New Mexico

New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews

Learn the history and experience the unique culture of conversos and Crypto-Jews — Spain’s Jewish citizens who were forced to leave their country for not converting to Christianity.
Rating (5)
Program No. 11007RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

In 1492, the Alhambra Decree forced Spain’s Jewish citizens to make an unthinkable decision: convert to Christianity or leave the country. Over the next 500 years, the saga of the conversos and Crypto-Jews — who practiced their faith in secrecy — brought them to the New World and finally to New Mexico, where their traditions melded with those of the peoples of the Southwest. In this land of canyons and desert, trace the struggle of New Mexico’s conversos and Crypto-Jews, and consider how their traditions have managed to survive against the odds.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking a few blocks over uneven terrain; standing up to one hour, some stairs. Elevation of 5,300 feet.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Meet New Mexico conversos for personal insight.
  • Visit Acoma Pueblo and learn about its fascinating history.
  • Enjoy field trips to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

General Notes

For a more active version of this program, please see "New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews in Santa Fe" (#22854). It includes similar and complementary educational content, but is based in Santa Fe.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Maria Apodaca
Maria Apodaca’s family has been in New Mexico since 1598 when Juan Oñate brought the first colonist to the Kingdom of New Mexico. Maria comes from the B'nai Anusim, the people who were forced to convert to the catholic religion in the 14th century. Maria is active as a member of congregation Nahalat Shalom and has served for three years on the Va'ad, the board. She is the event coordinator for the Festvial Djudeo-Espanyol festival, and is a co-leader of the monthly Sephardic dinner.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Jordi Gendra-Molina
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Maria Apodaca
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Min Kantrowitz
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Christopher Gibson
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Jews of Spain
by Jane S. Gerber
A straightforward, readable history of Jewish life in Spain. The book covers life in Spain up to the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and continues with chapters on the Sephardic diaspora.
Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History
by Joe Sando
An expansive history of the Indian Pueblos of New Mexico from a Native American perspective. The book explores the origins of the tribe to its current struggles to maintain sovereignty, land and water rights.
A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism
by Goldstein, Phyllis
The Spanish Inquisition
by Cecil Roth
This documents the events leading up to the Inquisition, the torment that spread from Spain to Portugal and the New World -- a fascinating exploration of the roots of the Inquisition and its effects on the country.
Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West
by Rochlin, Harriet and Fred
by Diaz-Mas, Paloma
The Story of the Jews, Finding the Words 1000 BC-1492 AD
by Simon Schama
A marvelously readable, far-reaching chronicle of three thousand years of Jewish history.
The Marrano Legacy: A Contemporary Crypto-Jewish Priest Reveals Secrets of his Double Life
by Alexy, Trudi
To the End of the Earth
by Hordes, Stanley M.
After encountering New Mexicans who abstained from eating pork and lit candles on Friday night, Hordes realized these practices were passed down from the early crypto-Jewish settlers. He follows the legacy of the crypto-Jews from their origins in medieval Spain and Portugal through their settlement in New Spain and current reemergence of their culture and practices within the Hispano community.
New Mexico's Crypto-Jews: Image and Memory
by Soltes, Ori Z. (Introduction), Carl Herz (Photographer)
A photographic tribute to the New Mexican descendants of the Crypto-Jews, a subsect of Europeans who were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. Though publically they were Catholic, the Crypto-Jews continued to privately practice their Jewish faiths. Black-and-white photos are supplemented with essays.
Sephardim in the Americas
by Cohen, Martin and Peck, Abraham J.
The Mezuzah in the Madonna's Foot
by Alexy, Trudi
New Mexico, A History
by Joseph P. Sanchez
This cooperative effort between three native New Mexicans is the first complete history of New Mexico. It charts the state’s development from 16th-century Spanish colony to frontier province, from its 1912 American statehood to a hub of (often classified) scientific research. A vital source for anyone seeking to understand the complex history of the West.
Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors
by Reston, James Jr.

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