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Statutes of the Purity of the Blood

Pogroms in the Spanish realms in the 1390s were an attempt at eradicating Judaism from Spain’s kingdoms, and also a massive move toward the conversion and assimilation of the Sephardim, or Jews of Spain. Still, resentment turned to outright persecution by the middle of the 15th century, when the Statutes of the Purity of Blood, or limpieza de sangre, were put forth in Toledo, Spain in 1449. This marked a turning point away from assimilating and converting the Sephardim, to instead creating a class of conversos, no longer Jewish, yet not fit to enter the mainstream Spanish Catholic society. Pope Nicholas V condemned the statutes, stating, “ all Catholics are one in body according to the teaching of our faith.” Yet, the Spanish crown rejected the pope’s assertion that race should not be a determining factor regarding who can be Catholic, and approved the laws in 1451.

Notions of limpieza de sangre were brought to New Spain and later to New Mexico by Spaniards, though they were relaxed the further away from urban centers one moved. The Holy Office of the Inquisition was established in Mexico City in 1571, to police Christians as well as foreigners entering the realm. Between 1525 and 1667, there were numerous Inquisition cases in Mexico City concerning the practices of Judaism amongst certain new converts, as well as Lutheranism and Calvinism attributed to people from the Low Countries and England.

In New Mexico, while there were very few official cases of accusations of religious heresy tied to the secret practice of Judaism, the local castes system did reflect the Spanish obsession with blood purity found throughout the Spanish Empire. While many were classified as Spanish in Church records and civil documents, Native American ancestry was an almost certainty, though ignored or forgotten for social and religious reasons.

 

Sources:

AHN, Madrid, Inquisision, legajo 1061.
Gerber, Jane S., The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience (The Free Press: New York, 1992), Pg. 127.