and Jacinta" where Santa Cruz is a Jewish surname, like
Santa María, like Aguado...discovering that the care that the
mother of Santa Cruz and her faithful squire put in today's shopping
basket comes from the family's concern for buying Kasher food, that is,
food, ritually sacrificed and for Jewish slaughtermen, also
highlighting the marriage of Juanillo with the fuzzy and kind Jacinta
as a union between beings of the same race and where Jewish racism
appears. Jacinta's devotion means nothing, however Christian it may be.
The Hebrew background remains... Galdós represents in his work
the secret Hispanic Judaism.
Crypto-Judaism has lasted until our days. We find an irrefutable
testimony in the newspaper ABC of March 23rd 1969 where, under the
title of The problems of our Sephardic minorities, a letter dated
February 2nd of that same year is transcribed from Miss Judith who
writes from Madrid to the writer Mercedes Formica and "taking into
account her breadth of spirit, I begged him for a few lines in the ABC
pages that would serve to dispel my doubts and those of not a few
people who have the same problem about the position that we Spaniards
should adopt in this new era of religious freedom who, for one reason
or another, can consider ourselves crypto-Jews for reasons of family
heritage or tradition... I am from Burgos - the letter continues. I was
orphaned as a child and educated by my great-grandmother. She was from
a noble family, practicing Judaism in an innocent, lyrical, pure way,
feeling bound to her ancestors, some of whom were victimized, she
claimed, by the Inquisition. Their influence caused me to follow in
secret, naturally, their same Mosaic religion. As the crypto-Jewish
groups have been closely related for centuries, I can say that it was
natural that, as time went by, I married an Andalusian gentleman, also
a Jew, who had great influence in the closed Hebrew circles of Granada
and Malaga. On the contrary, my husband's brother, the youngest, is a
Catholic priest... since the Council, he accepted that we practice the
religion that according to our conscience was the true one... I will
not say that there are millions of us Spaniards who have been
practicing the Hebrew religion for five centuries, but we are more
numerous than people - and the State - suppose. The story in the first
person is definitive. The nucleus of crypto-Jews was very numerous
right from the start, so we are not surprised by Mrs Judith's final
Rabbi Abraham ben Solomon of Tourrutiel wrote in his Book of Betrayal
that in the year 5172 (1412-1413 according to the Christian calendar)
more than 200,000 Jews had been baptized on the occasion of the
preaching of Saint Vincent Ferrer, although, naturally, "one must
always be wary of mass conversions and even more so when dealing with
Mariano Sículo says: "they began to live as Christians. But
later, as time passed, by diabolic persuasion or by the conversation
they had with the Jews who had remained in their law, or because it is
difficult to leave the things they are accustomed to - because the
nature of men, who do not know how to change, when they know their
crimes they recognize virtue and become better, then later, as
inconstant and without firmness - they hardly turn to their sinister
and accustomed customs. So, thinking the new Christians that Christ was
not the one God was to send, and the one they expected, repenting of
their conversion, they despised the Christian religion and celebrated
in secret places in their homes on the Sabbath, entering their
synagogues at night and honoring their Passover feasts (30).
The converts meant more to the people than a theoretical mock
Christianity. They assumed a tremendously practical misunderstanding
regarding the social and economic problem that suffocated them, because
the people considered these baptized Jews as "adulterers pretending to
be unbelievers and infidels, fathers of all covetousness, sowers of all
weeds and divisions, abundant in all malice and perversity, always
ungrateful to their God, contrary to his commandments, turned away from
their ways and careers, as the psalmist Moses testifies in Deuteronomy
quotation is taken from the answer to the introduction of the
account made by the bachelor Marquitos, in the events of the City of
Toledo against the converts from the year 1449, which was the robbery
called by Pedro Sarmiento, until the year 1467, in which the clergy was
removed against them, whose manuscript is in the National Library of
Madrid, manuscript 2041, on page 18 r-v)
The Jewish writer Cecil Roth, in spite of his anti-Christian phobia,
lets the reality shine through in some paragraphs when he writes that
"the populace that was becoming more and more inflamed, could not
appreciate the theological subtleties and in the pigs he saw only the
hypocritical Jews, (32)
The people thus lost patience and demanded by
force, since peaceful means failed, the removal of the converts from
public life. As Friar Alonso de la Espina said in his Sentinel against
the Jews, the only division was that of "public Jews and hidden Jews:
for the purposes of this, all Jews.
The converts form a very important population nucleus, much more than
one might think. It should not be forgotten that the Spanish
Inquisition was born, precisely against the false converts, against the
fifth column in the Church, against the infiltrators, who at the
beginning of their actions, except for rare and rare occasions, are all
"Marranos". It is necessary to note that in many acts of faith there
are important names and "distinguished" Semitic families that are
rabidly anti-Christian, with the "marranos" forming a true social cyst.
Among the customs of the Judaizers were the following:
1. Adopting Jewish wet nurses to feed infants
2. Change and adopt several names
3. Wash the newly baptized, as soon as they return
from baptism to "disinfect" them
4. Celebrate a double wedding. Inbreeding was the
5. Manifest an infinite hatred for Christ
6. Denial of the Mother of God's virginity
7. Close your windows and spit on the Cross at Easter
8. Slag the crucifix
9. Commission of certain ritual crimes (Sto.
Niño de la Guardia, Sto. Dominguito del Val, etc)
10. Desecrating sacred forms
11. Insulting Christians
12. Secret practice of Hebrew rites. Do not sanctify
yourself. Pray the Semah
13. External drunkenness, far from true religiosity.
14. Disregarding the work of the farm
15. Feeling of "social group"
16. Practice circumcision.
17. Refrain from eating "forbidden meats", derived
from pork. Do not use lard for stews. Refrain from rabbit.
18. Keep the Saturday. Fasting to keep
19. Wash the dead and shave them. Shackle them with
clean clothes. Put a coin in their mouth. Place a head of earth.
20. Engage in trade, profit and financial activities.
21. To monopolize ecclesiastical positions and
22. To accumulate wealth
23. Pretending and buying titles.
24. Playing the so-called "Jesus game.
25. Being buried in virgin soil.
26. Keeping the fast of Yom Kippur, Judith, Esther
and the moons of March 14, June 9, July 9, September 10, December 11
and February 11.
27. Change the linen and move the underwear on
28. Cut your nails and put them in the ground.
From the political point of view, we find in the converts where a
conspiracy or an intrigue arises. As an example, let's cite the
participation of the marrano estate in the communal movement. Among
other leaders we could list Juan Padilla, married to Maria Pacheco, a
descendant of Jews, Juan Bravo, married, likewise, with the Jewish
convert Maria Lopez Coronel, granddaughter of Abraham Senior, Alfonso
de Saravia, Pedro de Acuña - brother-in-law of Padilla -
Iñigo Lopez Coronel, the financial father-in-law of Bravo...
The strength of the converts was to know how to keep silent, to conjure
themselves up in secret, to cover up their dealings with strange looks
and to continue surreptitiously professing their Jewish fanaticism,
forming part of the secret Hebrew communities of each country and
blindly obeying their leaders in Cahal in order to take possession,
without their intention being perceived, of the country where they live
and acting only for the benefit of those of their race and of what
The problem of conversions has brought with it an added and no less
negligible difficulty from the point of view of the influence exerted
on Spain which has been, not the presence of a greater or lesser number
of Israelites throughout history in the Iberian Peninsula, but
precisely their conversion, for if the Jews had not converted, they
would have become less mixed up and their influence and position would
have been more detected and perhaps less, For when the Jews converted,
they had an easy way of gaining access to the high ecclesiastical
hierarchies from where they exercised their influence and reached
pre-eminent positions in the nobility, thus modifying Spanish society
from within and inoculating the "Jewish soul", the "Jewish spirit",
since the convert could not eliminate the Jew within him.
The Israelite influence, which would have been external and incidental
if the convert problem had not existed, became "existential". The
penetration was subtle and intimate, because do not forget that the Jew
who penetrated the Spanish spirit was precisely the convert and the
peculiar psychology of the convert not spontaneous, but forced in his
intimacy by external pressure, fear or convenience.
There is no doubt that the Spain prior to the convert phenomenon was
simpler in its emotional expressions, more joyful, more carefree than
the later Spain which adopted a more somber and citrine air due to the
submersion of the converts in its fibers and entrails.
The revenge of the violated and false convert was terrible: (35) "his
spirit, tormented and deformed, took possession of the Spanish soul and
has not yet abandoned its prey.
The crypto-Jew zealously guarded in the depths of his soul four
feelings: an excessive ambition, an insatiable greed, an eternal
rancor, and an unquenchable hatred, (36) which are the four
the Jewish soul: the ambition to dominate the world; the greed to
possess all riches; the rancor against non-Jewish goyim and especially
Christians; the hatred of Christ.
Erasmus considered Spain to be profoundly semiticized (37) when he
wrote that "In Spain there are hardly any Christians" or "you are full
of Jews. It is a trait that is common to you, it seems, with Italy and
Germany in general, but above all in Spain". This avalanche of converts
in Christian society makes it necessary for the Inquisition to act,
which, contrary to what is believed, had no jurisdiction whatsoever
over the Jews, since they were neither heretics nor apostates, but only
against false converts, against the crypto-Jews, in order to make them
fulfill the promises made.
The convert is the counterpoint of the hidalgo. The crypto-Jew looks
for speculation and performs well in environments and financial means.
He is a liar, vain, arrogant; he practices duplicity before the values
of nobility, fidelity, sincerity and humility.
1. Rivanera Carlés, Federico, "Los judíos conversos, obra
inédita", p 1
3. Roth, Cecil, "A History of the Marranos", Buenos Aires, 1946,
4. Ibid, p 15.
5. Baroja, Julio Caro, "Races, Peoples and Lineages" (University of
Murcia, 1990), p 115.
6. Blázquez, Miguel Juan, "Inquisition and Cryptojudaism"
(Kaydeda, 1988), p 21.
7. Boyer, Jean, "Los peores enemigos de nuestros pueblos" (Colombia:
Editorial Libertad, 1979), p 23.
8. Wast, Hugo, "El Kahal" (Burgos: Editorial Aldecoa, 1946), p 43.
9. Wast, Hugo, "Oro", p 87.
10. Ibid, p 160.
11. Ibid, p 28.
12. Ibid, p 40.
13. Ibid, p 46.
14. Ibid, p 45.
15. Ibid, p 50.
16. Caro Baroja, Julio, "Destino del judio hispano" (Madrid, 1963), p
18. Ibid, p 415.
19. Ibid, p 417.
20. Fernández Suárez, Alvaro, "Los judíos en la
España moderna y contemporánea," Index (September 1966),
21. Ibid, p 15.
22. Ibid, pp 18-19.
23. Blánquez. Miguel, p 316.
24. Rivanera Carlés, p 2.
25. Caro Baroja, p 121.
26. Ibid, p 125.
27. Ibid, pp 149-150.
28. Roth, p 13.
29. Serrano, Eugenia, "Literatura y guerra santa," Diario El
Alcázar (5 September 1972).
30. Marineo Siculo, L., "Vida y hechos de los Reyes Católicos"
(Madrid, 1943), pp 68-70.
31. National Library, "Manuscript 2041", Folio 18v-v.
32. Roth, p. 36.
33. López Martínez, Nicolás, "Los judaizantes
castellanos y la inquisición en tiempos de Isabel la
Católica" (Burgos, 1954), p 78.
34. Ibid, p 261.
35. Ibid, p 335.
36. Wast, "Gold", p 46.
37. Blánquez, Miguel, p 129.
Index of Chapter III