Culture

From Spain To Latin America, How A Mass Migration Created A Thriving Latino/Jewish Community

The days of stereotyping Latinos are over, dead to 2019. We are an ethnicity, not a race, which means we have every range of skin tone and practice every major religion. The arc of Latinidad is so entrenched in imperialism and immigration that it makes sense we would be so diverse. To be Latino has often meant being a native Latin American indigenous person or ancestry that, at some point, hailed from somewhere else in the world and landed in Latin America. The Spanish Inquisition is largely responsible for the present-day stereotype of Catholic Latinos, but the Inquisition is responsible for the mass immigration of Spanish Jews as well. During the 16th century, the Inquisition mandated that all Jews convert to Catholicism. Many of them did and were known as conversos, but many of them continued to practice their religion in secret, becoming known as crypto-Jews. The rest were expelled from the country and would eventually make their way to Latin America.

Today, an estimated half-million Jews live in Latin America, with Argentina having the second-largest Jewish community in the Americas, at an estimated 300,000 total. 

Studies have revealed that almost 25 percent of Latinos have Jewish DNA.

Credit: Unsplash

Immigration has long been the defining mark of non-Indigenous Latinos. Historians have long wondered how many descendants were produced from those original Jews expelled from Spain to Latin America. What’s more interesting is understanding that conversos offered a whole other lineage of people with Jewish heritage hatefully stamped out by an empire–an erasure of identity that can now be found through genetics research. A Nature Communications study from December 2018 has concluded, based on the research of dozens of professors around the globe, that 25 percent of Latinos have Spanish or Portuguese Jewish DNA. Today, 20% of the 60 million people in the Iberian peninsula have significant Jewish ancestry. Researchers suspect that the total number of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities range in the 200 million.

In a world without anti-Semitism, would Latinos be more widely known as Jewish because their ancestors weren’t forcibly converted?

Credit: Unsplash

Given the shocking estimates, it seems likely that there could have been as many as 1 in 4 Jews in the Latino community. In Miami Dade County, a third of all Jews identify as Latino Jews, and many Latino-American Jews have begun advocating for their Latino culture within the Jewish community. “[Although we] don’t generally inhabit the same spaces, we have to come together and become aware of the commonalities, the linguistic, cultural and historical ties the two communities have. Latino Jews could play an important role in being the link between Jews and Latinos, so what we’re trying to do is create more and more spaces for this interaction and cooperation to happen,” Dina Siegel Vann, Director of Latino Affairs at the American Jewish Committee told Aish.com.

Even though anti-Semitism and radical political ideology have erased the Jewish heritage that could have been passed down to the existing Latino population with Jewish DNA, many Jewish customs and traditions have prevailed in Latino culture without due credit. Por ejemplo.

Puerto Rican Sofrito came from the Sephardic Jews.

CREDIT: @IZZY_MONEY85 / TWITTER

That’s right my fellow Boricuas, sofrito might be the ultimate symbol and base of our cuisine, but Spanish Jews had long been using the garlic, onion, pepper, tomatoes, cumin, and olive oil base salsa to slow-cook chicken, veal, beef or lamb by Spanish Sephardic Jews. In fact, we owe it to the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition for bringing their recipes with them. Their cultural influence made an impact on Spanish cuisine, which then had a ripple effect on Latin America as it became colonized by Spain. Originally, sofrito was most often celebrated in the Balkans, the Levant, Turkey, and the Maghreb before making its way to become a Puerto Rican staple. Whatever you decide to make for your Hanukkah meal, including sofrito is a no-brainer crowd pleaser.  

Lachmazikas, a meat-stuffed pastry, is quite similar to empanadas.

CREDIT: UNTITLED. DIGITAL IMAGE. TABLETMAG. 20 DECEMBER 2019.

While most Latino-Americans are unified in speaking Spanglish, Latino Jews speak Ladino. Israeli Jews delight in sufganiyot, while American Jews often see it as an afterthought, just a jelly-filled donut. Spanish Jews made lachmazikas, which were filled with everything from lamb and mushrooms to ricotta, herbs, and whitefish. A meat stuffed bread might sound familiar to you *cough* empanadillas *cough*.

Looking for more Latino-Jewish foods for your Hanukkah celebration? Look no further.

READ: Disney Is Debuting Their First Jewish Princess And Surprise! She’s Also Latina

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This Anglo Family Posed the Question: ‘Can We Check ‘Hispanic’ On Our Son’s College Applications Because His Egg Donor is Latino?’

Things That Matter

This Anglo Family Posed the Question: ‘Can We Check ‘Hispanic’ On Our Son’s College Applications Because His Egg Donor is Latino?’

via Christian Glatz/Public Domain

Earlier this month, The New York Times published an advice article that posed an interesting question: What constitutes a Latino identity?

The question stemmed from another question that some parents posed to the Times ethics expert: “My child’s egg donor is Latin American. Does that make him Latino?”

The question was:

“I am the parent of a child who was conceived via in vitro fertilization and surrogacy using the sperm of a Caucasian man and a donor egg from someone who is half Colombian and half Central American. My spouse and I are professionals and both Caucasian, so (knock on wood) our son will most likely not encounter financial hardships. May we in good conscience check ‘Latino/Hispanic’ on his college application? We don’t need to decide this for many years, but it has been a topic of discussion, and we would love to hear your reasoning.”

The question is a complicated one. And in this case, there may be no right or wrong answers. The Times‘ ethics expert, Kwame Anthony Appiah, shares his opinion that there are many factors that constitute a Latino identity.

“Being Latino, clearly, is not a matter of genetics,” said Appiah. “It’s a matter both of how you identify yourself and of how others identify you.”

And yes, we would think anyone would agree with that. Latinos come in all shades, races, religions, and regions. But these unnamed parents’ question sparks a larger question: is a Latino identity born into, or is constructed?

Appiah continues: “Your son may or may not identify as Hispanic/Latino when the time comes, depending on a host of factors, from peer groups to pigmentation. If he does, it won’t be wrong to say so.”

Appiah points out that these parents are already thinking about how they can use their child’s identity to their advantage.

Reading this advice column, you can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable. These non-Latino, Anglo parents are already thinking of their Latino child’s college application advantages. And the child isn’t even born yet.

As these unnamed parents say, they are both “professionals” and Caucasian. They think their child “will most likely not encounter financial hardships” like many people of color do.

“You’re presumably thinking that, in college applications, being identified as Hispanic/Latino will give him some advantage,” wrote Appiah, “and that if he hasn’t experienced discrimination or borne the burdens of the identity…this might be unfair.”

He continued: “In that situation, he’d certainly be getting advantages designed for people with a different set of experiences than his. Deliberately engineering such an outcome would be wrong.”

Twitter user seemed to be divided on the question. One Twitter user wrote: “Your child is therefore half Hispanic.. why would you deny them half their heritage? That’s the real question…”.

Another, seemingly frustrated with the parents, wrote: “It’s probably a good idea to ask important questions that will affect your child’s sense of identity BEFORE deciding to proceed with egg donation.”

One thing’s for certain: questions like this are going become more and more common as genetic technology continues to both advance and become more commonly used.

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People Are Hoping That Covid Will Give Them Up For Lent This Year

Culture

People Are Hoping That Covid Will Give Them Up For Lent This Year

Covid has changed everything we know about the world for more than a year. As Lent approaches and people make plans to sacrifice to get closer to God, some are hoping Covid does the work instead. We have all given up so much this past year, what more can people sacrifice?

Lent is upon us, which means it is time to make that sacrifice.

Lent is a time when Catholics give something up for 40 days to get close to God. Lent is a six-week period leading up to Easter that is observed by Christians around the world, especially within the Catholic church. The run-up to Easter is a solemn religious practice that is in preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Those who practice a more traditional or orthodox Lent give up meat, fish, eggs, and fats from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. A lot of believers choose instead to give up one item of personal importance to show their devotion to their religion.

The tradition has been around for centuries and believers have been practicing Lent diligently. The sacrifices have evolved over the centuries to include give up social media, going to the gym, or watching TV to further devote their time to their religion.

This year, people are hoping that Covid will give them up for Lent.

How nice would it be if Covid just gave up the fight? After months of isolation, social distancing, and giving up so much, it would be nice if Covid did the work for Lent. It is not a hard argument to make that the past year of sacrificing could make up for Lent.

People are not willing to give up something they love after giving up so much.

People around the world have had to make major sacrifices for the betterment of mankind. Covid has forced people to give up seeing their family, friends, and attending major milestone events. So, with Lent upon us, people on Twitter are bargaining with their religion to justify living in quarantine during Lent.

People are really digging their heels in on not giving up anything for Lent.

There are so few things that bring people joy right now. Eating chocolate, drinking wine, or enjoying a little extra television might be the only things getting people through the pandemic right now. Some people are trying to find any other way to participate in Lent to make sure that they stick to their religion while staying happy.

For some people, there is just nothing left to give up for Lent.

It is a hard choice to make. Some schools are not giving students a Spring Break because of Covid and millions remain in some sort of restriction. It is still possible to participate in Lent without giving anything up. Like so many other religious things, you can partake in a different way to satisfy your religious needs.

READ: Admit It, THIS Is The Most Fun Part Of Ash Wednesday

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