The Religion of Luis Rodriguez Carvajal

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The Religion of Luis Rodriguez Carvajal
The Religion of Luis Rodriguez Carvajal
M A R T I N A. C O H E N
With his second arrest by the Inquisition of New Spain, Luis Rodriguez Carvajal knew that his fate was sealed. From his cell he
would go only to the courtroom, and he would leave the courtroom
only for a grim journey to the stake. When the Inquisition first
arrested him for heresy against the Catholic faith, or, positively
stated, for practicing the rites of Judaism, he knew that, while his
property would be sequestered and his penance would be severe, an
expression of repentance would save his life. Now, as an impenitent,
the most that an abjuration of his Judaism could do was to bring
him the privilege of being garroted before his body was delivered
to the flames. H e had already decided that he would not endure
such ignominy. If die he must, he would die bravely, psalming to
his God in the purge of the fire.^
Though his future was thus assured, Luis Rodriguez Carvajal
did not supinely kowtow to the Inquisitors' demands during the
trial. He began by pleading innocent. When he changed his plea, he
Dr. Cohen is Associate Professor of Jewish History at the New York School of the
Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion. His translation of Samuel Usque's
Consolationfor the Tribulations of Israel appeared in 1965.
The author is now in the process of writing a full biography of Luis Rodriguez Carvajal.
Previous biographies include C. K. Landis, Carbujul, the Jew (Vineland, New Jersey,
1894); P. Martinez del Rio, Alumbrado (Mexico, 1937); and A. Toro, La familia
Carvajal (z vols., Mexico, 1944). In the appendices to his book, the author will devote
ample space to an evaluation of these works and others of more modest scope. Suffice
it to say here that none of the aforementioned biographers manifest adequate training
in Judaism, and this becomes particularly apparent when they treat the religious life
of Luis Rodriguez Carvajal.
Documentation in the present article will be limited to the mention of sources of
direct quotations and occasional additional highlights. Full documentation for every
statement, not possible within the confines of this study, will be given in the forthcoming book.
sought to save others from implication. Even when forced to confess
that-~udaismwas practiced byfamily and friends, he tried to conceal
as much pertinent information as he could until the Inquisition's
tortures loosened his tongue. He tried to commit suicide rather than
ratify this testimony, but his attempt was foiled. Yet neither pain
nor failure dampened his spirit. Realizing in the twilight of his trial
that a man who feared nothing but his Maker could indulge in the
full freedom of expression which the Inquisition sought to stifle, he
thrust a document on the Inquisitional tribunal, asking that it be
appended to the record of his trial. H e called it his Last Will and
Testament; the Inquisition having relieved him of concern with
worldly goods, the paper dealt only with matters of the spirit. It
contained the Ten Commandments, capped by the Shema, and an
exposition of the cardinal beliefs of Judaism, to which Rodriguez
Carvajal persevered in clinging. Doubtless he hoped that, when future Inquisitors -and some day, after the Inquisition's destruction,
perhaps even others - read his words, they would realize that belief cannot be coerced. They would see that an unfettered spirit can
rise victorious above degradation, torture, and even the agony of
death. Across the gulf of the beyond they would hear the tone of
defiance in the rodomontade with which he climaxed the expression
of his faith: "To practice Judaism is not heresy: It is the will of
the Lord our God.""
Much has been written about Luis Rodriguez Carvajal, and much
more remains to be. Some of his biographers have turned him into
a Judaic version of St. Simeon Stylites, devoutly doting on his beliefs atop a lonely pillar distant from the realities of life. No one
can doubt that Luis Rodriguez Carvajal was possessed of a deep religiosity and the kind of sensitivity that facilitates psychoses. But
the terms "naive," "callow," or even "unrealistic" do not apply to
him. Faith, with its mystical twinge, loomed large in his life, as it
did in the lives of most people in the sixteenth-century Hispanic
"Procesos de Luis de Carvajal (el Mozo)," in Publicaciones del Archivo General de la
Nacih, XXVIII (Mexico, 1935), 416. Procesos LCM - as we shall refer to it henceforth - constitutes the most important source for the biography of Luis Rodrfguez
Carvajal. For an English translation of "The Last Will and Testament of Luis de
Carvajal, the Younger," see Martin A. Cohen, "The Letters and Last Will [etc.],"
American Jewish Historical Quarterly [AJHQ],L V (1965-66), 510-20.
Sigmund Shlcsinger
Indian fighrer
world, and the search for a refuge in faith was as much a part of
general Jewish life in those days as it was of Luis' own. Within
this context, a careful study of the life of Luis Rodriguez Carvajal
reveals a man of worldly concerns and practical realism.
Luis Rodriguez Carvajal was born at Benavente, Spain, in the
year I 566. His parents had both been New Christians; that is, they
were descendants of Jews converted to Christianity by choice or
force in the years beginning with I 39 I . Luis spent his childhood in
ignorance of his Jewish lineage; he was unaware that, like countless
other New Christians, his parents secretly practiced their ancestral
faith. Since the Inquisition might see fit to charge an entire family
with heresy on a child's inadvertence, offspring were not told about
such things until they reached their adolescence, when they were
old enough for discretion, but still sufficiently pliant to be bent to
their parents' ideals.3 At the time of Luis' birth, it must be understood, the Inquisition was well intrenched in both Spain and Portugal. Empowered to discover and punish all kinds of spiritual aberrance, it took a special interest in those of a Jewish variety. It did
not care whether Judaizers were the progeny of willing or unwilling
converts; it regarded them all as Christians and was determined to
save their souls, even if it had to destroy their bodies in the p r o c e s ~ . ~
3 By far the best book on the New Christians remains Cecil Roth's A History of the
Marranos (Philadelphia, 1932). For additional works, the reader is referred to Roth's
bibliography, revised in the 1950's.
It is important to recognize that the rise of the group that came to be called New
Christians stems from the conversions of I 391. Statements, such as the one in a worthy
article by Arnold Wiznitzer, who says of people coming t o the New World:
From the beginning, this latter group included a number of "New Christians," a
term used t o designate those Jews and their descendants who had acce ted baptism
in order to remain in Spain at the time of the expulsion, following tge decree of
May 31, 1492 ...
should be accordingly amended. See Arnold Wiznitzer, "Crypto-Jews in Mexico during
the Sixteenth Century," A J H a L I (1962), 168. Cf. Roth, Marranos, p. 27.
4 O n the Inquisition, see the still standard work by Henry C. Lea, A Hismry of the
Inquisitiun in Spain, I (New York, 1906) ; J. A. Llorente, Historia critica dc la Inquisicih
de E s p a h (z vols., Barcelona, 1870); A. Herculano, Historia da origem c cstabcIccimcnto
While he was growing to adolescence, Luis had no reason to
fear the Inquisition. His parents told him they were Old Christians,
and Luis knew only the teachings of the Church. He received his
early education at home, and was given no formal schooling until
the age of eleven, when his parents moved from Benavente to Medina del Campo. At that time he entered a Jesuit school to pursue
the traditional studies of Latin and rhetoric.5 Perhaps he also dreamed
of one day becoming a Jesuit, like his uncle D ~ m i n g o . ~
One day in his fourteenth year, Luis' older brother Balthasar
took him aside and revealed that they were New Christians, descended from Jews. Balthasar had not picked an ordinary day to
disclose his news. That day, he explained, was "the day of Kippur,
the day of pardon, when God forgives sins," and he felt that no day
was better suited to indoctrinate Luis into the practice of Judaism.
He continued to talk, explaining the sanctity of the Law, the majesty
of the Sabbath, the grandeur of the holidays, and the rewards of
dietary observance. On that Yom Kippur, Luis became a secret Jew.'
Not long thereafter came another unexpected event, which put
an abrupt end to Luis' formal education. His maternal uncle, Don
Luis de Carvajal, who had been in New Spain for nearly a decade,
suddenly appeared and asked his sister's family to return with him
to America. Don Luis had acquired fame as a conquistador and
administrator of vast Indian territories in New Spain. In reward for
his services, he was to be named governor of the expansive province
called the New Kingdom of Le6n and privileged to bequeath his
title and estates to a successor of his own choo~ing.~
da Inquisifio em Portugal (3 vols., Lisbon, 1855-1859), and the part of it that John C.
Branner translated under the title, History of the Origin and Establishment of the Inquisitiun
in Portugal (Stanford University, California, 1926).
5 Procesos LCM, p. 15. Wiznitzer incorrectly states that the Jesuit school was located
in Benavente.
6 Although Domingo de Carvajal is not mentioned in Luis' trial records, it is most
unlikely that Luis would not have had knowledge of him. Domingo appears in the
"Proceso integro de Luis de Carvajal el Viejo, Gobernador del Nuevo Reino de Lebn,"
ed. A. Toro, in Los judi'os de Nueva Espaiia (Publicaciones del Archivo General de la
Nacidn, X X [Mexico, 1932]), p. 279. Henceforth this text will be cited as Proceso LCG.
7
Procesos LCM, p. z 2 z.
8
Proceso LCG, pp. 338 ff. See Toro, Familia Carvajal, I, 39 ff.
Generosity alone did not motivate Don Luis' offer to his sister
and brother-in-law. Word had reached him that his relatives were
secretly practicing Judaism and were even contemplating an escape
to one of the Jewish communities in Italy or France. This news
offended Don Luis' sensibilities as a Catholic; even more, it frightened him with the realization that his family's Judaizing might
jeopardize his career. Even if he could not convert his relatives once
he had brought them to Mexico, he could at least hope to confine
their activities.
Don Luis' prayers were answered. His sister and brother-in-law
agreed to come, and before the end of 1580, they and their family
were settled in New Spain. It was probably around this time, and
at Don Luis' suggestion, that his sister and her children dropped
the name Rodriguez and became known simply as Carvajal.
Though still in his middle teens, Luis Rodriguez Carvajal -or
Luis de Carvajal, the younger, as he would now call himself - became a businessman in New Spain. H e traveled as a merchant
through her bustling mining towns, and perhaps -though the evidence here is scant and circumstantial - shared with the rest of his
family in the lucre of the slave trade. On one such trip, around I 585,
when Luis accompanied his father to Mexico City, Francisco Rodriguez became seriously ill. Fearing that he would not recover, Don
Francisco for the first time spoke to his young son about his practice
of Judaism and then devoted a month to teaching Luis all he knew
about his faith. Evidently Don Francisco was preparing his son to
assume the religious leadership of the family, and beyond, of a
larger circle of Judaizers.9
W h y had Don Francisco been reluctant in Spain to offer Luis
the same indoctrination he had given his older children? Why had
he relegated the task to Balthasar, who did not explicitly mention
his parents' Judaizing to his brother? The answer may lie in Luis'
psyche. Luis was a sensitive lad, emotional, volatile, rigid. H e
could as easily betray as defend someone close to him. At the same
time, his manifest brilliance and power to move men made him a
desirable candidate for responsibility and leadership among the
9 Procesos LCM, pp. 40 ff. Wiznitzer's translation of the word "mozo" in "Luis de
Carvajal, el mozo," as "junior" (Luis de Carvajal, Junior) is not as felicitous as the
use of the term "the younger" in a case such as this. See Wiznitzer, p. 189.
Judaizing New Christians. When he was thirteen years old, it was
too early to predict whether he could be trusted, and Balthasar was
asked to assume responsibility for the initial indoctrination. When
he was eighteen years old, it might still have been too early, but
Don Francisco now found himself in a position where he had to
take a calculated risk.
The Judaism which first Balthasar and then his father taught
Luis Rodriguez Carvajal contrasted with that of Amsterdam, Salonika, Venice, Lublin, or any other great center where Judaism was
freely practiced in the sixteenth century. It was a derivative, or
more precisely a degeneration, of the Judaism which Spain had
known in 1492, when the baptized Jews were expelled, and which
Portugal had sheltered up to 1497, when her Jews were forcibly
Christianized by royal decree.Io These catastrophes had not been
able to uproot Judaism in the Iberian Peninsula, but they had driven
it underground. Forced converts secretly continued their Jewish
traditions, and even many who had been willingly converted began
surreptitiously to return to Judaism once they learned that their exchange of faiths effaced neither the disabilities nor the exposure to
persecution which confronted them as Jews.
The Iberian Peninsula preserved an authentic Judaism, secret
though it was, as long as there were clandestine books and teachers
who had studied with learned Jews. But as these dwindled with the
passing decades, Iberian Judaism began to change. Young men who
escaped from the Peninsula and studied in academies of Jewish
learning did not return. The only continuing contact with Judaism
was the Bible, and the best way a family could acquire a good knowledge of the Bible was to send a son to study for the priesthood.
Luis' parents were no exception; they sent their son Gaspar. By
the end of the sixteenth century, Iberian Judaism evidenced an
atrophy of rabbinic learning, a hypertrophy of biblical ideas and
form, and an inevitable syncretism with Catholic practice and belief.
See Roth, pp. 1 6 8 ff., and his invaluable article, "The Religion of the Marranos,"
Jewish Quarterly Review, N . S., XXII ( 1 9 3 I ) , 1-33.
This Judaism changed but little when it crossed the Atlantic. Luis
Rodriguez Carvajal and others may have enriched it with some
original details, but in substance it remained the same.
Luis' Judaism was based on an abbreviated calendar. H e did not
celebrate or even mention Rosh Hashanah and probably observed
only perfunctorily the Feast of First Fruits (Shavuot), the Feast of
Booths (Succot), and the Feast of Lights (Hanukkah). Indeed, of
the existence of the Feast of Booths he apparently had no knowledge
until he read about it in a Bible shortly after his father's death. H e
did not honor the New Moon and had no idea of the commemorative
fasts. He knew that Monday and Thursday were the penitential
fast days, but he fasted on other weekdays in addition to, and very
probably instead of, the traditional days.I1
Luis and his family celebrated four major holy occasions. There
was the weekly Sabbath, and annually the three-day Fast of Esther,
the seven-day festival of Passover, and the Great Day of the Lord,
which they knew also as the Day of Pardon, or Penitence, or Kippur.
Lacking the traditional Jewish calendar, they commenced the Fast
of Esther on February 14, and Passover on March I 5 , and they set
aside September 10, for the observance of the Great Day of the
Lord.Iz The precariousness of the Mexican Judaizers' situation and
their need for secrecy reduced their observances on these occasions
to a minimum. Often they had to forgo them entirely.
" See, for example, Procesos L C M , pp.
I 39, I 50.
See Procesos L C M , pp. 47 f., 63, 97, 166, 223, and passim. Roth, Marranos, pp. 182 f.,
states that the New Christians, lacking access to the Hebrew calendars, tried within the
general calendar in use to observe the holy days as close as possible t o the days on which
they were observed elsewhere in the Jewish world. Thus, he says, they observed the
Day of Atonement on the tenth day after the new moon of September, Sukkoth on the
fifteenth day of that month, the Fast of Esther on the fourteenth day after the new moon
of February, and Passover on the fifteenth day after the new moon of March. Indeed,
there seem to be texts to support this conclusion. Even in the trial records of Luis
Rodriguez Carvajal, we hear of the Day of Atonement being celebrated on "the tenth
day of the moon of September" (Procesos L C M , p. 130). But when it is recalled that the
Vulgate's word mensis, translating the Hebrew word hodesh ("month"), can be rendered
as Iuna in Spanish, the possibility arises that the "luna" mentioned in the Inquisition
records could also be the common month. And this possibility becomes a probability
in the case of Luis Rodriguez Carvajal, when one considers the frequent dating of the
holidays in his trial records according t o the common month without reference t o the
word "luna."
Before the Sabbath, Luis' mother and sisters changed the household linen and prepared food for the entire day, including a chicken
dinner for Friday night; then the family donned its finery. They
spent the holy day resting, praying, and feasting on the food kept
warm in the family oven. T o dissimulate their abstinence from
work, the women kept their sewing handy and took it up if any
stranger happened by.13 Luis and his circle of Judaizers preceded
the fast days with ritual ablutions and did not hesitate to borrow
elements from their non-Jewish environment. Thus, to increase
their mortification, Luis and other members of his family wore
shirts made from hogs' hair next to their skin.I4
Luis' Passover retained two traditional elements, the unleavened
bread and the introductory assembly, but neither was in keeping
with established custom. His unleavened bread was a tortilla or
wheat cake which did not conform to traditional prescriptions; and
the Passover began, not with a Seder or the reading of the Haggadah, but with a reenactment of the Exodus meal. In its ideal
form - which probably could only rarely be translated into reality,
because of the dangers involved - the entire community of Judaizers would gather together, slaughter a white, unblemished lamb,
smear the lintels of their houses with its blood and, roasting it, eat
it whole, "while on foot, like people about to set out on a journey,
staves in hands and loins girded." If for any reason the Passover
could not be observed on the night of March 14, Luis, following
biblical sanction, was prepared to celebrate it one month later.15
Similarly, Luis' liturgy evidenced only the most superficial contact with tradition. All that he knew in Hebrew - and there is
reason to believe that it was a garbled Hebrew -was the Shema
and its response. Very few of his prayers recall the traditional
prayer book. Reminiscent of the opening of the daily evening worship was Luis' Friday night prayer, "In the name of the Lord Adonay. Blessed be the name of the Lord Adonay forever, Amen, who
13 Procesos LCM, p. 63. Sometimes, however, it was too dangerous for them to wear
their Sabbath finery. See ibid., p. 2 8 2 .
'4
Ibid., p. 302.
'5
Ibid., pp. 207, 399.
THE RELIGION O F LUIS RODR~GUEZCARVAJAL
43
turns the light of the morning to evening, who leads night to dawn
and dawn to morning. . . ."I~ The recurrent theme of the Atonement
Day liturgy appears in Luis' prayer, "Lord God Almighty, for the
sake of Thy holy name and this day which Thou hast established
that, through our fasting and repentance for our sins, Thou mayest
pardon us and have mercy upon us. . . ."I7 And the first of the traditional Eighteen Benedictions is suggested by the prayer whose
opening words alone appear, in obviously confused form, in the
Inquisitional records as "If [sic] 0 Lord, the Patriarch Abraham. . . ."I8 The petition, ". . .have pity upon us and upon all
Israel, T h y people; have pity upon Jerusalem, Thy city, and upon
the mountain of Zion, where Thy glory dwells . . .," calls to mind
the fourth paragraph of the traditional Grace afier Meals.19 Similarly, the prayer beginning "Our God and God of our Fathersnz0
recalls a number of prayers with different contents, though it would
not be too venturesome to propose that it may refer to the Yabaleh
v'yavo, whose theme of messianic deliverance was close to the
Judaizers' hearts.
As elsewhere in the world of New Christian Judaizers, Luis'
devotions were heavily dependent upon the Psalms and other biblical
prayers. The Judaizers' Bible was the Vulgate, and they did not
discriminate between the Apocrypha and the Old Testament. They
realized that the New Testament was unacceptable to Jews, but
were unaware that the Apocrypha enjoyed no canonicity among
them. The apocryphal additions to the Book of Esther contributed
more to the observance of the Fast of Esther than did the biblical
book, while the influence of the Ezra Apocalypse or Second Ezra
(Fourth Ezra psdras] in the Apocrypha) on Luis' vision of the
Millennium was at least as great as that of any of the biblical
prophets.
I6
Ibid., p. I 3 I .
1 7 Ibid.
Ibid., p. 3 8 9 .
' 9
Ibid., p. 3 3 8 .
Ibid., pp. 203 and 3 19.
T h e Vulgate also provided Luis with his cardinal beliefs, which
he systematized in his Last Will and Testament. All were elemental
in the Jewish tradition; yet each also represented a reaction to a
major tenet of Catholicism. Asserting that the Law of Moses was
eternal, Luis and his followers thereby denied Catholic claims of its
suspension and supersedure by the New Testament. T h e efficacy
of the Church was disavowed by declaring this Law the sole road
to salvation - though salvation remained a concept which they understood in purely christian terms. They announced that they belonged to God's chosen people and thereby flouted the idea of the
Catholic faithful as the Verus Israel. They looked for the coming of
the Messiah, thereby discarding the Messiahship of Jesus. They
insisted on the unity of God, thereby dissociating themselves from
the Trinity. On the basis of the Second Commandment, they repudiated the adoration of images and thereby provided the rationale for
their rejection of the icons of Jesus, the Virgin, and the saints that
confronted them at every turn. Like their Catholic neighbors, the
New Christian Judaizers trusted in resurrection, retribution, and
revelation, but, unlike their Jewish coreligionists, they had no idea
of oral law, mitzvah, halakah, chain of tradition, or other concepts
integral to the rabbinic tradition.
There were other ways in which Luis Rodriguez Carvajal and
his Judaizing friends reacted to their Catholic environment. They
feigned perfect piety in the confessional, but at Mass, which they
attended for the sake of appearances, they refrained insofar as possible from gestures and prayers at variance with their beliefs. T h e y
held to special funerary and mourning customs, some not really
Jewish, and steadfastly adhered, above all, to the dietary laws.
These dietary laws, as one might have expected, came directly from
the Bible; those developed by rabbinic Judaism were unknown.
Like New Christian Judaizers elsewhere, Luis believed that "birds
and animals were to be eaten only after they had been properly
decapitated, bled and cleaned of suet . . ."; that "it was forbidden
to eat any animal that had suffocated because the blood was left in
THE RELIGION OF LUIS RODR~GUEZCARVAJAL
45
its body"; and that "it was not permissible to eat any cake made
of blood or fat." The Judaizers laid their strongest interdict on the
consumption of pork, bacon, and lard, all staples in the diet of New
Spain. They insisted on eating only "the animal that chewed its
cud and not the one that did not, like the pig."21 They also allowed
themselves only fish that had scales, but they seem to have ignored
the requirement of fins for permissible fishes and cloven hooves for
permissible animals.zz
Such were at least the ideals of practice and belief of Luis Rodriguez Carvajal and his fellow Judaizers in early colonial Mexico.
Needless to say, the leaders of the great centers of Judaism, however sympathetic they may have been to the plight of the New
Christian Judaizers, could not have regarded their Judaism as authentic. In many, if not most cases, they would have questioned
their right to call themselves Jews. Yet the Judaizers did call themselves Jews, and though they lacked the knowledge of Judaism
found among Jews elsewhere in the world, they yielded to none in
devotion to their faith. They believed that a man, however limited
his practice of the tradition, however imperfect his beliefs, could
earn the accolade "Jew" by identifying with the community of secret Judaizers and by facing the dangers inherent in such identification.
The Inquisition had a similar definition of the term "Jew"; on
the basis of it, thousands upon thousands of people were indicted
and sentenced. Yet it should not be forgotten that the Inquisition
was interested in them not so much because they were Jews as because they had become Jews after having been Christians. The Inquisition's primary mission was not to uproot Judaism, but to counter
heresy, and though the fulfillment of the latter objective often involved the attainment of the former, it was always aware of the
shade of distinction between the two. Nearly all the Judaizers of
Spanish and Portuguese descent whom the Inquisition prosecuted
were officially New Christians. The only possible exceptions were
the progeny of Jews who had left Spain by 1492 or Portugal by
1497, or Jews from other places in Europe who wandered into ter" Ibid., p. 98.
" Ibid., p. 46.
ritory under Inquisitional control. Such Jews were few and far
between. In the case of the overwhelming majority of its "Jews,"
that is, its New Christian Judaizers, the Inquisition did not care
whether their ancestors had been willing or unwilling converts.
Nor did it care whether their families' secret Judaizing included the
evasion of basic Catholic responsibilities, even that of baptism.
Correctly and legally from its point of view, it regarded all New
Christians as Catholics and hence as heretics if they became J ~ W S . ~ ~
Since a Jew was believed identifiable by certain deviations from
Catholic norms, the Inquisition and the New Christians often mistook for Jews people who were actually pious Catholics. Their
"Judaism" might have been nothing more than an unusual act or
expression which, with a dash of imagination, could be connected
to something Jewish. The most salient case of this kind in early
colonial Mexico was that of the eccentric, Gregorio L6pez. Luis
Rodriguez Carvajal strongly suspected that L6pez was a Judaizer
because he believed in one God! Other contemporaries, amazed by
L6pez' broad humanistic ideas and his mastery of Scripture -a
most unusual feat for a layman in those days -regarded him as a
Lutheran! A board of inquiry set up by the Archbishop of New
Spain, Pedro Moya de Contreras, exonerated him from all charges.
Ultimately, because of his saintly acts, Gregorio L6pez was
beatified by the C h ~ r c h . ~ 4
The word synagogue, too, had a distinctive connotation. It
meant simply a gathering of Judaizers, or their meeting place. At
no time did it refer to a separate building, or, as it did in Spain and
Portugal, to a chamber containing the traditional objects of a house
of Jewish worship. In colonial Mexico, a meeting room may have
been adorned with a makeshift altar, but the rest of the appointThese facts cannot be emphasized sufficiently, for scholars often forget the nice
distinction between the connotation of the word "Jew" in the world at large during the
sixteenth century and its connotation in New Spain. The situation is correctly stated
by Seymour Liebrnan, "Research Problems in Mexican Jewish History," AJHQ,
L I V (1964), 165, n. z (**). T o Liebman's correct statement, "In Mexico, the Inquisition did not differentiate between those converted and those unconverted," one may
add, "because unconverted Jews were prohibited by law from being there and were
therefore there at the risk of being considered renegades from Christianity."
24 For a full discussion of Gregorio Lbpez, see Martin A. Cohen, "Don Gregorio L6pez:
Friend of the Secret Jew," Hebrew Union College Annual, XXXVIII (1967), 259-84.
ments, including eternal light, ark, and Torah, were nowhere to
be found.
So, too, the word rabbi, as applied by New Christians, denoted
simply teacher or leader. None of the so-called rabbis in early
colonial Mexico had received ordination; and of Codes, Talmud,
and even Hebrew they were as innocent as their foll~wers.~s
Their
warrant for leadershi6 rested on their knowledge of Bible, meagre
as it usually was, and on their boundless zeal for the idea of Judaism.
Indeed, the fame of a leader of Judaizers in New Spain depended
less on his knowledge than on the dangers he courted; he was,
above all, a knight-errant for the God whom he knew as Adonay.
It was not until 1587, some two years after his father's death,
that Luis Rodriguez Carvajal emerged as a leader of the Judaizers
of New Spain. During all this time he seems to have been a fervent
Jew. H e studied his religion insofar as possible. He meditated upon
its promises. He even circumcised himself. His religion was, however, strictly a private affair, kept so secret that his uncle, the governor, who contemned his Judaizing nieces and nephews, loved
young Luis dearly because he believed him to be an exemplary
C a t h o l i ~ .Indeed,
~~
the illusion of his nephew's Catholic piety induced the governor to invite Luis to accompany him on a long expedition into the wild territories of the Chichimec Indians. This
took place only a few weeks after the death of Francisco Rodriguez
de Mattos and doubtless coincided with the governor's designation
of his nephew as his heir and s u c c e ~ s o rThe
. ~ ~ invitation very likely
See, for example, H . C. Lea, The Inquisition in the Spanish Dependmcies (New York,
1908), p. 208, where he uncritically accepts the definitions of the Inquisition and calls
Francisco Rodriguez de Mattos "a rabbi and dogmatizer, or teacher."
25
26
See, for example, Proceso LCG, p. 2 26.
So Luis Rodriguez Carvaial states in his Procesos. There the trial record reads:
. . dijo: que muerto en MCxico su padre, de alli a un mes Cste se fue a Pinuco .
quince dias . . . alli en P6nuco estuvo de esta vez . . .y a1 cab0 de ellos se parti6
ara el Reino de Le6n, con el Gobernador Luis de Caravajal [sic], su tio . . . (Procesos
~ C Mpp.
, 40 f. T h e original orthography of the text is here preserved).
However, in his autobiography, ibid., pp. 464 f., he states that he left a year later. H e
says that he left with his uncle a year after his circumcision, which he admits took place
shortly after his father's death.
27
.
..
resulted from the governor's wish to indoctrinate young Luis in his
future duties and responsibilities.
What is significant for a consideration of Luis' religious life is
the fact that he accepted the invitation, knowing full well that he
would be removed thereby from close contact with the enclaves of
Judaizers in New Spain and that the propinquity of his uncle would
curtail his private religious practice. Quite obviously, Luis' concern
for Judaism at this time, however great, was secondary to his desire
to participate in the expedition. There is, therefore, more than a
slight possibility that Luis found his uncle's career attractive. In
that case, he must have understood that the active practice of Judaism would jeopardize, if not destroy, such a career. At best, he
would have to continue his dual life of public Catholicism and private Judaism. At worst, he might have to abandon his Judaism
altogether.
It is noteworthy that for a year and a half Luis remained with
his uncle, experiencing loneliness and hardship and becoming indispensable to the expedition party. During this entire period, his
perspicacious namesake found no reason to suspect the orthodoxy
of young Luis' religious practice or belief.18 If, therefore, toward
the end of this period Luis began to look for ways to leave the
camp unsuspected and to assume a role of leadership among the
Judaizers, we may ask whether or not there was any change in
Luis' career prospects which might have contributed, at least partially, to his decision. And, indeed, there seems to have been. During
these years, Governor Luis de Carvajal found himself in the thick
of a struggle with the viceroy. It was part of a general struggle between the conquistadors and feudal lords (not a few of them wearers
of the cloth) who enjoyed considerable independence in their rule of
the vast territories they had conquered in the name of the crown,
and the ever-growing insistence of the viceroy that they submit to
the authority of the crown.29Young Luis could not have failed to be
ff., especially
'8
See Luis' autobiography, ibid., pp. 465
' 9
See the chapter entitled "El Santo Oficio y las autoridades," in J. Toribio Medina,
p. 469.
Historia del Santo Ojicio de la Inquisicidn en Mlxico (Santiago de Chile, 1905). pp. 6 1 ff.,
and R. B. Merriman, The Rise of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and in the N e w ,
IV (New York, 1962), 2 1 3 ff.
aware of the struggle and its implications for his career. Nor could
he have been oblivious to the possibility that, as the battle grew
hotter, the viceroy might discover Governor de Carvajal's Jewish
descent and might, with the aid of the hungry Inquisition, use this
information to render him hors de combat.
T h e Inquisition of New Spain, established since 1571, was just
at this time beginning to take an intense interest in the New Christian Judaizers, and only a dolt among them could have been insensitive to its threat.30 T h e New Christians had emigrated from Europe
to escape the stifling propinquity of the Inquisitions of Spain and
Portugal and, in many instances, no doubt, to dissolve the identity
of their Jewish origins in the vast expanses of the New World.
Even when the Inquisition was first introduced into New Spain,
they had apparently not been overly concerned, but as it began to
move closer to home, they found themselves with the same alternatives that had confronted them or their ancestors in Europe. By
pious Catholic practice and by pretending Old Christian descent,
they could hope to elude the Inquisition indefinitely. Or, perhaps
concluding from their European experience that pretense would
ultimately be futile, they could turn wholeheartedly to the God of
their fathers as the only source of hope. In Mexico, as elsewhere
in the Jewish world of the sixteenth century, the second alternative
was as realistic as the first, for religion pervaded every aspect of
life. God was always present, judging and condemning, pardoning
and preserving, and performing saving miracles precisely in the
dark moments when all hope seemed lost. Even if sophisticated men
paid only lip service to religion in times of ease and security, they
joined the masses of their followers in seeking a reorientation within
the framework of their religious ideology the moment their accustomed way of life was disrupted.
In this light the practicality of Luis' decision becomes apparent.
Given his uncle's struggles, he realized that he could not duplicate
his career. Given the heightened activity of the Inquisition among
the New Christians, he recognized the obstacles that t h ~ splaced in
the way of their quest for economic or social success. Given his
3O
Toribio Medina, pp.
82
ff.
own Judaizing and that of his family, he knew that he could not
long pose as an Old Christian, if he had ever thought of doing so.
Bred as he was in the religion-charged environment of the sixteenth
century and endowed with a measure of knowledge and sensitivity,
he could not have helped but conclude, as did many a kindred spirit
among the New Christian Judaizers, that God had willed all this,
that He was punishing New Christians who had allowed thoughts
of worldly success to impede their devotion to him, and that only
by a wholehearted return to His service could they hope to avoid
the dual disaster of death and damnation. Even a twentieth-century
man who finds it difficult to appreciate such thinking would have
to admit that, since New Christians like Luis had no other alternatives, the alternative of faith was a far superior survival mechanism
than that of despair.
It was neither opportunism nor quixotic faith that persuaded
Luis Rodriguez Carvajal to leave his uncle's camp, but an irreducible
compound of practical reasoning and religious conviction.
Piqued by curiosity to learn more of his ancestral religion at its
source, Luis acquired a Bible shortly after his father's death and
began to read it assiduously. In his three years at the Jesuit school
in Medina del Campo, he had apparently learned very little about
the Bible, or at least the Pentateuch, for he was staggered when he
reached the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Genesis and read
God's requirement that all males be circumcised and His warning
that "the soul which is uncircumcised shall be cut off from the book
of the living."31
For some unexplained reason -perhaps fear that his uncle
might discover him with the Bible, which, as a layman, he was not
supposed to have - Luis did not take it along on the expedition.
There his only reading material was the thinner and somewhat less
Autobiography of Luis de Carvajal, el mozo, in P~occros LCM, pp. 464 f. See also
Martin A. Cohen, "The Autobiography of Luis De Carvajal, the Younger," AJH&
L V (1965-66), 284. S. Liebman has recently published a new translation of the younger
Carvajal's writings: The Enlightened (Coral Gables, Fla., 1967).
compromising Ezra Apocalypse, the Fourth Book of Ezra in the
Vulgate, and faute de mieux - or at least faute d'autre - he read
this book time and again.
In the short time that he had had his Bible, Luis apparently had
not read very far. After leaving his uncle, he and Balthasar chanced
upon a book prepared by the renowned Judaizing physician, the
Licentiate Morales, who had taught Judaism to Francisco Rodriguez de Mattos. In his book, Morales included, in Spanish translation, an anthology of biblical passages of interest to Judaizers as
well as the entire Book of Deuteronomy. When the brothers first
turned to the twenty-seventh chapter of Deuteronomy, with its
record of all the curses that would be visited upon defectors from
God's Law, they were smitten with feelings of guilt. The Deuteronomic curses, it seemed to them, were being fulfilled upon themselves and the rest of the New Chri~tians.3~
These three were the only books which Luis is known to have
studied before his first imprisonment by the Inquisition. Yet, with
their reading, superficial though it may have been, he became as
learned as any previous leader of the Judaizers of New Spain. Each
book exerted a profound influence upon Luis7 religious life. The
Bible's first two books impressed him with the stories of the patriarchs, the Egyptian captivity - which he not unnaturally identified
with the plight of the New Christian Judaizers in Mexico - and
the miraculous Exodus, which reflected the New Christians7 hope
for their own deliverance. The seventeenth chapter of Genesis also
spurred Luis -not long before he accepted his uncle's invitation - to follow Abraham's example by performing the rite of
circumcision upon himself.33
No less powerful had been the impact of the Ezra Apocalypse.
As Luis read it and reflected upon it during his numberless free
moments in the Indian wilds, his imagination catalyzed its contents
into a message for his own generation. The sins of the children of
Israel mentioned there, he believed, were those of the New Christians; the punitive dispersion was their life in New Spain; the
32
Ibid., pp. 465 f., 470.
33
Ibid., p. 465.
excruciating suffering visited upon them in the days preceding the
Messianic Age were the anguish and torture the Judaizers were
now beginning to experience, particularly at the hands of the Inquisition; and the reward which awaited the faithful in Paradise
was vouchsafed to those of their number who remained steadfast in
their religion. These notions were later reinforced when Luis read
Morales' book. Here he appears to have found ample prophetic
support for the ideas he had learned and deduced from the Ezra
Apocalypse. Armed with these, he determined to spread the message
of God beyond the confines of his immediate family.
Luis was able to escape from his uncle's camp when an emergency
arose that required sending him for help.34 W e do not know whether
Luis performed his duty before abandoning his uncle. W e do know
that before long he was back in Mexico City and was wholeheartedly
engaged in Judaizing activities. At first his brothers-in-law provided
his support. When their fortunes waned, Luis first took a modest
position as a clerk and then became a merchant again, but the earning
of a livelihood was ancillary to his activity as an organizer and
leader of the Judaizers in New Spain. Luis worked indefatigably.
In his home or on his travels, he established contact with many
crypto-Jews and gave lessons on the Torah and Prophets. H e observed the sacred days in the company of other Judaizers. Wherever
he was, he led the makeshift worship services and preached on the
holiness of the occasion. H e even composed penitential prayers in
inspired Spanish verse.
Along with his feverish activity came carefully laid plans to escape, with his family and doubtless other Judaizers, to one of the
centers of Judaism in Europe. Again Luis, like the biblical Joseph,
with whom he was to identify, was not a dreamer, but a provider.
The moment the Inquisition struck close to him, he would be ready
to move. When it did strike, however, Luis seems to have been
powerless to defend himself and his loved ones. His oldest sister,
34
Ibid., p. 469.
Reprudirced fr,orri La Farriilia Carvajal, by Al.~o,,bo T0i.o
Dofia Isabel dc Carvajal in thc Inquisitional chamber
(SCC
p p 54-55, 59)
Fsccurio~lo f Ihfi:~
i\lariana (:arvajal
(scc
pp.
01-6:)
THE RELIGION OF LUIS RODR~GUEZCARVAJAL
55
Isabel, was arrested, and his other siblings as well as his mother
were apparently under close surveillance. Luis and Balthasar briefly
thought of escaping alone, but decided against it when they realized
that such a step would prejudice their family's position and leave
them without adequate guidance or help in the future. On May 9,
1589, Luis himself was arrested by the Inquisition. H e joined his
mother and two of his sisters in jail.
In his confinement, Luis channeled his boundless energies into
the spiritual exercises of fasting, meditation, and prayer. H e longed
-irrationally, he knew - for a Psalter that he might invoke the
traditional cries for divine help. T o his astonishment, his wish was
granted when the Inquisition arrested a Franciscan monk, put him
in Luis' cell, and permitted him the use of a breviary. T o reciprocate
for this miracle, Luis began to work on the monk and soon had him
converted into a zealous Judaizer. He joined Luis in abstaining from
all forbidden foods, though this sacrifice, as they called it, exposed
the two repeatedly to exquisite hunger.
Yet try as he might, Luis found it difficult to ward off disillusionment and despair. Like all New Christians in his predicament, he
realized that he could emerge alive from his trial only if he abjured
what the Church regarded as his errors. Then he would spend the
rest of his days in dishonor and poverty, excluded from the society
and opportunities he had known before. Even if he were reconciled
to the Church, the Inquisition's scrutiny of his movements would
make it difficult for him to escape; and if he were arrested again,
it meant the stake. Though his faith in God remained firm, Luis'
faith in himself and in the purpose of his life was beginning to ebb.
It was not long before Luis began to receive what he called
"special consolations from the eternal God in the cell of his agony."35
Conditioned by the visions of the Pentateuch and even more by
those of the Ezra Apocalypse, he received the messages in his dreams
at night. In the first such dream, a voice exhorted him to find strength
and consolation, "for the saints, Job and Jeremiah, are praying for
Later, after a horrible day of listening to
you most effica~iously."3~
35
Ibid., p. 476.
36
Ibid.
his mother's cries in the torture chamber, he dreamed of a yam,
beautiful and appetizing. He saw the yam being cut in half, and
when it was, it was more fragrant than before. Then he heard a
voice explain the vision. It said: "When your mother was whole,
before she was imprisoned and cut with tortures, she. . . was a
sweet-smelling fruit before the Lord. But now that she is cut with
tortures, she exudes the superior fragrance of patience before the
Lord."31
In his prison, Luis began to reevaluate the purpose of his life.
Prior to his arrest, he had regarded himself as an ordinary messenger of God to the New Christian Judaizers. Now gradually a
clearer self-image dawned on Luis. H e was not an undistinguished
emissary at all: In his people's Egypt, he was a Joseph, appointed
to bring them sustenance in the days of spiritual famine that would
precede their miraculous deliveran~e.3~
He became convinced of
this one night when he experienced a vision which may be compared
to a biblical prophet's call. He describes it in his third-person autobiography, one of the most valuable documents in colonial Mexican
literature. There he begins: "He saw a glass vial, tightly stopped
and wrapped outside, full of the sweetest liquid - [representing]
divine wisdom - which is yielded only in drops."
In several of his letters preserved by the Inquisition, Luis-Joseph
tells us that the liquid he saw was honey. He continues in his autobiography: "And he heard the Lord commanding Saint Solomon
[the paragon of wisdom], and saying to him, 'Take a spoon, fill it
with this liquid, and give it to this lad to drink.' " And he concludes:
"Then the wise king executed the command. Taking a spoonful of
that very sweet liquid in his hand, he put it to his puis-Joseph's]
mouth, and, as he drank, he felt great consolation."39
This vision of enlightenment and illumination marked the turning
point in Luis-Joseph's imprisonment. It seems to have led him to
37
Ibid., pp. 477 f.
Wiznitzer, p. 205, states that the name Joseph "was probably the Hebrew name
which his crypto-Jewish parents had given him secretly after his baptism under the
Christian name, Luis." This may indeed be correct, but we do not find Luis using the
name Joseph until he has moved close to an identification with the biblical worthy.
38
39
Autobiography, pp. 476 f.
adopt the surname Lumbroso ("Light-Bearing," "lllumined") and
to encourage his brothers Balthasar and Miguel to do the ~ a m e . 4It~
also dissipated his despair and replaced it with determination. LuisJoseph decided now that, despite the dangers he courted, he would
hurl himself with greater zeal than ever before into his Judaizing
activities. Even in the face of a second arrest and the inevitable road
to the stake, he would teach and preach and even convert to the
faith of Adonay, his God.
Toward the end of his trial, Luis-Joseph feigned repentance to
save his life, and the Inquisition sentenced him to serve as an orderly
in the Convalescent Hospital of Mexico City. By a stroke of good
fortune, which naturally enough he took for a miracle, he was later
transferred to a school for Indians and there made teacher to the
natives and private secretary to the rector. His duties brought him
into the rector's well-stocked library, which included not only
Bibles and books of devotion, but also learned commentaries like
those of Nicholas of Lyra and Jerome Oleaster, both based in part
on Jewish sources. In his leisure hours, using the rector's second
key, which the monk would entrust to no one else, Luis-Joseph
often stole into the library, and there devoured section after section
of its vast treasure trove of knowledge. H e mastered many passages
of the Vulgate's Old Testament and Apocrypha; he was especially
fond of the Book of Leviticus, for whose sacrifices he discovered
mystical explanations. H e absorbed Christian devotional literature,
like Fray Luis de Granada's Symbol of the Faith and the popular
Mirror of Consolation, both of which alluded regularly to the ancient
Hebrews and quoted from their Scriptures. Luis-Joseph transcribed
many sections of the books he read and translated many others. H e
also wrote poetic paraphrases of traditional texts, including one of
the Ten Commandments, and under their inspiration composed
prayers of his own. Through the biblical commentaries at his disThus his older brother, Balthasar, called himself David Lumbroso, while his younger
brother, Michael (Miguel), called himself Jacob Lumbroso. See P~ocesosLCM, pp. 234
and 250. Cf. ibid., pp. 168, 270, and 454.
posal, though their authors were Christians, he became acquainted
with aspects of the rabbinic tradition. Oleaster even taught him
Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of the [email protected]
Ironically, the period of Luis-Joseph's penance once his call had
come was one of the most serene of his entire life. He began to reflect on his unusual and eventful personal history, and soon regarded
all events in his life, even those seemingly unfortunate, as divine
visitations for his greater good. He began to lay plans for his activities on behalf of Judaism once he was released. And he began to
compose his memoirs in order to embolden others, Judaizers or
would-be Judaizers, who like him found themselves on the threshold
of despair.
Miracle followed miracle in Luis-Joseph's future as they appeared to have in his past. It was not long before his duties in the
school for Indians were made more pleasant by the opportunity
granted him to return to the house where his mother and sisters,
likewise tried and sentenced by the Inquisition, were permitted miraculously, he thought -to spend the days of their penance.
Later, Luis-Joseph was even more miraculously favored when he
was given leave, first for six months and then for an indefinite
period, to travel extensively in New Spain in order to raise money
for his full release or, as the process was more benignly described,
"for the redemption of his penitential garb."@
When he first returned home, Luis-Joseph noticed that his
mother and sisters were neglecting Jewish practice. Frightened or
persuaded by the Inquisitors, they had apparently begun to lead
good Catholic lives and had even abandoned the dietary practices
prescribed by the Bible. Luis-Joseph believed that religion begins at
home. H e went to work and quickly convinced his family to revert
fully to Judaism. Having accomplished this, he turned his attention
to other Judaizers in colonial Mexico. H e began to travel and, as
he did, he reestablished old ties and formed new ones. H e held
meetings, discussions, and prayer services. T o the interested and
the curious he would teach stories from the Bible and with them
4'
P~ocesosLCM, pp.
42
Autobiography, pp. 490 ff.
I I I , 2 28
f.
plumb the depths of the profound mysteries that he had discovered
in Holy Writ. Sometimes others would give him valuable pointers.
From Diego Diaz and Ruy Diaz Nieto he learned a symbolic interpretation of the Sacrifice of Isaac, and Domingo Cuello gave him
some excellent insights into the meaning of the Joseph story.43
It was not long before Luis-Joseph's Judaizing activities and
those of the rest of his family had become notorious. On February I,
1595, a short three and a quarter months after he was permitted to
doff his penitential garb, Luis-Joseph was back in the Inquisitional
jai1.44
This time Luis-Joseph was arraigned as an impenitent heretic.
H e had expected the charge, of course, and accepted it as the will
of God. Since he trusted in God's promises of salvation, he began
to look forward eagerly and even with anticipation to his inevitable
departure from the earth. Only one cloud darkened his horizon.
His mother and sisters, who had also been arrested and consigned
to the same fate, did not share his equanimity and were spending
themselves on despair. Luis-Joseph longed to communicate with
them, to bring them words of cheer and to remind them of the incomparable glories with which their steadfastness would be rewarded in the world to come. But he knew that he would be permitted
neither to see them nor to write to them. H e therefore devised an
ingenious scheme to get messages to their cells. Inscribing a message on the bone of an alligator pear, he then hid the bone in a melon
and asked his jailer to bring the fruit to his sister. The jailer, not so
dumb as to be unsuspecting, discovered the trick and dutifully
turned melon and message over to the Inquisitors, who decided not
to punish Luis-Joseph, but to let him believe that his message had
been delivered unintercepted. They told the jailer to feign ignorance
and unobtrusively to supply Luis-Joseph first with more fruit and
later with paper in order that he might continue to write such mes43
Procesos LCM, pp. 345, 347.
44
Ibid., p.
I 24.
sages and perhaps reveal in confidence what the Inquisition might
be unable to extract even with torture. Needless to say, LuisJoseph regarded all this, too, as a miracle and composed one letter
afier another without realizing that the Inquisition would preserve
them all for posterity. Ironically, as sources of information for the
Inquisition, his letters possessed little value; as exemplars of belleslettres in colonial Mexico, their value is inestimable.45
In these epistles, Luis-Joseph speaks of God's concern for H i s
people and the vision of the honey which assured him of it. H e
holds fast to the hope for the ultimate deliverance of the Jewish
people as a whole, and declares that, as far as his personal life is
concerned, he is prepared for whatever fate God has in store for
him. H e exhorts his family to patience, assuring them that their suffering is but a test of their religious virtue, and that, even if i t brings
them death, they will be recompensed by the rewards of Paradise.
These he describes again and again, but perhaps nowhere as beautifully as in the following paragraphs:
There now, there now, be happy and glad. Stop your sobbing and sighing, for God Himself has promised us salvation. H e will fill us with eternal
joy and gladness. He will make pretty crowns to set upon the heads of his
darling children, those who believe in Him and hope in Him and have
reverence for Him.
There now, there now, blessed martyrs. Rejoice and be consoled. Joy,
joy, I send you felicitations, for you, my queens, shall travel from this
sad and lonely earth like [the Queen of] Sheba to see the consummately
wise and handsome King of angels, who fashioned heaven and earth.
What rich and holy palaces you shall see, what delightful gardens
[there will be] in that Paradise where stands the Tree of Life, a life of
bliss everlasting, which will be yours to enjoy! There you shall eat in
supreme holiness at the table of your true Father, who gave you life in this
nether world. How He will embrace you! H e will take the handkerchief
from the pocket of His comfort. He will wipe away your tears with favors.
He will say to you, "Let them flow no more."
Do you know how H e will embrace you? As a doting mother embraces
the child she loves and cherishes even more than her very life. When he
utters an ingenuous word, she seizes him, smothers him with kisses and
feels like devouring him with love. So will God embrace you. H e will
45 Ibid., pp. 171 ff. A full transcript of Luis-Joseph's letters is appended to the testimony of his trials, ibid., pp. 497 ff.
say, "Come, my darling daughters, who endured so much for My sake
though you were so small." [He will call out,] "Angels of mine! Clothe
them in brocade."
0, what garlands of glory He will place upon you! What dances and
parties there will be on the day of your heavenly espousals! Then all of
us will sing for joy, and Saint David will play for us with his harp and we
shall dance to the Psalm, "Let my soul bless [the Lord]."
There now, there now, be consoled. Deck yourselves in joy and
gladness.d6
Yet there is reason to wonder whether Luis-Joseph really believed that his scheme would go undetected. While his letters seek
to prepare his family to meet death graciously and proudly, they
also contain one element which Luis-Joseph would hardly have
added unless he had known that they would be intercepted. That
element is his repeated insistence - despite his knowledge to the
contrary - that his sisters and mother are innocent of the charges
of Judaizing that have been brought against them. H e reiterates
that he and he alone is guilty. H e admits that, even when he publicly
recanted his Judaizing and was reconciled to the Church, he remained a Jew at heart. But he implies that this was not true of his
sisters and mother. H e reminds them on several occasions that he
was rearrested on the basis of solid evidence, while they were arrested on suspicion only. H e seems to suggest to his mother and
sisters that they might do well to deny all the charges against them.
As one reads and rereads the letters, the question arises as to
whether Luis-Joseph, far from being duped by the Inquisitors, was
actually not outsmarting them. Expecting that his letters would be
intercepted, he could, by feigning naivetC, make statements about
his family's innocence which he hoped the Inquisitors might accept
as facts. H e could hardly have failed to know that, even if his first
strange request to his jailer to act as a messenger aroused no suspicion, his repeated requests would certainly lead to an investigation
and the discovery of his secret. Luis-Joseph realized that, whether
he wrote to his family or not, they would in all likelihood be convicted and sent to the stake. Yet he understood that if, by writing,
he could instill a doubt in the Inquisitors' minds that his mother
46
Ibid., p. 508.
62
AMERICAN JEWISH
ARCHIVES, APRIL, 1968
and sisters were impenitent heretics, there was a glimmer of hope
that they might be freed. Luis-Joseph was not one to discount the
possibility of miracles. Indeed, it would not have been too difficult
for him to believe that, if his family's fate were postponed, a second
miracle might occur which would deliver the Mexican Judaizers
forever from the Inquisition's yoke.
So explained, the sending of the fruited letters would be well in
character with the daring and imagination of Luis Rodriguez
Carvajal.
Joseph Lumbroso, called Luis de Carvajal, the younger, and
born Luis Rodriguez Carvajal, was burned at the stake on Sunday,
December 8, I 596.
On Monday, December 9, there appeared before the Inquisitional
tribunal a certain Fray Alonso de Contreras, a Dominican monk,
who had been designated Luis-Joseph's confessor on his shameful
trip to the fire. Contreras took a deposition in which he averred
that Luis-Joseph, whom everyone knew as a fervent and fearless
Jew, had undergone a sudden conversion in the last moments of his
life, that he had confessed his sins and begged for reconciliation
with the Church.47
There were, of course, no other wimesses to this event.
41
Ibid., pp. 457 f.
ISRAEL'S TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY
The editors of the AMERICAN
JEWISHARCHIVES
ask readers to bear it in mind
that a file has been initiated at the Archives to document American Jewry's
observance of Israel's twentieth anniversary. Material for this file - newspaper
and magazine clippings, brochures, posters, organizational news releases, photographs, letters, etc. - will be very welcome.

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