Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Brazil's Jewish roots

JTA has an article on a new film about the descendents of Portugese marranos who fled to Brazil in the 16th century. Some interesting historical details:
The first group of Portuguese Jews arrived in Brazil around 1500, with the first wave of colonizers, but even in the New World they had to keep their ancestry secret. The Inquisition, which lasted for 300 years, followed them to Brazil: Many secret Jews were sent back to Lisbon for trial....
The documentary also includes an interview with University of Sao Paulo historian Anita Novinsky, who used historical records to estimate that 30 percent of the Portuguese who came to Brazil with the first wave of colonists were New Christians [ie. Jews who had converted -- MS]. Some 120,000 Jews now live in Brazil, and it's likely that a far greater number of Brazilians have Jewish ancestors.

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