The ambiguous Portuguese Marranos became known throughout Europe as "Men of the Nation". Being Portuguese in 16th century Europe was synonymous with being Jewish. The Marranos established flourishing Jewish communities in Amsterdam, Bordeaux, London, Hamburg, Venice, Livorno, Salonica, and Constantinople, amongst others. In the New World, the relatively small number of Marranos established communities in Brazil, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, Newport Rhode Island and the Caribbean Islands. The success of the American War of Independence owes its success to the financial and material aid provided by the Marranos, then openly professing their Judaism, for example the ships provided to George Washington by Aaron Lopez, the wealthiest merchant of the thirteen colonies, born Duarte Lopez in Lisbon.
The Marranos prospered in business and government. It was a the son of a Marrano, Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel (Manuel Dias Soeiro) of Amsterdam, born in Lisbon or Madeira, who convinced Oliver Cromwell in 1656 to allow Jews back into England. They established the coffee, diamond and tulip industries in Amsterdam. They were instrumental in establishing the stock exchanges of Amsterdam, London and New York. They controlled the sugar and tobacco industries, and were involved in slavery, amassing huge fortunes.
This rising merchant class created the world’s first truly global Empire (see ‘The First Global Village, How Portugal Changed the World’ by Martin Page, now in its 8th edition). Lisbon became one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. However, not even the huge bribes paid to the Pope and cardinals could keep the Inquisition at bay forever. With the onset of the Inquisition, many of the wealthy Marranos left Portugal, contributing to its decline. Poor and old and infirm Marranos, had no option but to stay, becoming more secretive. Thousands were burned at the stake, including most of the leading intellectuals of the University of Coimbra in the early 17th century. Even Antonio Homem, the Chancellor of the University, and a Marrano rabbi and also an advisor to the Pope was burned alive in 1624 The ones that left established the oldest extant synagogues in the U.S.A; England, and Holland, Touro synagogue, Newport, R.I; 1762 (founded in 1658), Bevis Marks synagogue, London 1701 (founded 1656), and the Esnoga, Amsterdam, 1675 (amalgamated from three communities dating from 1598). The Esnoga, undisturbed by the Nazis, stands as the model synagogue for the Western Sephardic world. Bevis Marks in London is a replica, one-quarter its size.
The philosophers Baruch Espinoza, Frances Sanches, Uriel Acosta, Montaigne, and David Ricardo were all Marrano descendants. So were rabbis Ben Israel and Aboab Fonseca, the first rabbi in the Americas (Recife, Brazil, 1635). The father of French impressionism, Camille Pissaro was descendant of a Marrano born in Bragança, in the Tras Montes region of Portugal and les freres Peyrere (Pereira) of Bordeaux and later Paris, contemporaries and associates of the Rothchilds. Portugal has yet to recover from this extraordinary brain drain.
THE MYTH OF MARRANO NAMES
Anita Novinsky of the Laboratório de Estudos sobre a Intolerância of the Universidade de São Paulo has clearly shown the importance attached to Marrano’ s living with two names - one public and the second his original Jewish name (see References). She says
Spread through the portuguese empire, the Marranos frequently carried in secret their Jewish names and transmitted them to their descendents; those various names reveal also the double identity of people living in a world of terror. Those names sometimes kept a meaning and histories that were orally transmitted from one generation to another.
The Inquisition …. persecuted Jews on a family basis, and The Inquisition, as we know, persecuted Jews on a family basis, and this was one of the reasons why the Marranos adopted simultaneously two or three names, so that the work of the inquisitorial agents became more difficult and the risk to the families smaller. In the large books where the Inquisitors registered all the names of the prisoners suspected of Judaism, we can find many repetitions related to the names, and sometimes the Inquisitors themselves became confused and could not identify the suspected ones.
One thing was common: in the same family we find members using different names. Father, mother, grand parents, brothers, adopted completely different names one from each other. It was also common among the Marranos to skip one or more generations, and to return again to the ancient name of the grand parent, although this custom existed also since a long date, among the Portuguese