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Carvajal, Luis de (1566–1596)

Carvajal, Luis de (1566–1596)

Luis de Carvajal (b. 1566; d. 8 December 1596), prominent crypto-Jew (secret Jew) in Mexico. Carvajal was born in Benavente, Castile, and studied at the Jesuit school in Medina del Campo. In 1580 he and his family immigrated to Mexico at the invitation of Luis's uncle, Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva, conquistador and governor of Nuevo León, who was unaware that his relatives secretly practiced Judaism. Carvajal tried his hand at a variety of trades, raising sheep, and working as an itinerant merchant. The Carvajals established extensive contacts with other crypto-Jews and became the cynosure of the Inquisition's first major campaign against Judaizers. On 9 May 1589 agents of the Inquisition arrested Carvajal and his mother. While in prison, Carvajal had several dreams that convinced him that God had chosen him to sustain the Jewish community in Mexico. He therefore feigned repentance, formally abjured his heresy, and was reconciled to the Catholic Church. But he continued to practice Judaism in secret and persuaded other members of his family to do the same.

While serving in the Colegio de Santiago de Tlatelolco as part of his penance, he used the library to further his knowledge of the Old Testament and correct Jewish practice. In early 1595 Carvajal wrote his Memoirs, a mystical autobiography in which he referred to himself as Joseph Lumbroso ("the Enlightened"). Shortly after, he was again arrested by the Inquisition and condemned as a relapsed heretic. He and several other family members were burned at the stake in the century's largest auto-da-fé. According to some reports, Carvajal made a last-minute conversion to Christianity and was garroted before being burned.

See alsoInquisition: Spanish America; Jews.


Luis De Carvajal, The Enlightened: The Writings of Luis de Carvajal, el Mozo, edited and translated by Seymour B. Liebman (1967).

Additional Bibliography

Cohen, Martin A. The Martyr: The Story of a Secret Jew and the Mexican Inquisition in the Sixteenth Century. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.

Costigan, Lúcia Helena Santiago. "Manifestaciones del judaísmo y 'colonización de lo imaginario' en Iberoamérica durante la primera fase moderna del imperio español." Revista Iberoamericana 66: 191 (April-June 2000): 299-308.

                                   R. Douglas Cope

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