The history of the Jews in Latin America
dates, according to some interpretations, back to Christopher Columbus
and his first cross-Atlantic voyage on August 3, 1492, when he left Spain and eventually "discovered" the New World
. His date of departure was also the day on which the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile
and Ferdinand II of Aragon
decreed that the Jews of Spain either had to convert to Catholicism
, depart from the country, or face death for defiance of the Monarch.
There were at least seven New Christians (converted Jews) who sailed with Columbus in his first voyage including Rodrigo de Triana
, who was the first to sight land (Columbus later assumed credit for this), Maestre Bernal, who served as the expedition's physician, and Luis De Torres
, the interpreter, who spoke Hebrew and Arabic, which it was believed would be useful in the Orient—their intended destination. (Note: Since not all conversos were crypto-Jews
, some argue that to approach all of them as conscious "Jews" merely because of their ancestry, or because of what the Inquisition said about them is to reproduce old Iberian religious and racial prejudices.)
In the coming years, New Christians of Jewish origin settled in the new Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the Caribbean, where they believed that they would be safe from the Inquisition
. Some took part in the conquest of the "New World", and Bernal Díaz del Castillo
describes a number of executions of soldiers in......