" Following the Jews' expulsion from Spain, crypto-Jews were among the early settlers of Mexico. The Spanish in Mexico periodically tried to root out the "Judaizers," but it is clear from the records of trials that Jewish practices endured, even in the face of executions. According to Hordes' research, settlers who were crypto-Jews or descended from Jews ventured up the Rio Grande to frontier outposts in New Mexico. For 300 years, as the territory passed from Spanish to Mexican to United States hands, there was almost nothing in the historical record about crypto-Jews. Then, because of probing by younger relatives, the stories trickled out. "It was only when their suspicions were aroused decades later," Hordes writes, "that they asked their elders, who reluctantly answered, 'Eramos judíos' ('We were Jews')."So, this is another chance for me to demonstrate my ignorance in public. I had heard the term crypto-Jew a number of times before, but always in the context of the Jewish expulsion from Spain in the 1490's. The story, in the versions I'd been aware of, always trailed off pretty soon after that. One block of Jews, who became the Sephardic community were able to flee to the northern and southern Medeteranian. The other group, for some by choice and for many by lack of choice, officially converted to Catholocism and were absorbed into Spanish culture, holding on to some remenants of Jewish tradition but largely forgotten by history. Guess I'm way off on that last part. It turns out that there are self-aware communities, and many not-so-self-aware communities, of crypto-Jews scattered around the globe.
As someone mildly obsessed with Jewish music, I sprang into action. From an academic perspective, the primary work on Crypto-Jewish music seems to have been conducted by Dr. Judith Cohen though I could not find much useful information on line. Dr. Cohen notes that, speaking of the Crypto-Jews of Portugal, that "They have very, very few songs which are not common to everyone else in the areas they live in." I'll keep digging. I'm sure there is better information out there and I'll report in as I find it.
In terms of contemporary music, I found a lovely recording by Consuelo Luz, a "Cuban-Chilean singer-songwriter." Her new album, Adio, deals with the Crypto-Jewish experience. The official album description notes that "Crypto Jews" is a term used to describe those "hidden" Jews, who, for survival's sake, needed to hide their heritage. Today a movement is emerging of Crypto Jews, especially in the US Southwest, wanting to explore their Sephardic Jewish background and sometimes integrate it with their Indo-American heritage. This CD "Adio" is a musical reflection of this desire for integration, combining Latin, Middle Eastern, Flamenco and Indigenous elements to evoke a historic journey, a fusion of traditions and the Sephardic soul's survival and path of transcendence." And, it's quite lovely. You can listen to it at CD Baby.