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Sephardic Jews in Colombia – Examining Eligibility for a Portuguese Passport

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

The Sephardic Jews in Colombia arrived in this country in their thousands after the expulsion from Spain and Portugal. When this region was conquered by the powerful Spanish empire at the beginning of the 16th century any religious worship other than Catholic Christianity was forbidden in the Spanish colonies. As a result of this, and in the absence of any alternative, the many “anusim” Jews (forced converts) became integrated into the local Christian society, and presently count tens of thousands of Colombians among their descendants.

Our lawyers for emigration to Portugal, will accompany you throughout the process of receiving a Portuguese Passport. We will assist you in obtaining all the rights you are entitled to pursuant to the Portuguese Law of Return so that you, just like many others, will also enjoy the sought-after privileges that accompany obtaining Portuguese citizenship as a descendant of Sefardi Jews.

Sephardic Jews in Colombia - Examining Eligibility for a Portuguese Passport

The Advantages of a European Portuguese Passport

  • The possibility of living in and moving from place to place in countries which are members of the European Union.
  • Entry to the United States – without the necessity of obtaining a visitor’s visa for the United States in advance.
  • The right to work without fear in the European Union countries.
  • Entry to and residence in Great Britain without difficulty (until the Brexit procedure has been concluded).
  • Setting up a business and/or purchasing real estate in European countries.

The Expulsion from Spain

On 2 January 1492 the Spanish military forces succeeded in conquering the last Muslim bastion in the city of Granada in southern Spain. Immediately upon the conquest of the city, the Spanish royal family decided to convert all the Muslim residents in the country to Christianity and to exile them if they refused. At the same time the royal family also considered the question of the fate of the Jews.

The friar Thomas de Torquemadaֹ, the Grand Inquisitor of the Church and a member of Jewish-convert family, is the personality who stood behind the bitter fate of the Jews. He entreated in the royal palace that the remaining Jews in Spain would constitute an obstacle to the population of the conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity) which would lead to their return to Judaism and rejection of Christianity. Determined to expel all the Jews in order to prevent this, Torquemada succeeded in making the king and queen approve of his request, and in 31 March of that same year, the Spanish royal family proclaimed the expulsion of all the Jews in Spain, together with the Muslims who had refused to convert to Christianity.

The Persecution of the Jews Expelled from Spain in the New World

The Jews who had been expelled from Spain migrated mainly to the countries of the Mediterranean. Some of them even stayed in Spain and lived as anusim, while preserving mitzvot in secret in the face of the threat of the Inquisition. Since the beginning of the 16th century the anusim communities began to leave together with the Spanish fleets which were on their way to settle the continent of America. Even when the ships docked in the Caribbean islands, prior to their entry to the new continent, the anusim were detained and interrogated by the Inquisition, which was expert at extracting information from them. Once they had been recognized as Jews their goods were confiscated, they were put on trial and in many cases they were executed.

In 1550, the land of Colombia was called “the New Kingdom of Granada” and was ruled by the powerful Spanish entity.  The anusim who arrived in Colombia settled in the northern port city of Cartagena and in the southern Cauca district. The surnames of the anusim comprised Espinoza, Arias, de Lima, Ramirez and others. At the beginning of the 17th century it was claimed that a secret synagogue was operating in Cartagena, in the home of the Pinto family.

Most of the Jews feared for their lives in the face of the ruthless Inquisition which automatically carried out executions for the offence of rejection of Christianity. As a result of this most of the anusim communities who had settled in Colombia at that time became integrated into local Christian society. Hence it may be said that presently several thousands of Colombian descendants are the descendants of the Jewish anusim communities and all of them are potentially eligible to obtain Portuguese citizenship.

Spanish Jews in Colombia

Until 1853, Christianity was the sole permitted religion in Colombia. But from the end of the 18th century, with the dilution of the Spanish power and following that the institution of the Inquisition, there was no religious enforcement in the country; thus other Sephardic Jews arrived in Colombia from the neighboring islands such as Jamaica and Dutch Curacao, and even openly observed mitzvot.  Furthermore, among the Jewish migrants were industrialists, scribes and merchants, a considerable number of whom had abandoned their Judaism and married local women.

At the beginning of the 20th century several Spanish families migrated to Colombia from North Africa, Greece, Syria and Turkey and settled in the cities of Barranquilla, Riohacha, Santa Maria and Cartagena. Presently the number of Jews in Colombia totals about 8,000 persons, while 7,000 of them are Sephardic Jews, and most of them are centered mainly in the capital Bogota and in the cities of Cali, Barranquilla and Medellín.

Additional Informative Articles about the Communities of Jews Expelled from Spain in Various Countries:   

  1. A European passport for Jews of Iraqi origin
  2. Sephardic communities in Jamaica
  3. Jews expelled from Spain and their activity in Poland
  4. Issuing a Portuguese passport for children
  5. A European passport for Jews of Moroccan origin

Our thanks to Mr. Jonathan Gavrielov for his help in writing this article and research on the subject of the additional articles.

Contact the lawyers on the matter of examining your eligibility for a Portuguese Passport

Our lawyers for a Portuguese passport in Tel Aviv have several years of experience in the field of emigration. The lawyers in the office assist clients in the laws of migration to Israel, the United States, Canada, Great Britain and other countries including Portugal. We shall be pleased to conduct a test for you free of charge regarding eligibility for a Portuguese passport at the following telephone numbers:

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