Did you know that the city of Monterrey and the State of Nuevo León have a Jewish origin? We tell you about the history of its founders.
Nuevo León is one of the most prosperous and beautiful states in Mexico; Although its population only represents 4% of the Mexican population, the entity contributes 10% of the national GDP. Its present is as singular as its past, since although it is little known, the origin of Nuevo León is interwoven with the drama experienced by the crypto-Jews of New Spain.
The prelude to this event was the expulsion of Jews from Spanish territory in 1492 through the Edict of Granada. For a Jew to remain in the territory of the Catholic Monarchs, he had to embrace Christianity. Due to religious persecution in Spain, thousands of Jews saw in conversion the possibility of social advancement and survival. However, the prosperity of the new Christians was quickly the object of envy and slander.
Although it is true that there were groups of Jews who genuinely adhered to Christianity, the truth is that crypto-Judaism or the secret practice of Judaism was a majority trend among new Christians. This last group was denominated in a pejorative way as pigs.
According to a conference given by José María Benarroch, president of the Casa de España Foundation in Mexico, there were three founders of the city of Monterrey: Alberto del Canto, Luis Carvajal y de la Cueva and Diego de Montemayor, who were Sephardic Jews. “converts” to Catholicism.
After the arrival of Columbus in America, the Jews who practiced their faith clandestinely saw in the New World the possibility of greater freedom. To prevent the social ascent of Jews in the colonies, the Inquisition issued restrictions for new Christians to migrate, which was known as the blood purity law.
In its New Spanish version, purity of blood prohibited the access of new Christians to the Indies. The objective was to prevent the infiltration of Jews, Muslims or heretics in the institutions of New Spain. For this, a bureaucratic system was established that requested verification of Christian ancestry.
Even with the restrictions, there were numerous cases of falsification of certificates verifying the status of Old Christians, and the presence of Jews in the Indies was a reality from the first days of colonization.
An exceptional case during the Conquest was the founding of Nuevo León at the hands of Jews. Because the conquistadores considered the northeastern region of Mexico too hostile, little attention was paid to Colonial expansion in that area.
The first of those involved was Alberto Canto, a Sephardic Jew who also founded the city of Saltillo and served as the first founder and mayor of Monterrey, whose initial name was Villa de Santa Lucía. He was arrested on charges of Judaizing, however he escaped and lived among the Indians until the charges were dropped. However, the founding of Nuevo León linked to Judaism would not end with him.
In 1573 Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva, a Portuguese slave owner and New Christian, made an expedition through what is now San Luis Potosí. This trip allowed him to meet other characters of Jewish origin.
Later he received a letter from the crown with the authorization to settle in the northeastern region of Mexico. Carvajal designated the area as Nuevo Reino de León, currently Nuevo León; place where new Christians were also authorized to arrive.
Already as ruler, Carvajal organized the migration of new Christians from Portugal to Nuevo León. However, years later he was ousted and arrested on accusations of practicing Jewish rituals and of little impetus in the conversion of indigenous people.
Despite the fact that Carvajal’s social rehabilitation was near, he died in a Mexico City jail in 1591. Later, members of his family were again arrested and sentenced to be burned. As a consequence, the Carvajals changed their surname to Lumbroso, forming a rabbinical dynasty in Italy. The change of surnames was a constant among New Spanish Jews.
It can be deduced that during the government of Carvajal Nuevo León was a discreet Jewish colony. After the persecution, many Jews were dissolving their traditions and identity, however the imprint of Judaism is still present in the lives of many Mexican families.
Finally, the third founder of Monterrey, Don Diego Montemayor, was also linked to Judaism. Unlike his predecessors, however, Montemayor sought to ensure that his foundation left no room for doubt about his Christianity. Therefore, on September 20, 1596, Montemayor founded the Metropolitan City of Our Lady of Monterrey.
Source: Mexico Desconocido