Chuetas

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CHUETAS

CHUETAS , term of abuse given to the *Marranos of *Majorca, who lived as a separate and distinct community within Majorcan society after their ancestors had been compulsorily baptized at the time of the persecutions of 1391 and 1435. Opinions differ concerning the origin of this term. Some hold that it is derived from the Majorcan chuya, meaning "pork"; according to another hypothesis, the term is derived from xuhita or xuheta, the Majorcan form of judío ("Jew"). Unlike other places in what used to be the Crowns of Castile and Aragon, the Conversos, that is the Chuetas, of Majorca were the only group of New Christians who continued to live together and, apparently, to adhere to some form of Crypto-Judaism. The Chuetas, largely silversmiths, still live in a special district, where they have their own church, Santa Eulalia. A street known by the name Call, reminiscent of the old Jewish quarter, still exists. The Chueta quarter is not in the same place where the medieval Jewish quarter, the Call mayor, was. The Chuetas were moved in the middle of the 16th century from the medieval quarter to a new locality near what used to be the Call menor, the second and smaller medieval Jewish quarter. The new Chueta quarter consisted mainly of the three streets Sagell, Platería and Bolsería. Until the 20th century about 400 families continued to live as a closed society in carrer del Sagell and were referred to as "los del carrer". Their quarter was a unique phenomenon in Spain. In it were concentrated hundreds of inhabitants of Jewish descent who were suspected of Crypto-Judaism and were hated because of their Jewish origins. The Chuetas were barred from public offices and were totally segregated. In 1679 they were all imprisoned and accused of treachery or complicity. In 1688 many were again arrested and accused of judaizing. In 1691 many were burned in autos-de-fé. These tragic events were the result of anti-Chueta activities and feelings. A dramatic event was the material handed to the Inquisition by a "spy" or malshin (informer) from inside the community. The material shows that most of the inhabitants of the Chueta quarter followed the "law of Moses." However, the Chuetas themselves and the author of Els descendaents dels jueus conversos de Mallorca, himself a descendant of Chuetas from both sides, claim that the Chuetas were good Catholics. Despite his claim, some Chuetas did confess that they kept the fast of Esther. Even seemingly unimportant beliefs could have been of paramount importance to those who held them faithfully generations after their ancestors had formally converted. The community was severely persecuted up to 1782, when they were permitted to settle in any place in the island and the use of the term "Chuetas" was penalized. There followed the letters patent of 1785 and 1788 following petitions from the Chuetas. The petition aroused almost universal opposition in Majorca. There was hardly anyone, apart from the Chuetas, who supported it. The opponents claimed that the Chuetas continued with their Jewish practices and invoked the island's limpieza de sangre (Purity of Blood) statutes in their campaign against them. The formal abrogation of discrimination against the Chuetas was achieved. Nevertheless, discrimination against them continued. Numerous legends arose about the Chuetas, their customs and secret rites, and their reported adherence to Judaism, some of which entered Spanish and Catalan literature. The most notable work on this subject is Vicente Blasco Ibáñez' novel Los Muertos Mandan (1909). The Chuetas have continued to exist as a distinct entity, largely owing to the old prejudices against them still prevailing among the islanders. Their number probably amounts to some thousands. It is even now impossible to state with certainty whether and to what degree they still preserve any traces of Judaism. The publication in 1946 of a book containing the list of all those tried by the Inquisition since 1488 revealed the Jewish origin of numerous families on the island, until then known as Old Christians, and caused a great public uproar. In 1966 some families emigrated to Israel with the intention of returning to the faith of their ancestors, but the experiment failed and all went back to Majorca.

bibliography:

B. Braunstein, Chuetas of Majorca (1936); A.L. Isaacs, Jews of Majorca (1936); Roth, Marranos, index; Patai, in: Midstream, 8 (1962), 59–69; Lacave, in: Sefarad, 23 (1963), 375–6; M. Forteza, Els descendents dels jueus conversos de Mallorca (1966). add. bibliography: B. Porcel, Els xuetes (1969); idem, Los chuetas mallorquines … (1971); F. Riera Montserrat, Lluites antixuetes en el segle xviii (1973); A.S. Selke, The Conversos of Majorca (1986).

[Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]

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