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Reporter Digs Up Converso Past

New York Times writer Doreen Carvajal goes to Spain to understand why her ancestors hid their Jewish roots

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The Carvajal family, c. 1931.(Courtesy Doreen Carvajal)
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Doreen Carvajal was raised Catholic and had no occasion to question her religious or cultural heritage growing up. Even when she became a journalist (she’s currently a European correspondent for the New York Times and International Herald Tribune) and readers, seeing her byline, wrote to tell her that her last name was a common Sephardic Jewish name, she remained incurious. It took moving to Arcos de la Frontera, an ancient town in Andalusia, Spain, for her to finally confront the likelihood that her ancestors were conversos—that is, Spanish Jews who 600 years ago converted to Christianity rather than face death or exile during the Inquisition.

In a new memoir, The Forgetting River, Carvajal describes her search for definitive answers to questions about her identity. That search took her to Costa Rica, university archives and genetic specialists, frontier towns in Spain, and her own cache of forgotten memories and keepsakes. She speaks with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about what she found out. [Running time: 17:30.] 

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This was an extremely interesting discussion. I wonder if
Doreen Carvajal not just about her own personal Jewish background, but the larger discovery that there were and are Jewish communities world wide which even after conversion were being ostracized by majority culture has changed her view of the world?

I’m not surprised at all about her Doreen’s discovery. My own investigation has taken me to the mountain town of Adjuntas, where lore has it many Spanish conversos settled. My maternal grandmother (Surnamed Pérez) is from that town. As a Catholic, I would feel honored of my Jewish (and African) ancestry. But, I’m still waiting for the guys and gals at to develop their DNA gen test so that I can find out once and for all where they all came from.

I will definately get the book and read it…interesting story to say the least.


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Reporter Digs Up Converso Past

New York Times writer Doreen Carvajal goes to Spain to understand why her ancestors hid their Jewish roots

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