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In 1492 when the Spanish expelled the Jews from their land, many fled to Portugal. In 1496 the Prince of Portugal was arranged to marry Juanita, the daughter of the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The Portuguese agreed to expel their Jews in order to smooth the unification of the two monarchies, though they didn’t want to lose the Jews’ economic influence. They therefore closed the ports and sent priests to the wharves to convert the fleeing Jewish population. The Church immediately validated these conversions, creating an entirely new class of Portuguese citizens — Christaos Novos, New Christians. Nevertheless, a lot of Christaos Novos did escape and migrated to places like Cape Verde, the refueling stop on the ocean route to the New World.
When Jews arrived at the archipelago the Portuguese inhabitants put them into a ghetto in the Cape Verdean capital, Ribiera Grande. The New Christians in Cape Verde practiced Christianity as other Portuguese did, though the other Cape Verdeans, jealous of their economic status, continually threatened to expose them as Jews. These Christaos Novos worked as merchants and in some cases slave traders, hiding their Judaism for generations until the late 1700s when the religious animosity fostered by the Inquisition faded. By that time, however, most New Christians had stopped practicing Judaism in any form.
When the slave trade became illegal in the early 1800s, Cape Verde became a place for steamers heading to and from the Americas to load and unload coal. Jews came to Cape Verde from Morocco looking both to make money in the coal industry and to flea their status as second-class citizens in Islamic North Africa. A small Moroccan-Jewish community developed on Cape Verde, primarily on the islands of Santiago, San Vincente and Santo Antao, and thrived there for nearly a century until many of them left for the State of Israel in the second half of the 20th century.
©2000 Jay Sand
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|Print article||This entry was posted by Barbara Kingstone on January 16, 2011 at 6:50 pm, and is filed under Africa. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|