New Mexico

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

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. 22854RJ
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 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 2 miles a day over uneven terrain; standing up to one hour, some stairs. Elevations of 7,000 feet.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Meet descendants of New Mexico conversos for personal insight.
  • Travel to Taos Pueblo 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

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
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Jordi Gendra-Molina
Rabbi Jordan Gendra was born in Barcelona, Spain. He pursued rabbinic studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia, and was ordained by RRC in June 2006. While a student at RRC, Rabbi Jordi gave many hours to helping other students with Talmud (Jewish law), Hebrew, Aramaic, and history. He holds a PhD in medieval Jewish history from Universitat de Girona in Spain and a master’s in Semitic languages, with a specialization in Hebrew and Aramaic, from the Universitat de Barcelona.

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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Deborah Rael-Buckley
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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.
Santa Fe
by Gene Peach
Filled with the dynamic culture of Santa Fe (a uniquely wonderful piece of the USA) this book of images moves through the seasons, capturing summer’s low-rider cars, autumn’s harvest, spring’s bursting of color and much more in The City Different.
Taos, A Topical History
by Corina A. Santistevan
Profiling the small, but highly influential northern New Mexico town, this collection of 23 essays were written by scholars in a variety of fields, including: archaeology, geology, history, art and literature.
The Great Taos Bank Robbery
by Tony Hillerman
Nine indelible tales of life in New Mexico by the great newspaperman and author of the terrific series of mysteries set on the Navajo Nation.
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.
Edge of Taos Desert, An Escape to Reality
by Mabel Dodge Luhan
First published in 1937, this story reveals the spiritual awakening the New York socialite experienced through Taos, the Pueblo Indians and Indian Tony Luhan, whom she later married.
Santa Fe, History of an Ancient City
by David Grant Noble (Editor)
A revised edition of of this classic history of Santa Fe to the mid-nineteenth century, featuring essays by ten scholars and hundreds of archival photographs, drawings and maps.
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.
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.
Traditional Arts of Spanish New Mexico: The Hispanic Heritage Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art
by Robin Farwell Gavin
This compilation of more than 100 items from the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe offers good insight into Spanish colonial art in New Mexico.
Frommer's Easyguide to Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque
by Barbara Laine
A comprehensive, practical guide to the region with excellent recommendations for hotels, restaurants and excursions. With two-color maps throughout.
Dark Beauty, Photographs of New Mexico
by Jack Parsons
Southwest photographer Parsons presents the rugged landscapes and the people of New Mexico, exploring religious iconography, far-flung ranches, small towns and wide open spaces in this full-color coffee table book.
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.
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.
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.
The Art of New Mexico: How the West Is One
by Traugott, Joseph
An illustrated compendium of New Mexico art from the 1880s to the present that considers historical and cultural significance with a wealth of information about the artists and their pieces. Written for a broad audience.
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.
Santa Fe Map
by MapEasy
A plastic-coated, fold-up map of Santa Fe, including Taos and Albuquerque. Size: 18x27 inches.
New Mexico, Images of a Land and Its People
by Bill Richardson (Foreword), Art Gomez (Introduction), Lucian Niemeyer (Photographer)
Featuring 150 handsome color photographs, this compendium presents New Mexico's diverse peoples (Paleo, Plains and Pueblo Indians, Hispanos and Anglos) and, of course, the state's magnificent scenery.
Indian Arts of the Southwest
by Susanne Page
Featuring color photographs of the basketry, pottery, weaving, jewelry, and carvings of 200 noted artists, this book is both a collector's guide and cultural history of the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo peoples and other native peoples.

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