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The Virgin of Guadalupe and the Conversos

The Virgin of Guadalupe and the Conversos: Uncovering Hidden Influences from Spain to Mexico

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 276
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  • Book Info
    The Virgin of Guadalupe and the Conversos
    Book Description:

    Hidden lives, hidden history, and hidden manuscripts. InThe Virgin of Guadalupe and the Conversos,Marie-Theresa Hernández unmasks the secret lives ofconversosandjudaizantesand their likely influence on the Catholic Church in the New World.The termsconversoandjudaizanteare often used for descendants of Spanish Jews (the Sephardi, or Sefarditas as they are sometimes called), who converted under duress to Christianity in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. There are few, if any, archival documents that prove the existence ofjudaizantesafter the Spanish expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and the Portuguese expulsion in 1497, as it is unlikely that a secret Jew in sixteenth-century Spain would have documented his allegiance to the Law of Moses, thereby providing evidence for the Inquisition.On aDa Vinci Code- style quest, Hernández persisted in hunting for a trove of forgotten manuscripts at the New York Public Library. These documents, once unearthed, describe the Jewish/Christian religious beliefs of an early nineteenth-century Catholic priest in Mexico City, focusing on the relationship between the Virgin of Guadalupe and Judaism. With this discovery in hand, the author traces the cult of Guadalupe backwards to its fourteenth-century Spanish origins. The trail from that point forward can then be followed to its interface with early modern conversos and their descendants at the highest levels of the Church and the monarchy in Spain and Colonial Mexico. She describes key players who were somehow immune to the dangers of the Inquisition and who were allowed the freedom to display, albeit in a camouflaged manner, vestiges of their family's Jewish identity.By exploring the narratives produced by these individuals, Hernández reveals the existence of thoseconversosandjudaizanteswho did not return to the "covenantal bond of rabbinic law," who did not publicly identify themselves as Jews, and who continued to exhibit in their influential writings a covert allegiance and longing for a Jewish past. This is a spellbinding and controversial story that offers a fresh perspective on the origins and history ofconversos.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6570-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on Text
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-19)

    In the spring of 2006, while searching through the archives at the New York Public Library (NYPL), I experienced a jolt such as Ann Laura Stoler describes—“a sort of ‘shock’ of unexpected details that alters one’s vision, ‘pricks’ one’s received understandings of what counts as a history and what makes up people’s lives.”¹ This occurred when I found a large mass of writings by a Mexican priest named Manuel Espinosa de los Monteros, indicating that he was a crypto-Jew, or at the least, a Jewish Christian.² The papers are dated between 1825 and 1830. They are particularly important because...

  6. 1 Virgin of the Secret River
    (pp. 20-36)

    Arturo Álvarez, director of the Guadalupe Monastery archive for twenty-five years, writes in his book on Guadalupe of Spain that “I lived in her shadow many years during which I had the opportunity to acquire the deepest knowledge about the past of her sanctuary. I developed a fascination and passionate love for this Virgin whose face is almost black.”¹ Álvarez’s devotion is representative of the village surrounding the monastery. Twenty-first century residents visit the Virgin several times per day, praying to her or simply meditating while sitting in the sanctuary. Tourists swarm the place on weekends, coming from different regions...

  7. 2 The Monks of the King: Los Monjes del Rey
    (pp. 37-58)

    There is a story from before the Expulsion, a learned Jew said that the Order of Jerónimos was established by decree of the king.

    On what occasion would a king hand over his crown and the keys of his kingdom to an “eminent advisor,” a “most religious prior”? What could be so immediate and secure that a king would dispose of his power and influence to such a relationship? What was this previous offering that meant so much to the king? The keys of the kingdom that Juan gladly gave to the Jerónimos meant more than the honor of having...

  8. 3 Divine Splendor
    (pp. 59-76)

    In numerous paintings from Spain’s Golden Age, the Virgin Mary is surrounded by a blinding light in her role as the Woman of the Apocalypse. Going further back in time to the Middle Ages, the Virgin Mary was associated with a different type of blinding light, that of Moses’s burning bush. The “radiant splendor” is the feminine aspect of God and is known as the Shekhinah. According to numerous Christian scholars, the blinding light is connected to the Virgin’s conception “by the Holy Ghost” because she was not “consumed by the flames” of sexual desire.¹ In contrast, the Shekhinah is...

  9. 4 Hebrew Truth: Hebraica veritas
    (pp. 77-92)

    There are unpublishable (and perhaps incorrect) narratives circulating among Italian scholars that attest to the Jewish ancestry of the powerful Florentine Medici family.Hebraica veritas—the Hebrew truth—a term used when a scholar seeks to study the Old Testament in its original Hebrew language, was the focus of learning in the Renaissance Florence of the Medicis in the late fifteenth century, where the Neo-Platonists held ongoing discussions regarding ancient knowledge that included the study of Greek and Hebrew texts. At the same moment, a nascent movement of Hebrew studies appeared in Spain with the rise to power of Archbishop...

  10. 5 The Sphinx: Carlos V, Escorial, and Benito Arias Montano
    (pp. 93-118)

    The mythological sphinx brings to mind intellectual uncertainty and the quest for knowledge. Felipe II elected hiscapellánBenito Arias Montano to take on the role of the sphinx for the monarchy.¹ Montano’s life was a constant riddle. Although Montano was one of the most prolific writers of the sixteenth century, even with all his words, no one quite knows who he was.

    Benito Arias Montano, author of the verse opening this chapter and chaplain to the king, was in his early thirties when he became a priest in the prestigious Order of Santiago. Montano was the arm of intellect...

  11. 6 Miguel Sánchez, Guadalupe, and the Inquisition
    (pp. 119-137)

    Half a century after the death of Benito Arias Montano, Miguel Sánchez, a priest in México City, wrote of a Woman Clothed in the Sun—surrounded by brilliant light—and about to give birth to a child whose destiny is to save the world. In the story an evil dragon seeks to destroy the unborn child. The story does not end tragically. The child and his mother are saved by the Archangel Michael and an eagle that flies with them far away from the claws of the dragon. Michael is said to be the constant companion of another brilliant light...

  12. 7 Madre Sion
    (pp. 138-155)

    Manuel Espinosa de los Monteros states that the Virgin of Guadalupe speaks to Juan Diego (the indigenous man she appeared to) as “representative of Madre Sion, Madre Jerusalem.” He further positions himself as a Christian Jew in the following description of the Virgin Mary, “first as mother of Christ and in second place as representative of Mother Sion that is hiding in (un latibulo) a secret location.”¹ Richard Popkin writes that he “was fascinated by the Marrano experience, by the fact that the forced converts and their descendants in Spain were forced to live a double life, outwardly conforming to...

  13. Conclusion: Lost Narratives
    (pp. 156-166)

    In the summer of 1932 Jac Nachbin, a professor from Northwestern University, was arrested in México City on the charge of having stolen documents from the national archives (Archivo General de la Nación).¹ He was accused of taking the Inquisitionproceso, the memoir, and the personal letters of Luis de Carvajal, “el Mozo,” who was burned at the stake by the Mexican Inquisition on December 8, 1596. The professor was released three months later due to lack of evidence.² However, there remained a great deal of suspicion. When the papers were eventually published by the Archivo General, a footnote from...

  14. Appendix A: From La interpretacion del Misterio Guadalupano by Manuel Espinosa de los Monteros, Part II, no. 6, fol. 2b
    (pp. 167-168)
  15. Appendix B: From El observador Guadalupano by Pio Saens (Manuel Espinosa de los Monteros?), n.p.
    (pp. 169-170)
  16. Appendix C: Personages
    (pp. 171-174)
  17. Chronology
    (pp. 175-178)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 179-226)
  19. Glossary
    (pp. 227-228)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-244)
  21. Index
    (pp. 245-260)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-262)