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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These Nuns Have Become TikTok Sensations Because of Their Hilarious Videos

comedy

These Nuns Have Become TikTok Sensations Because of Their Hilarious Videos

Screenshot via daughtersofstpaul/TikTok

When you normally think of a Catholic nun, images probably come to mind of a stern and serious older woman who is quick to scold. But this group of nuns on TikTok go against every one of those stereotypes.

The Daughters of Saint Paul has recently become a TikTok sensation because of their hilarious and playful viral videos.

The Boston-based convent has racked up almost 56k followers from just a handful of videos that they’ve posted to the popular social media platform. The sisters have only posted three videos, but they’ve already gotten over 965.k likes and 6 million views.

The sisters have posted videos of themselves dressed up as ghosts while wandering around the convent grounds, what they’ve dubbed the “Holy Ghost photo shoot”.

@daughtersofstpaul

When temptation strikes. ⚡️ #IsThisAvailable #Catholic #MediaNuns @srbethanyfsp @pursuedbytruth

♬ original sound – Lubalin

There is another surprisingly funny video of themselves recreating the internal struggle of resisting Satan. The video is captioned “Thinking about giving into temptation” and set to the TikTok favorite song “Is This Available”. More than anything, its the committed performances of the two nuns that elevate the video to hilarious levels.

And of course, the Daughters of Saint Paul also posted the “This or That challenge” set to the ’80s Run DMC classic “It’s Tricky”. In this one, a group of the nuns split off into different groups based on what they prefer. The categories are super specific: “Morning prayer” is pitted against “Evening prayer” and “rosary” is pitted against “divine mercy chaplet.”

The sisters seem to have struck a chord with viewers because the videos are wholesome, lighthearted, but most of all, unexpected.

@daughtersofstpaul

When temptation strikes. ⚡️ #IsThisAvailable #Catholic #MediaNuns @srbethanyfsp @pursuedbytruth

♬ original sound – Lubalin

The joy and playfulness of the Daughters of Saint Paul have made them bonafide celebrities of the TikTok world. Their comment section abounds with praise like “This is EVERYTHING–y’all are the best,” and “This is so wholesome I love it here.”

Commenters also refer to their account as “NunTok”. There are also people asking for the nuns to pray for specific issues in their lives–like conceiving a baby or passing a test. It truly is one of the oddest corners of the internet.

The account appears to be run by Sister Bethany, a young media-savvy nun who has her own popular TikTok page.

@srbethanyfsp

I can’t stop laughing at this! (Vid was taken pre-covid) #fyp #Catholic #RareAesthetic

♬ Teach Me How To Dougie – Classics Reborn

In one informative TikTok, Sister Bethany explains why this particular convent of nuns is so present on social media, saying that they are “media nuns” and they use their talents to create content for their faith. But they also have guidelines about what they post.

“We the sisters are always asking ourselves, ‘Is this a good use of time?’ ‘Am I putting out things that are good, true, and beautiful?’,” said Sister Bethany. “And those are things we can all ask ourselves. And those are the ways we moderate our social media use.” No matter your beliefs, that’s definitely some great advice!

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Pope Francis Says That Women Are Now Allowed to Read Scripture During Mass and People Have Conflicting Emotions

Fierce

Pope Francis Says That Women Are Now Allowed to Read Scripture During Mass and People Have Conflicting Emotions

Photo via Getty Images

On Monday, Pope Francis announced that he has amended the Code of Canon Law, the official Catholic doctrine to formally allow women to give readings from the bible during mass.

Pope Francis said he made the change in order to recognize the “precious contribution” Catholic women make to the Catholic community.

While some have praised Pope Francis’s decision as a step in the right direction, some have taken issue with the papal decree that also seems to go out of its way to make a distinction between “ordained” ministries (like the priesthood and the diaconate) and other types of priesthoods that are open to both men and women.

It seems that Catholic equality activists are divided into two camps: those who believe that the decree will “open a door” towards women being ordained priests, and those who think the ordinance explicitly shuts down the possibility.

“This is the first codification of allowing women inside the sanctuary,” said historian Phyllis Zagano to AP News. “That’s a very big deal.” Zagano believes that the decree is a step towards female ordination because “you can’t be ordained as deacons unless you’re installed as lectors or acolytes [first].”

Critics are also saying that the ordinance is simply an empty gesture to appease Catholic women who want more leadership roles within the church.

“There is nothing new in the decree — it effectively recognizes the roles that many women have been doing for decades, only now they will be controlled by a bishop,” Lucetta Scaraffia, former editor of the Vatican’s women magazine “Donne”, said to “The New York Times”.

“It seems as though the pope is conceding something to women, but it is something that they’ve had for decades, while denying what they have requested, the diaconate,” she continued.

Indeed, the act of allowing women to read from the bible during mass is already widely practice in Catholic Churches across the world.

When Pope Francis amended the Canon Law to “officially” allow it, he was simply adding greater legitimacy to a practice that was already in place in many ministries across the developed world.

The Argentinian pope explained his decision in a letter, saying that the newly-formally ordained practice would “allow women to have a real and effective impact on the organization, the most important decisions and the direction of communities, while continuing to do so in a way that reflects their womanhood.”

But what “womanhood” is remains up to interpretation. And it definitely isn’t the same as what was when the Roman Catholic Church was first established in 313 A.D.

It is also worth noting that some religious historians believe that women held leadership roles like deacon (ordained minister) in the early history of the Catholic Church.

In fact, since he’s been in office, Pope Francis has created two separate commissions to further investigate the role of women during the early Catholic Church. If it is found that women were, indeed, sometimes ordained as deacons, that fact could give a precedence to women becoming ordained ministers in the current era.

But until then, Pope Francis has made it clear that he has no plans to change canon law to include women in the priesthood or diaconate.

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