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The Jews in the Canary Islands: A Re-Evaluation

Haim Beinart

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Jews in the Canary Islands: a Re-evaluation* Professor HAIM BE IN ART When Lucien Wolf published in 1926 his book The Jews in the Canary Islands a new world of Jewish life came to light. The Canary Islands were taken over by Spain a few years after the Expulsion of 1492. Consequently in the Canary Islands no open Jews, only conversos,x could settle; they were accessible either to the descendants of those Jews who were converted during the riots of 1391 or later during the fifteenth century; or to Jews who were converted shortly before and after the Expulsion from Spain of 1492 and the forced conversion of 1497 in Portugal. These latter conversos, owing to their immediate and recent personal connection with Judaism, possessed much more Jewish knowledge than their brethren, the descendants of the earlier conversions, such as those of the fourteenth century. Both kinds of conversos arrived in the Canary Islands with the first wave of settlers, before the Spanish National Inquisition, which was an integral part of the system of the Spanish Government, became established in the Islands. The first such converso settlers there were artisans, shopkeepers, and merchants, who brought with them their families and kindred, many of them moving along to the pattern of traditional Jewish immigration. These Judeo-converso settlers left their impression on the image of colonisation in the Canary Islands. We may ask: What had these islands to offer to these new settlers in general and to conversos in particular? In these volcanic islands the autochthonous inhabitants, of African Berber origin, were few, and the advent of Christianity to the Islands did not encounter any opposition. When the Islands were first settled by people of European descent, most of them were conversos from Southern Spain. They included many persons who ventured to those places where the administrative offices of the kingdom were still in the first stages of organisation and lacked the necessary power to supervise all aspects of life.2 It was of course the normal sequence of events that in all the Spanish settlements overseas settlement by conversos preceded the establishment of the Inquisition; so it was in Mexico and Peru. Even in the Iberian Peninsula itself conversos migrated to faraway places where the Inquisi? tion was only later to arrive. The Inquisition started to function in the Canary Islands only in 1504,3 and twenty-two more years were to pass till the first auto-de-fe was held on 24 February 1526. That such a long delay should elapse in a State where the Inquisition was headed by such zealots as Diego Deza and Cardinal Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros tells * This paper was delivered as the Lucien Wolf Memorial Lecture to the Society on 9 January 1974. My deepest gratitude goes to Dr. Richard D. Barnett for the help and encouragement he gave me during my stay in London and while working on this material. Part of it has been published in Hebrew under the title mirrn rnn1? bw mwvn in studies in the Cultural Life of the Jews in England, pre? sented to Avraham Harman (Folklore Research Center Studies V), Jerusalem 1975, edited by D. Noy and I. Ben-Ami, pp. 11-25, Hebrew Section. 1 The term converso, 'convert', is used here to describe Jewish converts to Christianity in pre? ference to the hostile and pejorative term 'marrano'. 2 See the testimony of Juan Delgado in the trial of Alvar Gonzalez. He described the coming of New Christians to the Canary Islands. AHN Leg. 1823 No. 13, fol. 3r. See Appendix I. 3 See L. Wolf, The Jews in the Canary Islands (JHS, London, 1926), Introduction, p. xii ( = Wolf). There are testimonies about Judaising conversos already in 1499. See Preface pp. 1-4. This archive was catalogued by Dr. Walter de Gray Birch, A Catalogue of a Collection of original MSS belonging to the Holy Office of the Inquisition in the Canaries and now in the possession of the Marquess of Bute with a notice of some unpublished records of the same series in the British Museum 1499-1693, 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1903. Wolf describes this catalogue as incomplete and dealing mostly with cases of sorcery and Protestantism (such as captured British sailors). Some cases of English merchants were published in translation edited by L. de Alberti and A. B. Wallis Chapman in English Merchants and the Spanish Inquisition in the Canaries (Royal Historical Society, London, 1912). 48</page><page sequence="2">The Jews in the Canary Islands: a Re-evaluation 49 us much about the abnormal conditions which prevailed in the Islands. Now for a few words about the material published by Lucien Wolf. In his Introduction he tells us about the purchase made by the 3rd Marquess of Bute in about 1900 of 76 volumes, divided into two series, which comprised: 'thirty-two volumes of Testificaciones, thirty one volumes of Procesos or Trials, six volumes of Prison Registers and Visitations and seven volumes of Miscellaneous papers'.4 This offered an enormous amount of material to anyone who wished to cast merely a glimpse into the machinery of the Inquisition. Lucien Wolf noted that 'Jewish cases appear in thirty-six out of the seventy volumes, and of these, twenty-eight are records of depositions, while only five contain reports of trials'.^ He doubted then whether any relevant material on these conversos was missing, though the genealogical lists of those tried by the Inquisition and what he named 'cross-examinations of prisoners' might be found elsewhere. Unfortunately all these Bute MSS now seem to have disappeared? at least their present whereabouts is unknown? and trace has been lost since they were sold at Sotheby's on 30 October 1950.6 It is much to be regretted that Wolf pub? lished the material in the form only of a register and that he summarised only what he thought relevant. Even more is it to be regretted that so very few trials (procesos) of those tried by the Inquisition of the Canary Islands have come to light. For such procesos contain not only the material above mentioned, such as geneaolgies and detailed confessions, but also witnesses' testimonies, collected and taken down in detail, information received from other courts of the Inquisition, a variety of correspondence in connection with the accused, court decisions, and consultations revealing all the background of the accused and the evidence connected with them. Already from the beginning of the six? teenth century the net of the Inquisition was being spread wide by means of information forwarded from one court to another, while the Central Office the Consejo de la Suprema y General Inquisici?n, received reports and transferred the information necessary for the daily work of the terrible machine it had created to supervise life and State in the Kingdom of Spain. This information is of vital value in understanding the clandestine life the conversos were leading during the long years of their persecution. We do not undervalue the collection of priceless material that Lucien Wolf brought to light, translated, annotated, and presented to the readers of his day. It was equally thanks to him that much activity and interest were aroused and enlisted on behalf of the still living clandestine converso communities discovered by the late Samuel Schwartz in Portugal, leading to the founding of an open if short-lived community at Oporto in 1927. The Canariote material that Wolf brought to light has a standing value for anyone interested in the study of organised persecution. As Jews, we are concerned with it all the more. Journals (and these are what Wolf actually published), i.e., daily entries of the court of the Inquisition in the Canary Islands, if complete, would have given us a day-by-day history of this court for a period of about 300 years, describing in detail those who came forward to denounce one or other converso, what they had to say and inform to the Questioning Judges, and how the information was confirmed and entered into the various books kept by the court. Such journals were the pulse of the Inquisition in any of its courts. It is much to be regretted that the original journals are not now to be found, since most of those books of the courts of the Canary Inquisition were burnt and lost, and even this Bute collection is not accessible any more. (I, for my part, have tried to reconstruct this kind of journals of the court, as used in that of Ciudad Real in the years 1483-1485, and that of the court of Toledo on the Ciudad Real conversos.1) 4 Wolf, op. cit., Preface p. v. 5 Ibid., p. vi. 6 They were bought by Miss Emily Driscoll, a New York dealer (information by courtesy of Sotheby and Miss C. Armet, Librarian to the Marquess of Bute). 7 See our book: Anusim bedin ha-Inquisitsia, Tel-Aviv, 1965, and our Records of the Trials of the Spanish Inquisition in Ciudad Real, vol. I, Jerusalem, 1974.</page><page sequence="3">50 Professor Haim Beinart I have been able to trace in the Archivo Historico National in Madrid a few procesos of Canariots also dealt with by Wolf. I intend here to discuss four of these files and compare them with the material published by Wolf and thereby bring to light new information only found in the procesos. One belongs to the open? ing period of the Inquisition in the Canary Islands; the other three date from the days when the Canariote conversos had established and maintained strong relations with London. Perhaps we should describe these latter procesos as being those of London Jews, former conversos, who had been tried by the court of the Inquisition in the Canary Islands as Judaisers. Their story is also in part the story of the first London congregation, and by describing their life in full we may shed some new light on Jewish London of those days. [ii] Lucien Wolf rightly stated that the first period of the Canariote courts' activity commenced in 1504 and ended in 1510.8 Fifty-five Judaisers were tried then, but were not condemned to be handed over to the Secular Arm for execu? tion. The reason may perhaps have been that the civil authorities, and as well the religious, had there at that time to deal with other more urgent matters. A more active interest in the life of the conversos began in 1519, when the court started filing much information and testimonies on Judaising conversos. In the early 1520s a cholera epidemic broke out in the Islands and people started to look for religious reasons for their affliction. The first auto-de-fe was celebrated on 24 February 1526; eight conversos were handed over to the Secular Arm and burnt; ten returned to the fold of the Church and two more abjured their errors de levi. Most of the condemned were relapsed Judaisers. Those were the days of the Inquisitor Martin Jimenez. Another phase, extended to the 1630s, may be said to end the second period in the life of the court of the Canaries Inquisition. Lucien Wolf described the settlers in the Islands as Hispano Portuguese Jews who created a new ambience of their own. But there does not seem to be any difference between their way of life and that of any other clandestine converso community in Spain or Portugal. The emigrants to the Canary Islands came directly from Portugal, the Portuguese Azores, or via Spain, especially from Southern Spain, Seville being their port of embarkation. We thus see how the Islands were connected with that port. As already said, these emigrants were artisans and merchants who settled down, bought land, and became farmers tilling their lands with the help of Negro and Berber slaves. For this period the first proceso which I have found in Madrid is that of Alvar Gonzalez.9 His file contains witnesses' testimonies only; some give the date when the witnesses testified, while others lack it. This file was prepared at a later date than the entries in the journals published by Wolf and these two sources complement one another.10 Let us now tell the story of Alvar Gonzalez, according to what we can learn from his proceso, adding to it the material which Wolf brought out. It will perhaps give us as full a description as possible of converso life in the Canary Islands at that period. Alvar Gonzalez was a shoemaker born in Castelo Branco in Portugal, approximately in 1455. Together with his wife, Mencia V?ez, and their elder children, Silvestre, Antonio, and Ana, he was forced to abandon his ancestral faith during the conversion of 1497, though in the Canaries many believed him never to have been baptised.11 They did not stay much 8 Wolf, p. xiiiff. * The number of the file is AHN Leg. 1823 No. 13 and it contains 10 folios. See Appendix I. Twenty-five witnesses testified against him. See below, Appendix I, and Wolf, especially pp. xvi-xxv. 10 One can only regret the way in which Wolf wrote in some places, passing over the details, for instance: 'A great number of witnesses are called and give evidence against Gonzalez' (p. 45). The names of the witnesses, their status and their testimonies would have been of great value to any historical investigation of the period concerned. 11 The family's genealogy as found in the files is on page 51. Juan Delgado (fol. 3r) testified that Alvar Gonzalez was not baptised. So too the monk Juan de Villalpando testified that it was common knowledge in the Islands that Alvar Gonzalez was not baptised. See Wolf p. 44 and cf. the testimony of Juan Pinto (Wolf, p. 15).</page><page sequence="4">The Jews in the Canary Islands: a Re-evaluation 51 longer in Portugal but settled in Gibraltar, whence they moved after three years to San Miguel in the Azores. According to Wolf, the Gonzalez family fled from the prison there and together with other prisoners arrived in the Canary Islands.12 But this seems unlikely. Some witnesses testified that he fled, probably from the Azores, after having been accused of flogging a Crucifix or making signs at a Host. From 1504 Alvar Gonzalez and his family lived in the island of Las Palmas.13 We do not know how he established himself, but soon he was a house-owner and later acquired a vineyard and became a man of means, owning at least five slaves, male and female, Negroes, Moors, and Berbers. Immediately after settling down in Las Palmas the whole family started to follow the Jewish way of life. Alvar Gonzalez slaughtered meat according to the Jewish ritual;14 all members of the family removed the sinews (la landrecilla) from the hind legs of slaughtered calves, lambs, and cows;15 they ate matzot during Passover;16 the parents, i.e., Alvar Gonzalez and his wife Mencia Vaez, said their Shahrit prayers at dawn;17 when jailed by the Inquisition he abstained from eating cooked food and agreed only to have fried or grilled fish and openly refused to partake in eating eels and non-kasher food.18 To one of the prison? ers in that jail he explained why pork is forbidden: 'because God has proscribed any animal that did not chew the cud and did not have a cloven hoof.' and he openly said that pork meat made him vomit;19 while still in Gibraltar the family had hamin (adafina) on the Sabbath;20 on Friday night the Sabbath candles would be lit and they were left to burn till their end;21 even while in prison Alvar Gonzalez would change his linen, and when told that this was a Jewish custom, he paid no heed.22 If this was the man's behaviour in prison, it is easy to imagine how strictly orthodox was his way of life in his own home;23 while in prison, after having dreamt that his son Duarte had died, he bewailed and be? moaned him in the Jewish fashion.24 We can measure his Jewishness more fully by noting his knowledge of Jewish law and learning. Some witnesses called him 'Rabbi' in their testimony, and this was the opinion of the court, which considered him a great expert in Jewish learning. A special room was kept in his house as a synagogue. Of great interest are the testimonies which describe how conversos gathered there for prayers on Friday nights and on Sabbath. The worshippers would come in pairs or by themselves alone, and would sneak in, their faces and heads covered like women; they left after prayer in the 12 Pp. xv-xvi. Wolf does not produce the source of his information. 13 According to the testimony of Alonso de Talavera (3r) and of Fern?n Garcia de Mesa (4r), the family arrived in Las Palmas from 'the islands below' (de las yslas de abaxo). From there he fled because of having flogged a crucifix (Alonso Lopez de Talavera) or he made ugly signs (higas) at the Host (Fern?n Garcia). 14 Testimony of Juan, Negro slave (2r). 15 Alvar Gonzalez confessed this. See Wolf p. 47, and cf. the testimony of Alonso de la Zarza (6v); once Ines, the Moorish slave girl, was ordered to do this. Ines's testimony (2v). 16 Mencia V?ez confessed this during her trial (Wolf, p. 70). 17 Antonio Gonzalez's (son of Alvar Gonzalez and Mencia V?ez) confession; Wolf, p. 68. Antonio confessed during his own trial on 14 January 1526. 18 Testimony of Alonso de la Zarza (Sarca), fol. 6v-7r. 19 Ibid., fol. 7r. 20 Testimony of Juan Pinto, Wolf, p. 15. No date for this testimony is available. 21 Testimony of Ines, Moorish slave girl, fol. 3r. 22 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza, fol. 5v; Alonso de la Zarza, fol. 7r; 23 Testimony of Ines, fol. 2v. 24 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza, fol. 5v; Alonso de la Zarza, fol. 7r; Alonso Yafiez, ibid. For Alvar Gonzalez's synagogue, see the various testimonies, Wolf pp. 18, 40, 44. [See footnote 11] Alvar Gonzalez = Mencia V?ez Silvestre Ana = Pedro Hernandez Antonio Duarte (condemned 24.2.1526) (condemned 1530) |_ (condemned 1534) I I (born long after the 6 sons 2 daughters parents' conversion)</page><page sequence="5">52 Professor Haim Beinart same order as they arrived.25 Even their way of praying is described: Alvar Gonzalez would stand and pray whispering while nodding head and body.26 Some of the participants in these prayers are named: Maestre Diego, Alonso Enriquez, Duarte and Marcos Freres, Francisco Perez and Mencia V?ez's brother in-law Duarte Perez.27 Alvar Gonzalez would preach to those gathered for prayers,28 and demonstrated his Jewish education and know? ledge by showing that he saw it as not to be kept to himself; he knew it was his duty to teach and spread Jewish knowledge. Alvar Gonzalez and his family knew and spoke Hebrew; witnesses testify that29 this was his wont while still a Jew;30 and Ana Gonzalez also confessed in her own trial that she spoke Hebrew with her brother Antonio Gonzalez;31 Alvar Gonzalez would call his wife and children by their Hebrew names32?a clear sign of their yearning for their Jewish past. Alvar Gonzalez felt himself near at heart to the afflictions of his people, and could not stand it if anyone spoke badly of the Jews.33 Another converso, who stayed with him in prison for about half a year, saw in him the same Jew then as before conversion, a converted Jew who had returned to his old ways.34 This testi? mony agrees in full with what Alvar Gonzalez said about himself: '. . . Que mas valia ser buen judio que mal christiano'.*5 His devotion to his brethren was demonstrated by the help he gave to an unknown Jew who fell into the hands of the Inquisition of the Canary Islands when the ship in which he was sailing capsized. He sent a lamb to this Jew in prison, so that he might slaughter it according to the Jewish 25 . . Y vio como alii entraua despues de anochecido y tariida la oracion muchos de los dichos christianos nuevos e conuersos que alii heran venidos y otros que antes binian en la dicha villa, y que entrauan en la dicha casa de dos en dos reguardandose al tiempo que entravan como personas que no querian ser vistas, mirando a una parte e a otra, las cabecas baxas, cubiertos las capas como mugeres, y que entrauan agora vnos y de ay a vn poco otros, y que estauan dicha casa gran rato.' The witness Juan Delgado did not know what they were doing there, but he suspected that they were there judaising. '. . . y que de la manera que entrauan cubiertos se tornauan a salir.' This he saw many times, mostly Friday nights and Sabbaths, fol. 3r. Ines, a Moorish slave girl, said they would gather for prayers on Sundays and Mondays (she probably mixed the days, or perhaps it was a Holyday). They would abstain from prayer when an alien labourer was at their home (2v). She testified on the 20 February 1525, and Delgado testified on 24 December 1524. Cf. a converso gathering for prayer in Ciudad Real, H. Beinart, Anusim, p. 203ff. 26 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza (5v); Alonso de la Zarza (7v), and of Alonso Y?fiez (8r): '. . . y que otras muchas vezes reza quieto que no oye nadie, y que esta con el cuerpo y con la cabega, alcando la cabec,a y abaxabdola y menean dose siempre.' This they probably saw while im? prisoned with Alvar Gonzalez. 27 Duarte Perez was burnt in effigy in 1534. See Wolf, p. 70 (Confession of Mencia V?ez). 28 Testimony of Juan, Negro (also called Berber) slave (lv). He was put to guard the entry. See as well testimony of Juan Gonzalez, another slave (3r). 29 Testimony of Juan (lv); testified on 26 Nov? ember 1525. 30Juan (there); Alvar Gonzalez himself said this to the witness. In the witness's words, . . vio hablar en hebrayco y dezir que asi hablaua cuando hera judio.' Perhaps he meant by this, when he was Judaising. 31 See Wolf, p. 54ff. She confessed on 14 January 1526. See above, testimony of Ines, the Moorish slave girl (2v). She said that they spoke in a language that was neither Castillian nor Moorish and therefore she thinks it was Hebrew. Ana Gonzalez was condemned in 1530 (at the age of 30), to be returned to the fold and do penance. See Appendix I. This was also the verdict passed on her brother Duarte. 32 Testimony of Juan, the slave (2r). 33 Testimony of Alonso Y?nez, a converso from Villavicosa, Portugal (7v-8r). This witness was condemned to be handed over to the Secular Arm and burnt on 24 February 1526. See Wolf, xv-xvi, 66-67. The text is: . . Que le pesa quando hablan mal de los judios . . . Que donde el estuviese no avia nadie de dezir mal de los judios.' This is also the reason why Alvar was angry that the converso Alonso de la Zarza, who later testified against him, went to urinate while he, Alvar Gonzalez, was speaking about the Law of Moses. This happened when they all sat in prison (7r-7v). 34 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza (5v) '. . . y que por lo que este testigo ha visto contar, hablar y hazer al dicho Aluar Goncalez de seis meses a esta parte le tyene por tal judio como antes que fuese judio.' 35 Testimony of Alonso Lopez de Talavera (3v). Wolf, p. 44, publishes only one tiny part of his testimony.</page><page sequence="6">The Jews in the Canary Islands: a Re-evaluation 53 rites and have kasher meat for his consumption.36 He even went to visit this Jew in prison, 'be? cause he was of his nation; and it was said, that this Jew was a Rabbi and a very learned man in his Law.'37 It seems appropriate to examine more fully the evidence that we have of his knowledge of Judaism. Alvar Gonzalez would not stop talking about the 'Old Law' (La Ley Vieja),3* or the Old Testament, or, as it was commonly known, 'La Ley de Moysen' (Moses' Law). These terms were used by him at the time when the Inquisition and the Catholic world considered and called Moses' Law La Mortifera Ley (the Law that brings death). Alvar Gonzalez would often say: 'God performed greater miracles for Moses and for the Jews,' meaning that these miracles were greater than those the Christians tell about.39 He told his audience of the miracle of Moses when he was found in the ark by Pharaoh's daughter; about the burial place of Moses, that no man could find.40 With great feeling he would tell about the Ten Lost Tribes and the River Sambation, which keeps guard over them, and the mourning that they keep for the one lost tribe.41 This he told in detail and 'like an expert'.42 What is there surprising in his love and yearning for anything Jewish ? He would express this by saying that he 'regrets not having died then', meaning that he regretted that in those days during the great persecution he did not die sanctifying God's Name;43 and this was what he most probably meant, men? tioning those who died at that time.44 To complete the description of Alvar Gonzalez's personality we may take into account what he thought and expressed about Christian society and Christianity. He stressed that Christ was a Jew, who studied Jewish learning in the synagogue.45 Christianity was in his eyes a joke (burla), or a mere wind (todo es viento), meaning it had no value. 'A King of the Jews arrested him, whom the Christians presume to be their God, and flogged him, and everything the Christians say and do is wind.'46 He spoke in the same vein to his Negro slave who went to hear the Easter 36 Testimony of Fernan Garcia de Mesa (4r) and of Alonso Lopez de Talavera (3v). . . sabe que Alvar Goncalez enbio al dicho judio un cordero para que lo matase alii para que pudiese comer del, y que se dezia por ser judio le avia embiado el dicho Aluar Goncalez el dicho cordero.' We do not know when this happened. 37 Testimony of Fernan Garcia de Mesa (4r): '. . . Que por ser de su nacion, y que decian que el dicho judio era Rabi y honbre sabio en su ley.' 38 See for instance testimony of Francisco de Baeza (5v). 39 Ibid., '. . . Mayores milagros avia hecho Dios por Moyses y por los judios que aquello [que hizo por los christianos].' 40 So also Wolf, p. 45. 41 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza (4v-5r): . . y que contaua de ciertos tribus de los judios que se avian pasado de la otra parte de un rio que corre piedras, y que no se hazian la barua y que vestyan negro por vn tribu que avian quedado aca, y que si alguno pasa por aquel rio que lleua alguna cosa de hierro luego muere. Y que Moyses estaua enterrado en el Monte Synay, que si alguno le queria ver se mudaria de alii a otra parte. Y que Moyses avia sido echado en una caxa y que avia aportado donde estava la hija del rey Faraon, y que hera gafa y que lo avia tornado y que avia sanado.' Alonso de la Zarza (6r) speaks of the River Sambation: '. . . porque no quiere Dios que nadie pase alii porque no haga mal a aquellos.' 42 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza (ibid.): '. . . y que despues que esta preso siempre habla en las cosas de la Ley Vieja y de la Brivia como hombre que lo sabe, y dize que lo sabe muy bien.' 43 Testimony of Alonso Y?nez (7v): . . y de quando era judio ende mal porque no me mori entonces.' 44 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza (4v-5r): '. . . y que quando hablauan de la Ley de Moyses dezia que quien se muryera en aquel tiempo, porque hablauan de quando era judio.' 45 Testimony of Juan Fernandez (3v-4r). In Alvar Gonzalez's words: '. . . que aquel que avian crucificado que vna vez jugando a la pelota en la Sinoga que viera vn letrero que estava alto escrito en la dicha Sinoga, y que de aquello que avia leido alii avia sabido todas las cosas que el dezia, y que despues porque dezia esto su Dios avia dicho que ahorcasen de un troncho de col, y que por eso lo avian ahorcado.' When the witness said to Alvar Gonzalez that this is his God, Alvar Gonzalez reacted by saying: . . que hera burla todo y que lo que dicho tiene'. He must have been alluding to one of the legends about the miracle-making of Christ as commonly known among the Jews. 46 Testimony of Juan, Negro slave (2r): '. . . que vn rey de los judios tenia preso al que los christianos dizen que es Nuestro Senor y lo acota, y todo lo que los christianos dizen y hazen es viento.'</page><page sequence="7">54 Professor Haim Beinart Sermon about Christ's suffering and about the public that wept listening to it.47 Christians were in his eyes dogs who would come to a bad end ;48 and their Land was a bad Land of Dogs.49 Alvar Gonzalez saw in Christ and Christian? ity the root of all the evil that befell the Jews and according to one witness's testimony he cursed Christ.50 He did everything in his power to prevent his slaves being baptised;51 he refused his wife's request to buy some images and bring them home, although perhaps her request was only after the Inquisition became aware of their Judaising practices.52 This was when he started to worry about his own arrest by the Inquisition and tried to influence his slaves not to testify against him and his family; to his slave Ines he promised liberty if she did not betray him.53 He even began to go to church, but would lower his eyes when the Host was elevated,54 and abstained from kneeling when the bells rang for prayers.55 This was his behaviour while in prison, although he then learned to say some prayers in 'Romance', i.e., Spanish, which included Ave Maria, Salve Regina, Pater Nosier, and the Christian Credo.56 All the time he was imprisoned he never ceased to believe that he would be released,57 and he dreamt that his mother came to him and informed him of this.58 In comparison with his deep faith in the Law of Moses his failures in his duty to Christianity, such as eating meat during Lent and on Fridays, must have seemed very trivial to his judges.59 It goes without saying that he had a name for being the worst Christ? ian on the island.60 Already in 1519 the Inquisition in the Canary Islands had got wind of his Jewish ways, but only in 1524 was he arrested. His trial was given the full procedure;61 according to this he was allowed to present a full defence, in which he tried to refute the testimonies for the prosecution.62 Near the date of the auto-de-fe the court held a Consulta-de-fe and it was unanimously decided that he was to be handed over to the Secular Arm and his property confiscated. The same sentence was passed against his wife Mencia V?ez. On 24 February 47 Ibid. (2r): '. . . y que este testigo fue a oyr el sermon de la Pasyon. Y que quando de alii vino, le pregunto el dicho Aluar Goncales que que vio alli, y el testigo respondio que vido como la gente llorava porque los judios mataron a Christo. Y que el dicho Aluar Goncales dixo: Todo aquello es viento y todo es nada.' This theme of the Jews having killed Christ was a common subject for preaching during Passover. 48 Testimony of Juan (2r): . . Canes, que an de venir es tos canes a mal fin.' 49 Ibid. See also testimony of Juan Fernandez (3v), whom Alvar Gonzalez thought to be a converso: . . que aquella tierra era muy mala tierra, y que era tierra de perros mala.' 50 Testimony of Juan Franco (9v). The court repealed this testimony because of the witness being a thief. 51 Testimony of Ines, his Moorish slave. He hit her for having gone to Mass (3r); his servant Fernando (9r). 52 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza (5v) and of Alonso de la Zarza (7v). Alonso de la Zarza said that Alvar Gonzalez said on this: '. . . que no queria tener en su casa enbaraco'. 53 Her testimony (2r-2v). At the beginning she denied that he promised her this, but later she admitted it. She told the court that Mencia Vaez asked her this. See also testimony of Pedro Pinto (2r). Ines confessed that Alvar Gonzalez slept with her even after her conversion. She said that Silvestre and Duarte did so too. Alvar Gonzalez denied it, saying he was old and ill. See as well Wolf, pp. 43, 47, 51. 54 Testimony of Alonso Lopez de Talavera (3v): . . quando yva a misa abaxaua los ojos y no queria mirar al Sacramento.' 55 Testimony of Alonso de la Zarza (6v):'. . . que quando tenian a alcar o al Aue Maria nunca se hincha de rodillas como los christianos.' 56 Testimony of Francisco de Baeza (5v); Alonso Yanez (8r) told the court that he taught him these prayers. 57 Testimony de Baeza (4v): '. . . e que esperaua en Dios que avia de salir.' 58 Testimony of Alonso de la Zarza (6v): '. . . que vna noche sofiaua que su madre avia venido a hablalle y le avia dicho no ayas miedo que todas estas pelotadas que te dan no te an de tocar que por alto an de ir.' 59 On eating meat during Lent, Juan, his servant, testified (2r); on eating meat on Fridays see testimony of Pedro de Belmonte (4r). 60 Testimony of Fernan Garcia de Mesa (4r): . . que tiene la mas mala fama de mal christiano que ay en toda la isla.' 61 See Appendix I. Lucien Wolf did not pay any attention to these courts' meetings. 62 We do not know the names of his defence. Wolf, e.g., pp. 48-9, omitted the names of many witnesses for the prosecution and of those who testified in Alvar Gonzalez's defence.</page><page sequence="8">The Jews in the Canary Islands: a Re-evaluation 55 1526 both of them were burnt alive, sanctifying the Name of God. The story of Alvar Gonzalez is that of a simple Jew, a shoemaker whose Jewish education was wide and deep. But to sentence him the Inquisition had no need to note his knowledge of Judaism; it was more interested in his way of fulfilling the Mitzvoth (Com? mandments), even in acts which were not considered in the eyes of the Inquisition so grave (such as removing sinews from a slaugh? tered calf's leg). The Inquisition believed that by sentencing him it would not only save his soul but at the same time hit hard at the converso community to whom he was teacher and guiding spirit.63 He was a converso of the first generation who knew Judaism at its sources, whose yearning for his Jewish past was stronger than anything Christianity could offer him, even in a New Land such as the Canary Islands or Fortunate Islands, con? sidered by many as the Paradise Lost.64 [inj Jewish life in the Canary Islands enjoyed a resurgence in the seventeenth century. As a station on the way to the New World, where the Dutch and English were fighting for a foothold, the Islands played a great role; they were of greatest importance in the trans? atlantic trade routes.65 The converso founders of the Jewish communities in Western Europe saw the political and economic importance of these Islands. This led some of them either to settle there themselves or to establish there faithful and most secret correspondents, in the persons of relatives or trusted friends. With the beginning of the seventeenth cen tury the numbers of conversos settled in the Canary Islands grew. They came mostly from Portugal, especially since the Union of Portugal with Spain in 1580 opened for them new hori? zons and possibilities.66 Their numbers con? tinued to grow during the reign of Philip IV, when the Count-Duke of Olivares, who favour? ed the so-called 'New Christians' or conversos, was Chief Minister. The files of the Inquisition tell their full story, and some of those files tell also of the story of the Jewish Settlement in London in the 'fifties of the seventeenth century. This group of earliest Canariote settlers left their mark on the London Jewish community of those days, and since the Inquisition collected its information on conversos so diligently and painstakingly and in the greatest detail, it proves a great aid to us to understanding their clandestine way of life in London, how closely knit their community was, and how they organised their Jewish communal life. The Inquisition considered itself judge and saviour of souls of all those sunk in sin, especi? ally by judaising. It made no difference if the converso left the area of the Inquisition's political and geographical jurisdiction. The Inquisition considered itself a judge in the redemption of the converso}s soul not only while he officially belonged to the Catholic Church but even if and after he entirely cut himself off from his Christian past and became openly a devout Jew. So what difference did it make if a former converso, having left the Canary Islands, lived now as a Jew in Amsterdam, Hamburg, or London? Such a person was always liable to punishment whether he fell into the hands of the Inquisition or was tried in absentia or posthumously. The courts of the Inquisition had moral, religious, spiritual, and physical authority over all Catholics wherever they might be encountered. In a word: it was an institution whose main aim was once reli? gious but had become judge and arbiter over anyone who lived within its limits of jurisdiction, for whom there was no redemption by running away or living outside the limits of its power. 63 His daughter Ana, in her trial (see Wolf, p. 54), told the court how her parents tried to prevent her marrying a Christian (his name was Pedro Hernandez). They tried to send her to Lisbon to marry a relative, but she refused. Later her parents brought her a bridegroom from Madeira, but to no avail. See her confession made on 5 May 1526. 64 On their sons Silvestre and Duarte, and Ana, see Wolf, ibid, and Appendix I. 65 See A. Cioranescu, Thomas Nichols, mercader de azucar, hispanistay hereje, La Laguna de Tenerife, 1963. 66 On the commerce of the conversos in Western Europe see H. Beinart, in Proceedings of the Fifth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, 1972, p. 55-73 (in Hebrew).</page><page sequence="9">56 Professor Haim Beinart Since the Inquisition saw it as its mission to judge those fugitives who aimed at returning to the faith of their ancestors, every effort was worth while, first to collect information, mostly through witnesses' testimonies, and then to wait till the backslider fell into its hands to be tried. All sources of information were good in its eyes, and in the seventeenth century many new sources of information became available: ships' captains who visited the new converso and ex-converso centres on their voyages; C