loading spinner
New Mexico

New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews in Santa Fe

Program No. 22854RJ
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.

Enroll with Confidence

We want your Road Scholar learning adventure to be something to look forward to—not worry about. Learn more

Protecting the Environment

We offset a portion of the emissions created by your travel. Learn more

Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Mar 31 - Apr 5, 2024
Starting at
1,949
Itinerary Note

Taos Pueblo will be closed for their annual "Quiet Season" until the end of April; alternate activities will be offered when we visit the town of Taos.

Apr 7 - Apr 12, 2024
Starting at
1,949
Itinerary Note

Taos Pueblo will be closed for their annual "Quiet Season" until the end of April; alternate activities will be offered when we visit the town of Taos.

May 19 - May 24, 2024
Starting at
1,949
Jun 2 - Jun 7, 2024
Starting at
2,149
Sep 15 - Sep 20, 2024
Starting at
2,349
Nov 10 - Nov 15, 2024
Starting at
1,999
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Filling Fast!
Mar 31 - Apr 5, 2024
Starting at
2,389
Itinerary Note

Taos Pueblo will be closed for their annual "Quiet Season" until the end of April; alternate activities will be offered when we visit the town of Taos.

Filling Fast!
Apr 7 - Apr 12, 2024
Starting at
2,389
Itinerary Note

Taos Pueblo will be closed for their annual "Quiet Season" until the end of April; alternate activities will be offered when we visit the town of Taos.

May 19 - May 24, 2024
Starting at
2,389
Filling Fast!
Jun 2 - Jun 7, 2024
Starting at
2,719
Sep 15 - Sep 20, 2024
Starting at
3,069
Filling Fast!
Nov 10 - Nov 15, 2024
Starting at
2,479

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 Conversos and Crypto-Jews who practiced their faith in secrecy traveled to the New World and finally to New Mexico. Here 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
Keep the Pace
Walking up to 4 miles over uneven paved and unpaved terrain; standing up to one hour, some stairs. Elevation up to 7000 feet. Due to the elevations during this program, physical activity may be more fatiguing than at sea level.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Meet descendants of New Mexico Conversos for personal insight.
  • Travel to Taos via the High Road and learn about its fascinating history.
  • Explore the history of Santa Fe with an expert on New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews.

General Notes

Select dates are designated for small groups and are limited to 24 participants or less. For a less active version of this program, please see "New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews" (#11007). It includes similar and complementary educational content and is based in Albuquerque.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Omar Villanueva
Omar Villanueva holds a master's degree in classical guitar performance from the University of New Mexico. He is a multifaceted guitarist who performs classical, Spanish and popular music. His repertoire includes renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic and Latin music arrangements for solo guitar. He is also an accomplished and awarded singer of music from Latin America and New Mexico. He has been performing in New Mexico and surrounding states since 2004.

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

Profile Image of Ron Hart
Ron Duncan Hart is a cultural anthropologist, writer, editor and translator who has focused his studies on Jewish folklore and Sephardic traditions. He has taught anthropology at universities around the world including Georgia State and the University of the Andes in Bogotá, and has worked in South America with UNICEF and the Ford Foundation. The author of more than a dozen books on religion and social change, Ron has received awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Science Foundation, and Fulbright, among others.
Profile Image of Maria Apodaca
Maria Apodaca View biography
Maria Apodaca’s family arrived in what is today's New Mexico in 1598. She is a descendant of the B'nai Anusim, Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism in the 15th century. Maria is a member of Congregation Albert; a founder and board member of the Sephardic Heritage Institute New Mexico; a board member, Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies; and a board member, Jewish Genealogical Society of New Mexico.
Profile Image of Omar Villanueva
Omar Villanueva View biography
Omar Villanueva holds a master's degree in classical guitar performance from the University of New Mexico. He is a multifaceted guitarist who performs classical, Spanish and popular music. His repertoire includes renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic and Latin music arrangements for solo guitar. He is also an accomplished and awarded singer of music from Latin America and New Mexico. He has been performing in New Mexico and surrounding states since 2004.
Profile Image of Kris Herbst
Kris Herbst View biography
Kris Herbst is a storyteller and interpretive leader who enjoys exploring and studying the Southwest's cultures and natural history from his home in Santa Fe. He has edited a guide to the Abiquiu region’s geology and has led groups to archaeological sites on a cattle and guest ranch near Salida, Colorado. An experienced journalist, Kris serves as chief editor for Ashoka, a global organization that identifies and supports the world's leading social entrepreneurs. Kris received his Master's degree in city and regional planning from Harvard.
Profile Image of Schelly Dardashti
Schelly Dardashti View biography
Schelly Talalay Dardashti, a native New Yorker, has lived in Teheran, Tel Aviv, New Mexico. She is the US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage, and has traced her Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi families across Iran, Spain, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. An early proponent of DNA for genealogy, she created the award-winning "Tracing the Tribe - Jewish Genealogy on Facebook." She is a Board member of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies; founding member, Sephardic Heritage Institute New Mexico; and President, Jewish Genealogical Society of New Mexico.
Profile Image of Isabelle Sandoval
Isabelle Sandoval View biography
Isabelle Sandoval is a retired teacher and school administrator with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of New Mexico, a master’s in curriculum from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Wyoming. A poet, speaker, and writer, she has researched family history, genealogy, DNA, and traditions of her New Mexico ancestors. She holds citizenship in Portugal based on her Sephardic origin.
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.
Crypto-Jews: The Long Journey
by Ron Duncan Hart
The crypto-Jewish experience has been shrouded in mystery for a past that might have been and the imagined future that could be. In the American Southwest and in parts of Latin America there is a movement to reclaim Jewish identity, and people are describing remnants of Jewish life in their families even though their ancestors renounced Jewishness long ago. People want to learn about the Sepharad of their ancestors, the Spain of the Jews. Many ask, "What is our place in that heritage." Others simply say, "Somos Judios." We are Jews.
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.
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.
Guardians of Hidden Traditions
by Isabelle Medina Sandoval
Historical fiction based on women and their families preserving Jewish identity. The traditions of crypto-Jewish New Mexican families reveal centuries of hidden Iberian Jewish customs almost forgotten by isolation, changes of diverse nationality, and time itself.
The Spell of New Mexico
by Tony Hillerman (Editor)
A selection of 12 thoughtful essays on the New Mexico state of mind by great writers, including C.G. Jung, Mary Austin, D.H. Lawrence and Lawrence Clark Powell. Hillerman succeeds in communicating the lure of the desert Southwest in this wonderful, literate introduction to the state.





Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.