The Cryptic Jews of Northern New Mexico
There is a professor at the University of New Mexico by the name of Stanley Hordes who has theorized, and some say proved, that the folks who left Spain with Christopher Columbus in1492 were Jews who ended up in and about Taos. But let me explain.
According to Hordes, the good folks on those 3 boats were Jews fleeing religious persecution, and there sure was some back then and there. They first landed in Mexico where they settled but found the same problem so that didn’t work for them. Hordes says that those same folks, still seeking religious freedom, kept up their search for a better life. Which led them to Northern New Mexico.
Fast forward to today. Hordes provides evidence to support his theory. I have seen images of signposts on doors that Jews call Mezuzahs, containing pieces of parchment and affixed to the front door to clearly show the occupiers religion. He tells of families that fast a day in the fall and don’t know why. They remember seeing their grandmothers light candles on Friday night and they don’t know why. And even pics of tombstones which have a cross dominating the rock but a Mogen David, or Jewish Star, tucked in an upper corner.
There are some local Hispanics who are open to the possibility of being Jewish, like the sisters at Vargas Paint in Ranchos de Taos. But there are also many such folks practicing Catholicism who don’t want to hear that they are Jewish. No way. And that’s OK, too.
It does make for some interesting interaction. Some years back some religious Jewish leaders came to town from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, of all places, and a few local Hispanics came to see and listen, searching for some feeling or thought that might clarify for them what this was all about. They sat watching and listening for a while and then tip toed back out. I do wonder what they took away from that experience.