Tuesday, April 03, 2007

No One Expects the Mexican Inquisition!

Happy Passover from Burro Hall. If Querétaro has a synagogue, we've never seen it, but here's a few links to tell you everything you need to know about Mexican Jewry.

Today, Mexico boasts a strong, active Jewish community of between 40,00-50,000. About 37,500 of those live in Mexico city. In Mexico City alone there are 23 synagogues, several Kosher restaurants and at least 12 Jewish schools, where 80 percent of the Jewish youth receive their education. Small Jewish communities can also be found in Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, Cancun and San Miguel. Throught all of Mexico, 95 percent of Jewish families belong to a synagogue. Eighty to ninety percent of Jewish children in Mexico City attend a Jewish school. Only about 1 out of every 10 Mexican Jews intermarries. This is way below the fifty precent rate of the United States and one of the lowest rates in Latin America. The world's largest city also contains the Tuvia Maizel Museum, dedicated to the history of Mexican Jewry and to the Holocaust.

While Jews appear to make up less than half of one percent of the population, this only counts people who are aware that they're Jewish. The actual numbers are probably much higher, owing the the phenomenon of crypto-Judaism. Many Spanish Jews, expelled from their own country by the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, eventually washed up here in Mexico in the 1500s. Apparently, no one bothered to tell them that Mexico was by then part of Spain, and so probably not the best place to go to escape the Spanish Inquisition. The Mexican Inquistion was in full swing, and many of the Jews decided now might be a good time to consider going through the motions on this whole Jesus Christ thing. ("Hey, it couldn't hoit...") They took their Judaism underground while building churches and acting as if they were Christians. The act was so good, in fact, that after several generations they kind of forgot they were Jews. There's a whole field of academic study now devoted to finding these communities around Latin America and the Southwest United States where groups of devout Catholics - for reasons they often don't understand - practice things like lighting candles on the Sabbath or preparing their food by kosher rules.

Here's a Spanish language website for the Jewish community in Mexico. (Our Jewish American friends in San Miguel may want to try their hand at the trivia quiz.) Also, a Jews of Mexico photo exhibit.

As for us, after 11 months of corn tortillas, we'd kill for some goddamn matzos right now.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I took a look at the cluster map of visitors, found on the bottom of the page. I noticed that Burro Hall has quite a few visitors from China.

Of course, I would expect the People's Republic to have a little tighter policy on censorship. But, until they do, it seems like the Hall may have a bit of cult following among our Chinese brothers

Chip

Anonymous said...

Did you note how many BH devotees are Chinese Jews (and pandas, to boot)?

PS: Next week's menu includes your choice of gazpacho, chayote or matzo ball soup. We aim to please.

Burro Hall said...

I think the authorities let us through the wall of censorship because they sense that we crave good chinese food and have nothing bad to say about Asian ingredients.

We do think Hu Jintao is a total fascist, of course.