Names given to the descendants of the secret Jews in Majorca, who at heart were still
faithful to Judaism, but who, in order to induce the belief that they were good Christians,
publicly ate pork ("chuya," diminutive "chueta"); the second term, "Ghetto People,"
is self-explanatory. Their fate was similar to that of the Cagots of the Pyrenees,
who are still held in abhorrence by the natives of that region. People were afraid
to approach them; at church they sat apart; and even in the cemetery their bodies
were isolated. When the tribunal of the Inquisition was established in Majorca in
1488, it granted a general amnesty to all Jews that solicited pardon for their apostasy,
and it received back the repentant ones, to the number of 680, on payment of a considerable
fine. Beginning with 1509, however, several secret Jews were publicly burned before
the Gate of Jesus at Palma; and in 1679, when a synagogue was discovered in an outlying
house, several hundred of them were condemned by the tribunal to imprisonment for
life, and their property was confiscated.
To escape these continuous persecutions and extortions, a number of Chuetas, reputed
to be the wealthiest inhabitants of Palma, decided to leave the "Golden Island" in
an English vessel which they had hired for the purpose; and they had set sail, when
unfavorable winds compelled them to return to the harbor of Palma. After having been
imprisoned for five years, these unfortunates were, in 1691, condemned by the Inquisition
to the confiscation of their property, and more than fifty of them were garroted
and then burned at the stake. Among the latter were Raphael Valls, "an excellent
rabbi"; Raphael Benito Terongi, his most faithful pupil; and Catalina Terongi, a
sister of the latter. These hero-martyrs were commemorated by Majorcan troubadours,
whose verses are still sung by the women of the island while at their work. The Inquisition
did its utmost to fan the prejudice of the people against the outlawed. Their portraits
were placed in the Dominican monastery; and in 1755 a list was published in which
were mentioned the names and rank of all those condemned to death or to confiscation
of property from 1645 to 1691.
Not until the publication of the royal decree, Dec. 16, 1782, was an amelioration
effected in the condition of these people, who were thenceforward permitted to reside
in any street in the city of Palma and in any part of the island, and were no longer
to be called Jews, Hebrews, or Chuetas, under penalty of the galleys or imprisonment
in the fortress. Three years later they were declared eligible to the army and the
navy as well as to public offices. Notwithstanding, as late as 1857 there appeared
a special book directed against them. It bore the title "La Sinagoga Balear. Historia
de los Judios de Mallorca," and the purpose of the author, Juan de la Puerta Vizcains,
was, by means of it, to levy blackmail upon them. They, however, bought up all but
three copies of the work. The descendants of the Chuetas, who bear to-day the same
names that their ancestors bore in the fourteenth century, now occupy a respected
position in industry and agriculture, as well as in the departments of science and
Bibliography: Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Spanien und Portugal, i. 178 et seq.;
M. Levin, Ein Besuch bei den "Leuten der Gasse" in Palma, in Brüll's Jahrb. i. 132
THE XUETES OF MALLORCA From ‘The Jews to the Xuetes of Mallorca’ G a b riel Ensenyat
Pujol U N I V E R S I T Y OF THE B A L E A R I C l S L E S
Accounts of the presence of Jewish communities in the Balearic Islands go back a
long way. In the year 418 Bishop Sever of Menorca issued an encyclical informing
of the to him miraculous event of the mass conversion to Christianity of the whole
of Menorca's Hebraic community. The fact is, however, that there was nothing in the
least miraculous about this conversion: it was the result of the Menorcan Christians'
aggressive attitude to the Jews, who opted for a change of faith so as to avoid potentially
even worse consequences. This fact (which, moreover, is the first known example of
anti-Semitism in Europe) was in some ways a premonition of what was to be the destiny
of the island's Jews.
After the fifth century we have no further news of the existence of Semitic groups
in the archipelago, though this does not mean that they had disappeared. This gap
in our knowledge continues throughout the Muslim period, with the sole exception
of a small eleventh century site, known as the Arab baths but in fact Jewish. Not
until the Catalan conquest of 1229 do we once again take up the thread of the history
of the island's Semites. The promptness with which they reappear in the records is
an indication of their presence, at least in Mallorca, during the previous centuries.
From this moment on they enjoyed a solid political, economic and social status. In
the city of Mallorca they had their own quarter, called the Call, and their own "municipal"
organisation, with internal authorities. Needless to say, the Call was like a kind
of small city within the city; it was isolated from the rest and at night the gates
were closed to prevent anyone from entering or leaving. Inside, the daily life of
the Jews was governed by Mosaic law, with its characteristic customs and habits.
They even used Hebrew to draw up documents, though we do not know to what extent
they spoke it. In addition, they were also segregated when it came to paying taxes,
since they were assigned a fixed amount which, with a certain criterion of proportionality,
they had to raise between them. Even so, the two communities -the Jewish and the
Christian- were not oblivious to each other and could hardly ignore each other. It
is well known that the Jews played an important part as moneylenders during the Middle
Ages, taking advantage of Christianity's prohibition of usury. However, this was
not their only occupation in Mallorca, or indeed anywhere else (not al1 Jews were
rich, and the majority made a living from manual work or off the land); it was complemented
by a considerable trading activity, since after the conquest the Islands became fully
integrated in the commercial circuits of the Mediterranean and came to play a leading
role in them.
However, the Jews' mercantile activities were directed primarily at internal trade,
with a special influence in rural areas, providing the peasants with animals, corn
and cloth. They also made an important contribution to scientific activity. Jewish
medicine in the Islands enjoyed a position of privilege similar to that reached in
other areas, with famous doctors like Juda Mosconi. Cartography, especially, brought
them extraordinary, almost enigmatic fame, since from their dark workshops coasts
and maritime routes came plotted with great precision and beauty. The Cresques family
is the most representative.
But al1 this came to an end in 1391. The pogroms which had started on the mainland
spread to Mallorca and led to the sack of the Call. Hundreds of Jews were murdered
by an angry mob who blamed them for all the island's ills. It was the beginning of
the end for the community, since the majority of the survivors either converted to
Christianity or fled. Nevertheless, the Jewish quarter refused to disappear and during
subsequent decades was repopulated by Jews from other places. But violence broke
out again in 1435, causing a second, definitive conversion. Once again their collective
history faced them with the dilemma of renouncing their faith or dying. There was
only one answer, and the Jews were baptized en masse. And so the Jewish "problem"
was resolved in Mallorca -only apparently, as we shall see- long before the Catholic
Monarchs' final solution. The expulsion of 1492 had no effect on the island. No-one
was inconvenienced or forced to flee: officially, at least, there were no Jews there.
The calm was not to last long. The arrival of the Inquisition in 1478 set a new -and
bloody- trap: that of the converted Jews, or xuetes. Because the conversion had been
forced, there was always the suspicion that, inwardly, the new Christians continued
faithful to Judaism. The result was that during the Counter-Reformation, in the seventeenth
century, the autos-da-fé against the converts provided a lavish and all-too-frequent
spectacle. The consequences were the burning alive of various suspects, as well as
lesser punishments -imprisonment and whipping- and the confiscation of properties.
Al1 of this contributed to the creation of a ghetto. Judaic practices were attributed
to severa1 families -fifteen, in all-, who became the object of popular derision.
Segregation -on an externa1 leveland endogamy -internally- have marked the development
of this group down to this day. Enclosed in the old Cal1 menor, they developed a
jewellery industry which was and still is the occupation most characteristic of the
converts' descendants: the Carrer de la Argenteria (Silversmiths Street) in Palma
is an illustration of this. In fact, for many years, the "Pure Blood Statutes" made
the guilds inaccesible to the xuetes, who were therefore excluded from a number of
trades. Following the abolition of the Statutes by Charles 111 in 1778, it was the
discriminating attitude of the rest of the Majorcans that maintained the segregation.
As a result of this their expertise in silver and gold reached new heights. Almost
paradoxically, the best examples of their art are to be found in religious silver-
and goldware, and especially in the monstrances. This silvenvare, in its lesser manifestations,
also reached the towns and villages which the marxandos, or Jewish merchants, visited
on Sundays, holidays and market days to se11 the objects they manufactured, amongst
which were the sets of buttons and laces for the country women. Al1 this is changing
now: the jewellers no longer visit the towns in the country and there are many people
in Palma who have opened jeweller's shops and are not xuetes. Here we see reflected
a tradition that has started to disappear, though in this case it is also the result
of an unjust, odious discrimination which, luckily, with the younger generations,
is coming to an end.
NOTE: Mallorca is the Catalan name, Majorca the Spanish Name of the biggest Balearic
Islands in the Mediterranean Catalan, is widely spoken in Andoran, south of France
and North East of Spain The term ‘Chuetas is used in Spanish, ‘Xuetas’ in Catalan
The history of the converted Jews, is one of the darkest and surprising chapters
in the history of Mallorca. Surprising, because an event taking place in the fifteenth
century, led to the discrimination and stigmatization of a group in the mallorcan
society, until mid-twentieth century.
In 1435 Mallorca’s Jews were forced to convert to Christianity, and this was the
year in which Judaism formally ended on the island. The fact that these conversions
didn’t respond to a religious belief, paved the way for these new converts to continue
secretly with the practices of the Jewish religion. For this reason, they were pursued
by the Spanish Inquisition with more or less intensity over the next centuries.
It is not until the end of the seventeenth century that we can begin to talk about
the xuetes, also called xuetons, as the Mallorcans descendants of Jews converted
to Christianity, who at the end of the seventeenth century were prosecuted and sentenced
by the Inquisition, for having practised the Jewish faith, which also carried one
of the fifteen names considered by the rest of the island descendants from Jews.
Paradoxically, in Mallorca has been proved the existence of more than two hundred
names of Jewish descent, but only the holders of these fifteen names suffered social
rejection. Specifically these family manes are: Aguiló, Bonnín, Cortès, Forteza,
Fuster, Martí, Miró, Picó, Pinya, Pomar, Segura, Valls, Valentí, Valleriola and Tarongí.
The xuetes in Mallorca have formed a discriminated social group, forced inbreeding
to the point that it has been demonstrated their genetic differentiation, compared
to the rest of Mallorca. In addition, the vast majority of them have lived in the
vicinity of the Carrer del Segell in Palma, today with the name of Jaume II in the
old quarter of the city. They have identified themselves as people from the carrer
(street in Catalan), referring to the street mentioned above, as the words xueta
or xueto are considered offensive, synonymous with greedy in the colloquial Catalan
of Mallorca. Despite its indisputable Catholicism, the church itself discriminated
them until the twentieth century. In fact, they were forced into professions for
which they were accepted as traders and jewellers, which in many cases let them enjoy
a good economic situation.
The reasons for this social rejection are difficult to understand, but returning
to the convictions of the Inquisition to the practitioners of the banned faith, in
the seventeenth century. Among other penalties, which at least had to stay for two
generations of convicts family members, was the ban on holding public office, become
priests or marry people who were not xuetes. Apparently the habit, within the small
society of Mallorca, led to these sentences to be kept far beyond what it had been
Currently it can be said that the Xueta issue in Mallorca is over, and discrimination
is already part of the past. A very recent past, that has not prevented the emergence
of associations dedicated to the recovery of the memory and legacy of the Jews in
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crypto-Judaism
The Xueta are a minority on the Balearic island of Majorca (Mallorca) who are descended
almost entirely from crypto-Jews, forced to convert in 1391. The term "xueta" literally
translates to "pig" in Catalan, similar to the old Spanish (Castilian) term and marrano,
both of the same meaning.
Today, they comprise a population of 20,000–25,000 on an island of 750,000; they
have professed Roman Catholicism for centuries but have only recently seen a lessening
in ethnic tensions with ethnic Majorcans. According to some Orthodox rabbis, the
majority of Xuetes are probably Jewish under Jewish law (by descent from Jewish mothers)
probably due to the low rate of intermarriage with outside groups. Only recently
have intermarriages between the two groups been more prevalent or noticeable.
During World War II, Nazi Germany was known to have pressured Majorcan religious
authorities into surrendering the Xuetes, targeted because of their Jewish ancestry.
Reportedly the religious authorities refused the Nazi request.
Several Xuetes are reported to have "reconverted" to Judaism. Some have become rabbis.
Chuetas of Majorca recognized as Jewish Jerusalem Post 07/12/2011
By JEREMY SHARONLAST
Descendants of secret Jews are "from our brethren the children of Israel," Rabbi
Nissim Karlewitz rules. PHOTO: COURTESY A leading rabbi and halachic authority in
Israel has recognized the Chuetas of Palma de Majorca as Jewish, the Shavei Israel
organization announced on Monday.
The Chuetas are descended from the Jewish inhabitants of the Spanish island of Majorca
who suffered extreme oppression in the Middle Ages, until by 1435 all of them had
been killed or forcibly converted to Catholicism.
Because the Chuetas are related to the previous generations and married among themselves
they should be considered Jewish, Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund told reporters
that Rabbi Nissim Karlewitz, chairman of the Beit Din Tzedek (rabbinical court) in
Bnei Brak, wrote in a letter to the organization.
“Since it has become clear that it is accepted among them [the Chuetas] that throughout
the generations most of them married among themselves, then all those who are related
to the former generations are Jews, from our brethren the children of Israel, the
nation of God,” Karlewitz wrote.
“We, the Jewish people, have a responsibility to the Chuetas,” Freund told The Jerusalem
Post. “Their ancestors were kidnapped from us and taken against their will six centuries
ago. The Inquisition sought to quash their Jewish identity down through the ages
and we are coming here today to say that the Inquisition did not succeed. Jews are
still here and the Chuetas are still here, and the best revenge on the Inquisition
would be to bring as many of these people as possible back to their roots and back
to their people.”
Despite having been converted, the Chuetas – whose name comes from the Catalan word
for pig – continued to face intense discrimination and oppression, and were not allowed
to marry Catholics or adopt certain professions. Because of the ban on intermarriage,
the Chuetas almost exclusively married within their own community.
“Although there is no actual discrimination any longer against Chuetas, on a societal
level many feel ostracized and to a certain extent outsiders,” Freund said. “Acceptance
of the Chuetas over the past 40 years has grown, which is positive, but brings with
it a greater danger of assimilation, which is why the timing of this announcement
is so important.”
Karelitz’s decision refers to the Chuetas as a collective, and for anyone wanting
to return in full to the Jewish community it will be necessary for a rabbinical court
to speak with the individual. According to Freund, many of the Chuetas have documentation
attesting to their family lines, often going back 500 years.
“There are 15 distinct Chueta family names. Because of the historical circumstances
and because of the endogamy practices, it is relatively easy to document and prove
their genealogy,” Freund said.
In May, the president of the Balearic Islands province of Spain, Francesc Antich,
attended a memorial service in the Majorcan capital of Palma commemorating the execution
in 1691 of 37 Chuetas for practicing Judaism in secret, including Rabbi Rafael Valls,
the secret rabbi of the Chuetas who, along with two others, was burned alive. Antich
condemned the “grave injustice” done against the Chuetas, the first time an official
from Majorca had condemned such events.
“The recognition of their Jewishness was received with great happiness and joy, some
people at the announcement burst into tears, because they now know the Jewish people
are aware of them and feel a kinship with them,” Freund said of the press conference
Rabbi Nissan Ben-Avraham, who is of Chuetas origin and works for Shavei Israel in
Palma de Majorca, will be joining with the Arachim outreach organization to provide
a program of lessons in Hebrew, Jewish history, culture and religion for the Chuetas.
“We are not coming here to tell people how to live their lives, we are just presenting
them with an option. Those who wish to return to the Jewish people will now have
opportunity to do so and will be welcomed back with open arms. Our goal is to help
as many as possible to return to their Jewish roots,” Freund said.