Jewish Conquistadors in the New World

The Early Years of the Conquest and Colonization

In 1391, a new period in the history of the Jews of Spain began. Jewish communities throughout the Peninsula except those in the Kingdom of Portugal were attacked. The violence was stoked by long-held Christian anti-Judaism and popular discontent. The violence forever altered the position of Jews in the Iberian Peninsula. Thousands of Jews were murdered, and many more converted to Christianity under the direct threat of violence or to forestall it. The scope of the attacks in 1391 overshadowed all past trials as well as achievements and initiated a social and religious crisis that would last for more than a century.

The tragedy of 1391 set off a century long crisi in Castile and Aragon that ultimately manifested itself in the establishment of a national Inquisition with unparalleled power to ferret our Conversos, i.e., Jewish converts to Christianity, who continued to observe Jewish practices. It also led to the final solution to the Converso issue with the Edict of Expulsion. Openly practicing Jews were seen as the source of the problem and given the choice to convert or leave.

Many converted and added to the numbers of Conversos already living dual lives. Many of these individuals eventually made it Westward to the New World. This course focuses in on the early years of colonization and the role certain Conversos played.

Your Instructor

​Rabbi Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez
​Rabbi Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez

Rabbi Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas where he earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. He studied at the Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland and received a Master of Arts Degree in Judaic Studies. He completed his doctoral studies at the Spertus Institute in Chicago in 2015. He studied at the American Seminary for Contemporary Judaism and received rabbinic ordination in 2011 from Yeshiva Mesilat Yesharim.

Rabbi Bejarano Gutierrez was a board member of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies from 2011-2013. He has published various articles in HaLapid, The Journal for Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto-Jews, and Apuntes-Theological Reflections from a Hispanic-Latino Context, y es el autor de What is Kosher?and What is Jewish Prayer?,Who is a Jew?, Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Judaism, Against the Greeks, He is currently the director of the B’nai Anusim Center for Education at

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