Asking questions may lead to new discoveries about yourself

Uzi Darwiche/ Contributing Writer 

May I tell you a secret? It’s one few people have heard but is rooted in history.

Thousands of Hispanics are discovering a hidden past to their families — a rich heritage which was ripped away through the traumas of generations passed.

While the Hispanic community hails from a diverse background in terms of origin, most people don’t realize that we’re the product of a period in history that for some reason is seldom taught in schools or universities.

I’m talking about the Spanish Inquisition.

This was an epic in history unprecedented in terms of the sheer terror felt by the untold millions of victims who fell prey to the fury of religious fanaticism.

I was born into a very culturally diverse family.

My father a Sunni Muslim from Lebanon, my mother and grandparents Roman Catholics from Cuba.

And yet, it was at the age of 12 that my mother told me, “We’re Sephardic Jews.”

When consulting my grandmother, of blessed memory, she confirmed that our family practiced secret traditions such as women covering their heads and lighting candles on Friday nights. You could also not do any work on Saturdays because that was the way your parents and grandparents taught you. However, on Sundays, they would attend Mass.

As I grew older I consulted rabbis who told me I was a Marrano, originally a derogatory term but now worn with pride by a sizeable community of descendants of the Crypto-Jews who practiced Judaism in secret for generations.

And so began the hunger for learning more about my hidden past in order to connect with my roots.

I began a journey that would eventually bring me into the arms of Judaism and on a soul-searching journey to Israel.

I believe the Inquisition is a subject that should be taught more in schools, especially in places like South Florida. It’s so important for the Hispanic and Latino community to learn our entire history, and not only the Euro-Spaniard narrative.

Our ancestors fled for their lives, for the very survival of their families, eventually mixing with some of the Native American populations.

Slowly but surely, that melting pot of cultures came to birth one of the most vibrant communities of the last few centuries. It’s a subject I believe is often ignored and should certainly be explored further here and at all educational institutions.

I sat down with Dr. Abraham Lavender, a Spanish Jew himself, professor of sociology and member of the Sephardic studies program, who said, “In the last several decades there has been a significant increase in people’s interest in this fascinating aspect of Jewish and Arab history. The return of descendants of Crypto-Jews is a modern phenomenon that in South Florida for example, probably has much to do with the rich Jewish and Hispanic cultures who live here together. It has become a pretty big topic.”


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.

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