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

Parents Angered After Priest Refuses To Offer Autistic Son First Communion

Things That Matter

Parents Angered After Priest Refuses To Offer Autistic Son First Communion

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First Communion is a very important moment in any Catholic child’s life. The family gets together to watch the little ones walk down the church aisles in white and partake in the sacrament for the first time. For one family, however, a priest has taken that moment away from them because their child is autistic.

The LaCugna family is upset that their autistic son was denied his First Communion.

Credit: Jimmy LaCugna / Facebook

Jimmy LaCugna took to Facebook to share his disappointment with his church for denying his special needs son his First Communion. First Communion is one of the most important moments in a young Catholics life and the family feels like it has been taken away from them.

“They said there is no way he can make his Communion. He doesn’t understand what the Holy Communion is about,” Nicole LaCugna told News 12 New Jersey. “Nowhere in the Bible does it ever show discrimination of anybody.”

Since the Facebook post by Jimmy, the church tried to change course then deleted their reversal from Facebook.

Credit: Jimmy LaCugna / Facebook

Allegedly, the church released a statement that painted the LaCugna family as being dishonest about the situation. However, it was deleted from their Facebook page without warning.

The post initially stated that “new information has come to light” stating that children with intellectual and cognitive disabilities “should be presumed to have an inner spiritual relationship with God.”

“My heart shattered,” Nicole told the New York Post. “My first thought was, how do you take a child who was one of God’s children and say that he is not good enough, basically, to be making the sacrament?”

At the center of the controversy is the fact that Rev. John Bambrick made the decision but hasn’t addressed the family personally.

Credit: Facebook

In a statement posted to the church’s website, Rev. Bambrick blames the controversy on a breakdown of communication.

“With the guidance and support of Bishop David O’Connell, we were able to discern a way for the child to receive First Holy Communion without any delay,” Rev Bambrick stated. “We have made the family aware of this development and hope to be able to meet with them to discuss it. Their child continues to be welcome in our program, and will be able to receive First Holy Communion this year.”

Catholic parishioners have been shocked and dismayed by this church’s handling of a child with special needs.

Credit: @TaylorCVaughn / Twitter

The decision to withhold the child’s First Communion for mental or health issues isn’t the first time. A quick Google search brings back several cases of children being denied their First Communion because of mental or health issues.

READ: 21 Things Latinos From Catholic Families Know To Be True

25 Things I Want To Say To My 25-Year-Old Self Now That I’m Over 30

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25 Things I Want To Say To My 25-Year-Old Self Now That I’m Over 30

When I was 25 years old, I went through a terrible quarter-life crisis. It was right in the middle of the recession and I had been job hunting for two years while trying to advance my career. Nothing was working, and I was terribly frustrated, angry, and lost. It was a pretty stereotypical tale, I know, but it felt like my world was crashing down at the time.

Of course, eventually, I learned to keep going, changed some things about my life (like dumping a bad boyfriend and moving from a job I was “meh” on to a job I loved), and my life improved. However, as I continued to age and turned 30 a couple of years ago, I realized that there are so many life lessons that I really wish I had been able to share with my younger self. From making sure I always get good sleep to knowing when to let go of friendships to going to therapy, here are the 25 things that I wish I could have said to my 25-year-old self now that I’m over 30. I may not have it all figured out yet, but at least I figured out a few things.

1. “Yes, you should throw yourself a doble quince when you turn 30.”

Instagram @cristinaisabelrivera

When I was 15 years old, my family didn’t have a lot of money so throwing a quinceañera was not even a consideration. So, instead, I had a small Sweet 16 and left it at that. However, around 25, I started to seriously regret my decision —and wish I had heard of a doble quince sooner. Thankfully, it’s never too late and I had my doble quince at 30 after all. I’ve even heard of someone doing a triple quince (at 45!) which, I have to admit, sounds very enticing.

2. “Mami is never going to stop calling and texting you daily, so stop being annoyed by it.”

Instagram @chicananerd

When I was in college, it was a family rule that I had to call my parents daily to let them know I was okay. They were helping to pay for my pricey university, so I figured it was only fair. Of course, this all continued after I graduated and became an actual independent adult. But the phone calls and daily texts never stopped. Sometimes, I still get annoyed by it but, to be honest, I’ve come to appreciate it too. Mami won’t be around forever, and I know this is just her showing me how much she cares.

3. “It’s not true what they say: You really CAN come home again.”

Instagram @robbinmangano

This is something that I heard a lot in my youth, but I am happy to tell you that it’s just not true. When I was 25 years old, I couldn’t imagine going back to my hometown. Then, a month after I turned 30, I happily returned home to take a breather from life in the big city and overhaul my career to be a full-time freelancer. It was scary, but also the best decision I ever made. Coming home was difficult, sure, but I wish I had known sooner that it was still an option.

4. “Please, please, please stop conveniently forgetting to bring your sunscreen to the beach.”

Instagram @sunsaferx

Okay, I admit that this is still a bit of an issue for me. After all, who doesn’t want that legendary JLo glow?! But the truth is that Jennifer Lopez doesn’t get that glow from the sun, but rather from beauty products. The woman just doesn’t risk skin cancer and, seriously, why are we doing that to ourselves by heading to the beach without sunscreen in our chic bags? This HAS to stop.

5. “Don’t forget to dream big… but don’t forget to relax and enjoy life, too.”

Instagram @fivefortheroadblog

When I was 25 years old, I was working hard to grow my career. At the time, I was switching from one job to another and ended up spending the next few years jumping from job to job in order to advance my skills. Although I don’t necessarily regret all of that, what I do regret is not taking a break. I needed to work fewer weekends, and spend more time with those I love. If only I could have that time back now, I would do things a bit differently for sure.

6. “The quarter-life crisis is real, but there’s no perfect age to have it all figured out.”

Instagram @paolavherrero

At 25 years old, many of us had the so-called quarter-life crisis when we freaked out about not having it all figured out. I definitely felt like I was a failure (not true), that my career was stalled (not true either), and that I had no clue what I was doing (kinda true). What I’ve learned since, though, is that there is no age at which we think we have everything figured out. We’re always growing and changing, and the sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be.

7. “Get good sleep, get good sleep, GET GOOD SLEEP.”

Instagram @luxpillowsplus

Having recently read and loved the book Why We Sleep, I cannot even begin to tell you all of the important things that sleep does for us humans but just assume that it’s basically everything. A lesson that I wish I knew in my early 20s (and all through high school, to be honest) is that prioritizing sleep will give me more energy, make me more creative, a better employee, a calmer and happier person, and keep me healthy. If you’re not getting 7-9 hours every single night, then you’re doing life wrong.

8. “Learn how to budget. You’ll thank me later.”

Instagram @thebudgetmom

Look, nobody likes budgeting but we all have to learn it eventually. I spent much of my 20s not really understanding how budgeting works and, thus, living beyond my means. I had credit cards and abused them more than I care to admit. Thankfully, I eventually got my financial life in order but I definitely wish I had done it much sooner since the bad credit (from months when I couldn’t pay even my minimum on some cards) is still hurting me.

9. “It’s better to start that crazy, intense project than to keep dreaming for the next 5 years.”

Instagram @adrienneyoungbooks

Shortly before I turned 25 years old, I got an idea for a book. Now, seven years later, I am still working on that book. Granted, I didn’t actually start it until a couple years ago and I didn’t fully take it seriously until last year. It is a big undertaking but I let my dream just sit there for years because I was too afraid to even try. Now I realize what a disservice that was since if I had started it back when I first got this idea, I would have definitely finished it by now and moved on to the next one.

10. “Nurture your important friendships, but don’t be afraid to let others go.”

Instagram @hereisgina

I love my friends and I do my best to keep in touch with them, especially now that most of us live in different cities. From texting to monthly FaceTime dates to simply liking each other’s stuff on Instagram, there are a plethora of options for connecting these days. But I’ve also realized that there are some friends who don’t put in the effort to keep in touch with you, so I have learned to let go of those friendships. Sure, it’s heartbreaking, but friendship only works if you are both into it.

11. “Go to therapy. NOW. Please! Do not wait.”

Instagram @patriciabarbertherapy

I’ve been in therapy for about two years now and boy oh boy do I wish I had done this sooner. Although I’ve made some serious progress, I also know that there are still plenty of things that I am figuring out, both on my own and with my therapist. We as Latinos rarely take care of our mental health because it’s just so shameful to talk about it in our communities, which is why I didn’t do this sooner. I wish I had.

12. “While we’re on this, also start getting regular check-ups and not just OB-GYN.”

Instagram @sofiavergara

After I started going to therapy, someone wisely told me that we should all be going to a mental health professional at least once a year for a check-up, just as with other doctors. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t had a regular check-up in almost four years, other than my annual visit to the gynecologist. This is actually common for women, so I finally made a commitment to get everything checked out. I was 31 at the time and, although I was in mostly good health, there were definitely a few things that I should have gotten taken care of years ago.

13. “Start contributing to your 401k, even if you haven’t quite figured out what that is exactly.”

Instagram @one_percenters_

Putting money into savings has always been a problem for me, and it’s no easier now that I have started to seriously think about retirement. Retirement planning is not a simple conversation to have and, if I were really honest with you, I would tell you that I am doing the bare minimum. However, putting into a 401k (if your company offers it) is basically free money. If they don’t, then start researching other options. You don’t have to know everything to get started, but the sooner you start, the more money you’ll have when you retire.

14. “Stop dating the bad boys, and start giving the nice guys a chance.”

Instagram @msirinagonzalez

This was a lesson that I truly wish I had learned when I was 25 years old, when I dated the worst of the bad boys I went through. Although that relationship ended a few months later, it was still many years before I finally figured out that nice guys do NOT finish last (and I have the awesome husband to prove it now). In fact, nice guys (and gals) make excellent, loving, amazing, caring, supportive partners — and as an independent woman, I want someone who could be as great as I knew myself to be.

15. “Don’t let the fear of disappointing papi keep you from doing what you really love.”

Instagram @superhero.dad

Like many Latinos, and immigrants like myself in particular, I felt great pressure form my family to be successful. I did well in school, attended a good college, and started a career that my papi doesn’t really approve of and doesn’t really understand. He wants to see me be a success, but more on his own terms as a lawyer or a doctor. That’s not for me, but I had many doubts in my 20s about whether I was doing the right thing by chasing doing what I love instead of going with the more secure thing. I’d like to tell my younger self that doing what you love is really, truly worth it.

16. “Happiness is a choice. Work on it, and own it.”

Instagram @mutlulukpozu

Anyone who tells you that they’re deeply unhappy is either clinically depressed (and should likely see a medical professional) or hasn’t yet realized that happiness IS actually something that you can work on. There have been many studies done about this and, in particular, how the happiest people are those that have a lot of gratitude. It may sound hokey, but keeping a gratitude journal has been a really positive change in my life, and I really wish I would have done it during my rough 20s.

17. “Create something that matters: A podcast, a book, anything!”

Instagram @storyworldofem

This is something that I know a lot of us millennials feel: A desire to create something that matters. I don’t mean a legacy in the traditional sense, but so many of us have a need to do something creative or important to us. If I could speak to my 25-year-old self, I would tell her to take a chance and write that book she wants to write or start the podcast she’s been thinking about. The sooner you take chances, the more you will learn.

18. “Speak up for what you believe in, ALWAYS.”

Instagram @emmawise18

Although I was generally a pretty outspoken kid and young adult, I really wish I had done more in my 20s to conquer my fears and speak out for the things that I believe in. Considering what is happening in today’s political climate, I also wish that I had taken more time to volunteer for worthy causes when I could have instead of just spending my 20s stressing about my own damn self and my career. These days, I try to do what I can for immigrant rights, women’s right, LGBTQ+ rights, and more. If only I learned this lesson sooner.

19. “Meet people of other cultures. Travel. Make friends. Move somewhere else.”

Instagram @latinaslovetravel

There’s something truly special about going to a new country and making friends with someone completely unexpected. Unfortunately, I squandered most of the money I made in my 20s on necessities like food and rent (which are worth it) and things I now regret (like going out too much and buying clothes I can’t afford). Instead, I would tell my younger self to travel more, make friends everywhere in the world and, maybe, even consider moving somewhere else in the world for a while.

20. “Stop complaining about that bad boss and update your resume ASAP.”

Instagram @juicyblue_

My first job was a great experience but, ultimately, I didn’t love my boss. It’s not that he wasn’t a good person, but that we just didn’t work well together as a team. I wish that I had known what I know now about what it takes to be happy at work. I would have instead put all of my energy into finding a better working environment. These days, if someone tells me that they hate their job, I say: So have you updated your resume yet?

21. “Figure out your talents, and invest in yourself. Never stop growing.”

Instagram @girlboss

Often, we graduate from college and think that’s it. We’ve put in the work to learn and that’s all there is to it. Now we can go out into the world to work and live successful lives… but if you think you have stopped growing and learning after college, then you are seriously mistaken. Learning and growing as a person should be a lifelong process. These days I pride myself on investing some of the money I make from working into developing other talents and interests I have, like learning a new language or a new skill like video editing. It’s never too late to learn, and it’s always a good idea to keep doing it.

22. “The most successful people aren’t afraid of failure. They’re afraid to never try.”

Instagram @imginte

This piece of advice comes directly from a friend of mine who graduated with her MBA from a top university. During her graduation party, she imparted this little piece of advice: Almost none of the businesspeople and entrepreneurs she learned about were a success because their ideas were great, but rather because they kept trying and didn’t take failure personally. Almost nobody makes it on their first try but, with perseverance, you will eventually get there.

23. “Your thighs aren’t going anywhere, so you might as well start loving them now.”

Instagram @katwomanfit

I still struggle with this one a little bit because I simply do not love the way my thighs look. Growing up, I was a chubby kid that eventually grew into an overweight and ultimately morbidly obese adult. Although I am happy with where I am now, loving my body is still a lesson that I learn and relearn every day. I really wish I had known this at 25 though when I was way too harsh on myself and never appreciated the things that ARE actually positive about my body.

24. “Be kind, even when you’re having a bad day.”

Instagram @vicki_alford

You know how they say that a smile is contagious? Well, being a grumpy SOB is pretty contagious too. I experienced this personally when a coworker’s attitude spread from them to me to my boyfriend later that day. This cycle is a negative one, and it’s one that I have since tried to stay away from. Instead, I smile and attempt to be kind everywhere I go. Sure, it’s difficult to be kind to people I sincerely disagree with (like Trump supporters), but I still try — if not for their sake, then at least for my own.

25. “Life never ever stops changing so embrace that NOW and stop stressing.”

Instagram @kristimasonact

When I was 25, I really, really wanted to have life figured out. After all, that’s what the quarter-life crisis is all about, right? You’re a few years out of school and desperately wanting to be “on the right track.” Well, here’s some bad and good news: There IS no right track. It simply doesn’t exist. We can decide to do something today, and change our minds tomorrow. You can try something and fail, and do something else and succeed. There are no guarantees in life, but that’s what makes it pretty amazing too. It never stops changing, so embrace the change and go into it with your head held high.