chapter  3
12 Pages

Jewish Roots of Brazil

WithAnita Novinsky

Traditional historiography lacks a strong scientific basis for describing the evolution of the conversion problem in Portugal and its colonies. The behavior of the so-called Marranos has been treated as coherent and homogeneous, as though it were detached from Iberian reality. Studies of the Inquisition are opening new fields and generating new approaches to the history of Jews in the Brazilian Diaspora. Modern students of the Inquisition emphasize the tribunal’s interest in heresy, witchcraft, sodomy, bigamy, and the like. But it was the Jewish question that came to preoccupy church and state, becoming for both institutions the crucial issue. Voluntary immigrants, exiles or fugitives, they arrived during the colonial centuries already converted to Catholicism; only in the nineteenth century did they arrive as Jews. It is very difficult to be precise about the demographic density of New Christians or Jews in Brazil in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.