Skip to Main Content
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

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.

What You'll Learn

  • 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 trip experts
Profile Image
Schelly Talalay Dardashti
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.

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

Profile Image of Christopher Gibson
Christopher Gibson View biography
Christopher Gibson is an award-winning artist, writer, and arts educator who makes his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work includes the Cuentos del Camino series on lower Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe and mixed-media installations at numerous museums in New Mexico and California. Over the years, he has written several articles on Hispanic arts and culture for the magazines "Tradición Revista" and "Imagen."
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 Vannetta Perry
Vannetta Perry View biography
Dr. Vannetta Perry is a retired educator and lifelong resident of New Mexico who is deeply rooted in the southwest. Her family homesteaded and ranched in Southwestern New Mexico and farmed in West Texas. As an educator, Dr. Perry worked in the university setting, teaching biology and directing science outreach programs. Her love for travel was sparked when she led research studies in developing countries. Since retiring, Dr. Perry has continued to share her love of travel and education as a travel director and leader.
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 Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Schelly Talalay 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 Ellen Morris Bond
Ellen Morris Bond View biography
Ellen Morris Bond has spent most of her adult years in northern New Mexico, graduating from the University of New Mexico Honors Program. She completed a Master’s Degree in Community Development at University of California-Davis. As a non-profit director, Ellen forged strong collaborations with local and regional organizations such as health councils, community foundations, tribal groups, hospitals, public schools, rural health clinics, and faith groups. She now volunteers with the local acequia/water organization and leads art and architecture groups at La Fonda of Santa Fe.
Profile Image of Sheryl Russell
Sheryl Russell View biography
Sheryl Russell was born to a farming family in Kansas. At the University of Kansas, she studied education in theatre and English literature, followed by decades of work in retail and communications systems in Dallas, New York City, and the California Bay area. Sheryl felt that she had “come home" when she moved to Santa Fe. Here she found a cultural diversity, architectural style, and historic richness that supported the next 30 years of leading explorations and study of native Southwest cultures and their history.
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.
Profile Image of Roberto Capocchi
Roberto Capocchi View biography
Roberto Capocchi was born in Brazil, where he studied classical guitar with Henrique Pinto and Brazilian jazz with Conrado Paulino. He later studied with Thomas Patterson at the University of Arizona and privately with Jorge Caballero. Roberto helped open the first Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival “Guitar in Our Schools” program at Kha’p’o Community School, and has recorded three CDs of solo and chamber music. He lives in Santa Fe, where he keeps a private teaching studio.
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.
Year
2024
  • 2024
  • 2025
Date
Sep 15 - Sep 20
  • Sep 15 - Sep 20
  • Nov 10 - Nov 15
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Select trip year and date
2024
  • 2024
  • 2025
Sep 15 - Sep 20
  • Sep 15 - Sep 20
  • Nov 10 - Nov 15
While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
Print All
Map details are not available for this location.
6 days
5 nights
12 meals
5 B 3 L 4 D
DAY
1
Program Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Santa Fe, NM
D
Drury Plaza Hotel Santa Fe

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 3:00-5:00 p.m. After you check in and have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please look for your Group Leader when you check in. Orientation: 5:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Our Group Leader will be the Study Leader for most lectures and field trips during this program. All activities during this program take place at an elevation between 5,000 and 7,500 feet; routine physical activity will be more challenging than at sea level. Transportation for program-related activities will be via motorcoach unless specified otherwise. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At 6:00 p.m. in the hotel meeting room.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow participants, relax, and get a good night’s sleep for the full day ahead.

DAY
2
New Mexico Sephardic History, Genealogy, Meet a Converso
Santa Fe, NM
B,L,D
Drury Plaza Hotel Santa Fe

Activity note: Moving around within the hotel and sitting during lectures, walking to/from lunch and dinner approximately 1 mile.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: In the hotel meeting room, a local expert will introduce the fascinating history of Conversos and Crypto-Jews, dating back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition that began its “investigations” in 1480. In 1492, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain signed what is known as the Alhambra Decree ordering Jewish residents in Spanish domains to convert or leave on pain of death. Many fled and some reached the New World. Following a short break, we will head out on foot for our lunch destination.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will return to the hotel for a presentation on migration, DNA, and genetics. Then, we'll hear from a presenter who will discuss her Converso/Crypto-Jewish heritage and her voyage of discovery into her own personal history. These fascinating presentations will be followed by a Q & A panel with the presenters.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
History lecture, Walking exploration, Free time, Performance
Santa Fe, NM
B,L
Drury Plaza Hotel Santa Fe

Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles over paved, uneven surfaces. Extent and duration of walking during independent explorations according to personal choice. Riding to the performance, approximately 10 miles and 30 minutes total.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will gather in the hotel meeting room for an expert-led presentation that unpacks the unique and complex tapestry of New Mexico's cultural heritage as it evolved on the outer fringes of New Spain. We'll explore a Spanish colonial caste system that institutionalized the mixing of Indigenous, African, and European peoples; Genizaro communities that are descended from Indian captives who were forcibly integrated into Spanish colonial society; furtive Penitente and crypto-Jewish religious movements; and centuries-old communally-managed irrigation societies. Then we’ll head out on foot with our Group Leader to explore the Santa Fe Plaza. This is the historic heart of the city. We'll visit the Plaza area, Palace of the Governor's, the impressive Romanesque-style Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, and other sites as time permits as we learn more about the history of Santa Fe.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Santa Fe is known for the breadth and depth of its culinary offerings. Not to be confused with "Tex-Mex," New Mexican cuisine is a fusion of Native American and Spanish ingredients and techniques. There are a number of fine restaurants within walking distance of the Santa Fe Plaza. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: We will ride to a special staged reading of Robert Benjamin’s contemporary play "Parted Waters," presented especially for our group by Teatro Paraguas. An international group of actors and artists created Teatro Paraguas in 2004. Although this group’s main mission is to produce bilingual Hispanic/Latino Theater and poetry performances, they will also produce works outside of that mission if they are deemed to be of social and political importance.

DAY
4
Discussion on Traditions, Museum Hill, Musical Performance
Santa Fe, NM
B,L,D
Drury Plaza Hotel Santa Fe

Activity note: Traveling about 10 miles, approximately 30 minutes over the course of the day. Walking up to 1 mile; varied terrain. Standing and walking during museum visits.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will gather in the hotel meeting room for a discussion on New Mexico Crypto-Jewish historical perspective with a local expert who will lead a group discussion. During this interactive session we will discuss and share family traditions, history and food. Then we will board the motorcoach and head to our lunch destination.

Lunch: At local restaurant

Afternoon: Next, we'll ride to Museum Hill for a self-directed field trip to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture features pottery, jewelry, sculpture, baskets, and other objects made by Native Americans from the earliest times to modern day, scrupulously documented and beautifully displayed. Most of the work is from the Southwest. The Museum of International Folk Art hosts the largest collection of international folk art in the world. Some of the items we may see include ceremonial dress and masks, furniture, and Lloyd Cotsen’s Neutrogena collection. We will return to the hotel for some free time before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: In the meeting room at the hotel, we will enjoy a performance by a local Spanish classical guitarist.

DAY
5
Full-Day trip to Taos
Santa Fe, NM
B,D
Drury Plaza Hotel Santa Fe

Activity note: Traveling about 150 miles, approximately 3 hours over the course of the day. Walking up to 5 miles; varied terrain. Standing and walking during Pueblo visit when available.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll board the motorcoach and ride up the "High Road" to Taos where we will first visit the Taos Pueblo (if the Pueblo is open; it sometimes closes with little to no advance notice for private Pueblo events). This picturesque Pueblo at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America. The multiple-storied adobe dwellings reflect an ancient culture. Approximately 100 Pueblo residents still live much as their ancestors did 1,000 years ago, without electricity or running water. Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. At the Pueblo, we'll enjoy an expert-led walk through the community. We will then board the motorcoach and ride to the Taos Plaza area for some time for independent explorations and lunch.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to have what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. We will depart for Santa Fe in the late afternoon.

Dinner: At historic Rancho de Chimayó, a charming restaurant housed in an old hacienda.

Evening: We’ll gather for a wrap-up session to review the program and what we’ve experienced together. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
Santa Fe, NM
B

Activity note: Hotel checkout 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Recommended For You