San Luis Valley Series
Part III of VII
For centuries we have known that Spanish Jews fleeing religious persecution in their home country sought refuge in the Americas. Some found a temporary home in Cuba, some settled in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Others have long been rumored to have settled in what is currently the six-county region that now comprises the San Luis Valley of Colorado and northern New Mexico. Three recent developments have sparked a renewed interest in the exiled Spanish Jews or ôSephardimö as they are referenced ľ a unique chromosome, a declaration by the Spanish government, and a new book.
Breast Cancer Gene
In the last decade, a mutated gene causing a particular form of breast cancer had previously only been known in Jewish women. Recently, that gene has been found in Latino women of Spanish descent residing in the San Luis Valley. Even though six women - ônon-Jewish Americans of Spanish ancestryö in the valley were documented as having the gene, they had no knowledge of Jewish ancestry. The study finds, ôůit is suggested that their ancestral origins stem from the immigration of Spanish Conversos and Crypto-Jews,ö and, ôůthe ůmutation is of Jewish origin and prevalent across the Mexican-American Hispanic population.ö
Only one percent of Jewish women carry the gene variant and the mutation has not been found in other populations. If this gene variation does not confirm generations old Jewish ancestry in the valley, it at least raises questions of Spanish Jewish ancestry based in science.
In early June, the Spanish government sent shock waves through the Jewish community by offering citizenship to descendants of Jews expelled for religious reasons in the 15th century. Applicants for citizenship need not renounce current citizenship and can hold dual Spanish citizenship. Criteria for citizenship is vague but will likely require a letter from a local rabbi or the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities.
The curious explanation for extending citizenship ľ correcting a historic wrong ľ seems a bit too simplistic given the lack of an olive branch to members of the Muslim community who were treated just as poorly as the Jews and likewise driven out of Spain during the Catholic Crusades. Some speculate the European country is trying to mend its relationship with Israel for voting to include Palestine amongst United Nations members in 2013.
Political motivations notwithstanding, given the strong Spanish self-identification by many in San Luis and newfound evidence of genetic links to the Jewish community in Spain, the governmentĺs offer of citizenship may be relevant for many residents in the Valley.
The Portal of Light: Kabbalah, Emmanuel and the Church
A new book by Anthony Garcia, a Denver resident with roots in the Valley delves into the world of crypto-Jews and how they concealed their beliefs to survive the Spanish Crusades. According to the bookĺs web site, ôReaders will learn how Judaic families concealed their identities, preserve their faith and practice of faith, to survive via the use of Kabbalah concealment techniques.ö
In 2011, two notebooks were delivered to Garcia, a known researcher ľ one containing psalms or Alabados (songs of praise from the New Mexican territory) referencing ancient Jewish teachings and the other containing a mystery play providing hope to those leaving the Inquisition for strange lands. Garcia went through a painstaking decryption and translation process to discover Ladino (a language similar to Spanish spoken primarily by Sephardic Jews) and Hebrew words secretly embedded throughout the play along with phrases of the Torah, Old and New Testaments. Characters and historic figures also link the play to a Judeo-cryptic history.
Garcia founded the web site, www.alabados.com which serves as the basis of his book and reflects on the time spent with his family listening to the ancient Judaic psalms. His book can be previewed and purchased at his web site.
 ôPrevalence and Type of BRCA Genetic Mutationsůö American Society of Clinical Oncology Journal, Jeffrey Weitzel et al, 2012.
 ôAnteproyecto de ley para agilizar la concesiˇn de la nacionalidad espa˝ola a los sefardÝes,ö www.exteriores.gob.es/Embajadas/PANAMA/es/
Part I: www.lavozcolorado.com/detail.php?id=8143
Part II: www.lavozcolorado.com/detail.php?id=8156
Part III: www.lavozcolorado.com/detail.php?id=8165
Part IV: www.lavozcolorado.com/detail.php?id=8175
Part V: www.lavozcolorado.com/detail.php?id=8187
Part VI: www.lavozcolorado.com/detail.php?id=8198
Part VII: www.lavozcolorado.com/detail.php?id=8207