When she was growing up in a small town in southern Colorado, an area where her ancestors settled centuries ago when it was on the fringes of the northern frontier of New Spain, Bernadette Gonzalez always thought some of the stories about her family were unusual, if not bizarre.There are, according to the article, many stories of so-called "crypto-Jews" (hidden Jews):
Her grandmother, for instance, refused to travel on Saturday and would use a specific porcelain basin to drain blood out of meat before she cooked it. In one tale that particularly puzzled Ms. Gonzalez, 52, her grandfather called for a Jewish doctor to circumcise him while he was on his death bed in a hospital in Trinidad, Colo.
Only after Ms. Gonzalez moved to Houston to work as a lawyer and began discussing these tales with a Jewish colleague, she said, did "the pieces of the puzzle" start falling into place.
Ms. Gonzalez started researching her family history and concluded that her ancestors were Marranos, or Sephardic Jews, who had fled the Inquisition in Spain and in Mexico more than four centuries ago. Though raised in the Roman Catholic faith, Ms. Gonzalez felt a need to reconnect to her Jewish roots, so she converted to Judaism three years ago.
"I feel like I came home," said Ms. Gonzalez, who now often uses the first name Batya. "The fingerprints of my past were all around me, but I didn't know what they meant."
For more than two decades, anecdotal evidence collected by researchers in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas suggested that some nominally Catholic families of Iberian descent had stealthily maintained Jewish customs throughout the centuries, including lighting candles on Friday evening, avoiding pork and having the Star of David inscribed on gravestones.It's fascinating and poignant that the old traditions would be kept alive for so long by people who were not talking to each other about the origins of the traditions.
IN THE COMMENTS: A reader is shocked that the NYT is using the term "marrano."