Wikipedia The Spanish Crown regulated immigration to its overseas colonies, with travelers required to register with the House of Trade in Seville. Since the crown wished to exclude anyone who was non-Christian (Jews, crypto-Jews, and Muslims) passing as Christian, travelers' backgrounds were vetted. The ability to regulate the flow of people enabled the Spanish Crown to keep a grip on the religious purity of its overseas empire. The Spanish Crown was rigorous in their attempt to allow only Christians passage to the New World and required proof of religion by way of personal testimonies. Specific examples of individuals dealing with the Crown allow for an understanding of how religion affected passage into the New World. For example
Francisca de Figueroa, an African-Iberian woman seeking entrance into the Americas, petitioned the Spanish Crown in 1600 to obtain a license to sail to Cartagena. A witness attesting to her religious purity, Elvira de Medina wrote,“this witness knows that she and parents and her grandparents have been and are Old Christians and of unsullied cast and lineage. They are not of Moorish or Jewish caste or of those recently converted to Our Holy Catholic Faith.” In 1601 a Decree from His Majesty was presented, which read, “My presidents and official judges of the Case de Contraction of Seville. I order you to allow passage to the Province of Cartagena for Francisca de Figueroa...”
Once in the New World, religion was still a prevalent issue which had to be considered in everyday life. Many of the laws were based in religious beliefs and traditions and often these laws clashed with the many other cultures throughout colonial Latin America. One of the central clashes was between African and Iberian cultures; this difference in culture resulted in the aggressive prosecution of witches, both African and Iberian, throughout Latin America. According to European tradition "[a] witch – a bruja – was thought to reject God and the sacraments and instead worship the devil and observe the witches' Sabbath." This rejection of God was seen as an abomination and was not tolerated by the authorities either in Spain nor Latin America. A specific example, the trial of Paula de Eguiluz, shows how an appeal to Christianity can help to lessen punishment even in the case of a witch trial.
Paula de Eguiluz was a woman of African descent who was born in Santo Domingo and grew up as a slave, sometime in her youth she learned the trade of witches and was publicly known to be a sorceress. "In 1623, Paula was accused of witchcraft (brujeria), divination and apostasy (declarations contrary to Church doctrine)." Paula was tried in 1624 and began her hearings without much knowledge of the Crowns way of conducting legal proceedings. There needed to be appeals to Christianity and announcements of faith if an individual hoped to lessen the sentence. Learning quickly, Paula correctly "recited the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Salve Regina, and the Ten Commandments" before the second hearing of her trial. Finally, in the third hearing of the trial Paula ended her testimony by "ask[ing] Our Lord to forgive [me] for these dreadful sins and errors and requests ... a merciful punishment." The appeals to Christianity and profession of faith allowed Paula to return to her previous life as a slave with minimal punishment. The Spanish Crown placed a high importance on the preservation of Christianity in Latin America, this preservation of Christianity allowed colonialism to rule Latin America for over three hundred years.
Wikipedia The history of the Jews in Latin America began with conversos who joined the Spanish and Portuguese expeditions to the continents. The Spanish permitted only Christians to take part in New World expeditions after its Crown expelled the Jews in 1492.
After the expulsion, many Sephardic Jews migrated to the Netherlands, France and eventually Italy, from where they joined other expeditions to the Americas. Others migrated to England or France and accompanied their colonists as traders and merchants. By the late 16th century, fully functioning Jewish communities were founded in the Portuguese colony of Brazil, the Dutch Suriname and Curaçao; Spanish Dominican Republic, and the English colonies of Jamaica and Barbados. In addition, there were unorganized communities of Jews in Spanish and Portuguese territories where the Inquisition was active, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Peru. Many in such communities were crypto-Jews, who had generally concealed their identity from the authorities. (The first group of Sephardic settlers arrived in New Amsterdam from Brazil in 1654 to escape
By the mid-17th century, the largest Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere were located in Suriname and Brazil. Several Jewish communities in the Caribbean, Central and South America flourished, particularly in those areas under Dutch and English control, which were more tolerant. More immigrants went to this region as part of the massive emigration of Jews from eastern Europe in the late 19th century. During and after World War II, many Ashkenazi Jews emigrated to South America for refuge. In the 21st century, some 500,000 Jews live in Latin America;[they are concentrated in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, with the first considered the center of the Jewish population in Latin America.
According to Liebman, as early as 1508, bishops in Havana and Puerto Rico informed Madrid that the New World was being filled with hebreo cristianos (Hebrew Christians), nuevo cristianos (New Christians), conversos (converts), Moriscos (Moors), and other heretics, in spite of several decrees barring their entry. Silvio Zavala wrote: "The Holy Office in Spanish America persecuted the apostates, Moriscos, Jews, Protestants and, in general, heretics. It manifested in America the same intransigency that had characterized the religious life of the Peninsula since the beginning of the modern period." Due to the shortage of secular clergy in the New World, the pope issued the Bull Omnimoda in 1522, and granted special permission to the prelates of the monastic orders in the New World to perform, in the absence of bishops in the vicinity, all Episcopal functions except ordination. Torquemada's organizational and administrative abilities, and his zeal for the preservation of the faith set the course of the Spanish Inquisition for the 341 years of its existence. As the activities of the Holy Office expanded, it became necessary to establish branches throughout Spain and the New World with the Suprema as the head office. The need of a tribunal of the Holy Office in Mexico was expressed as early as 1532. In fact, the first auto de fé in Mexico was held in October 1528, with Fray Vicente de Santa Maria presiding. Two Jews were burned at the stake, and two others were reconciled. On January 25, 1569, Philip II decreed the establishment of the first two formal Dominican tribunals in the New World, one for New Spain (Mexico) and one for Peru. They were known by the full title of "El Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición". The Mexican branch included all of the audiencias of Mexico, Guatemala, New Galicia, and the Philippines. The tribunal at Cartagena was not established until 1610. Prior to that all prisoners south of New Spain were sent to Lima, Peru, for trial. The Cartagena tribunal had jurisdiction over a vast area, including the bishopries of Cartagena, Panama, Santa Marta, Puerto Rico, Popayan, Venezuela, and Santiago de Cuba. There were many Jews in Cartagena and its vicinity, and they were quite visible; but according to Seymour B. Liebman, the Holy Office was more involved in disputes among the inquisitors than in persecuting heretics and Jews. The sixty-three procesos of Jews before the tribunal in Cartagena indicate that all were born in Portugal; nine of them were tortured and only one was sentenced to serve in the galleys sailing between Puerto Bello and Spain. Even though the Holy Office was established in Portugal in 1536, there never was a tribunal in Portuguese Brazil. Brazilian prisoners were tried in Portugal. Each viceroyalty was expected to give the tribunals of the Holy Office complete cooperation. The tribunals were autonomous institutions independent of secular authority. The Holy Office was free of the control of the King.
There was a marked change in the Holy Office's attitude toward the Jews after 1665, and a decrease in the severity of punishments meted out to Jewish heretics. There are several possible reasons for these changes
Protestantism became a greater threat to Catholicism than Judaism
The Holy Office served more as a political arm of the Spanish throne than as a defender of the faith
The disclosure of the venality of some inquisitors in the New World tribunals
There was a notable decline in the value of the confiscated goods by the tribunals, thus the Inquisition ceased to be a profitable institution
The number of penitents in the autos de fé of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was small, jail sentences short, and fines never included total confiscation of the prisoner's property.