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(Sephardi Jews had an added incentive to immigrate to the new nation; they spoke Ladino, a Spanish-derived Jewish dialect that helped them feel at home in Spanish-speaking Mexico.) Mexico’s oldest standing synagogue is the Sephardi Synagogue, built in 1923 in the heart of Mexico City, at 83 Justo Sierra Street.
Although the Jewish community has long since moved to the suburbs, Jews who work downtown still frequent the congregation during the working week.
Carvajal welcomed both Jews and Catholics into his land.
Today’s Mexican Jewish community is tightly-knit and contains several distinct strands: two separate Syrian communities thrive, each with their own traditions, from Aleppo and Damascus.
Governor de Carvajal himself was arrested on charges of practicing Judaism and died in prison in 1595. “Suspicious” activities that could brand someone a Jew included bathing on a Friday and afterwards putting on clean clothes; draining and disposing of blood after slaughtering a bird to eat; fasting on Yom Kippur; eating tortillas (which are unleavened) during Passover; and circumcising sons.
Anyone guilty of these “crimes” faced drastic punishments including torture, imprisonment, forced wearing of a sanbenito, a knee-length yellow gown, or a dunce-cap, and execution.
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