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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Chile 01: 1535-1945

Inquisition, Judaizing and Jews at stake in Lima - legal entry for non-Christians since 1810 - religious freedom since 1925 - immigrants - [racist Herzl] Zionism

from: Chile; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 5

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<CHILE, South American republic.

[[There are indications about Judaized natives in this article. But there is no indication that natives have certain rights]].

Colonial Period.

[Marranos and Inquisition terror of the "Christian" Church - Francisco Maldonado de Silva case]

*Marranos were known in the earliest days of Chilean history. Rodrigo de Orgoños, one of the Spanish officers in the company of Diego de Almagro (who discovered Chile in 1535), is said to have been of New Christian origin. In 1540, Diego García de Caceres of Plasencia, Spain, accompanied the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia to Chile and later occupied an important position.

Forty years after his death, Caceres' Jewish ancestry was asserted in the pamphlet La Ovandina (Lima, 1621; reprinted 1915). This publication created a scandal because it revealed the Jewish origin of many prominent families, and the *Inquisition ordered its withdrawal from circulation. Among Caceres' descendants were the heroes of Chilean independence, General Jose Miguel Carrera and the statesman Diego Portales.

The inquisitional tribunal established in Lima in 1570 also had authority over what is now Chile, and the first auto-da-fé was held shortly afterward. Nevertheless, the Marrano settlement in this relatively remote outpost of the Spanish Empire continued to grow.

The climax of inquisitional activity here came in 1627 with the arrest in Concepción de Chile of the eminent surgeon Francisco *Maldonado de Silva, one of the most remarkable of all inquisitional martyrs, who was sent to Lima with others for trial. After nearly 12 years of imprisonment, he was "relaxed" with ten other persons in the auto-da-fé on Jan. 23, 1639 - the greatest known in the New World up to that time.

[Secret judaizing - Jews at stake in 1644 - 28 Marranos at the end of the 17th century around Santiago - Inquisition cases]

Secret judaizing nevertheless persisted in the colony. The physician Rodrigo Henriquez de Fonseca of Santiago and his wife were burned at the stake in Lima in 1644 on a charge of adherence to the Law of Moses; his brother-in-law, Luis de Riverso, escaped a similar fate by committing suicide in prison.

At the end of the 17th century, the Holy Office in Lima was informed of the presence of approximately 28 Marranos in and around Santiago, though apparently no action was taken on this report.

Among the other Chilean Marranos who suffered minor inquisitional penalties was Francisco de Gudiel, born in Spain in 1518, who, according to his sentence, "was still awaiting the coming of the Messiah" (Gudiel's daughter married the son of another Marrano, Pedro de Omepezoa).

A New Christian soldier, Luis Noble, was punished in 1614 on the charge of having stolen a crucifix in order to practice "rites in the Law of Moses", and in 1680 Captain León Gomez de Oliva suffered confiscation of his possessions as part of his punishment for secretly practicing Judaism.

[18th century: no trace of Marranos or Inquisition - independence and abolition of Inquisition in 1813]

From the beginning of the 18th century there is no trace of Marranos or inquisitional activity against them in Chile, and the Inquisition itself was abolished with Chilean (col. 461)

independence in 1813.

[17th century: English plans for Chile]

Jews from other countries, in particular England, showed some interest in Chilean affairs in the 17th century. The outstanding case is that of Simon de *Caceres, and ex-Marrano established in London, who in 1656 submitted to Oliver *Cromwell a plan for an expedition to conquer the "Wilde Custe" of Chile for the English with the assistance of a Jewish military contingent that he proposed to raise and to lead. The Jewish origin of Subatol Deul, said to have been associated with the English buccaneer Henry Drake and the burial of his treasure in 1645 near Coquimbo, is dubious, notwithstanding the documents regarding this discovered in 1926.

The same applies to Carlos Henriques, who was in charge of the commercial mission that sailed from Deptford, England, in 1966, and to the Jewish ancestry of Juan Albano Pereyra, in whose home the hero of the Chilean revolution, Bernardo O'Higgins, spent his childhood. ON the other hand, it is likely that in Chile, as elsewhere in Latin America, Marrano blood is to be found in the ancestry of many of the older families.


19th-20th Centuries.

[since 1810: legal entry into Chile also for non-Christs - missioned Judaizing native tribes]

Until the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed (1810), entry into Chile was prohibited to foreigners and especially to Jews. At that time there were no traces of Judaism that might be attributed to the descendants of the Marranos.

Nevertheless, judaizing sects of Indian ascendancy were discovered in the 20th century who claim to have received their Judaism through Marranos. Some of them call themselves Iglesia Israelita [[Israeli Church]], and they are concentrated in the regions of Curacautín, Cunco, and Gorbea - frontier areas of Spanish Catholic influences until the conquest of the Araucanos in the 1880s. Some of them observe a portion of the Jewish commandments, and others identify solely with the Old Testament and a small part of the commandments.

[Catholicism as the state religion - restrictions for other religions - 1865: private religion and schools permitted - 1884: civil marriage - 1925: constitution with religious freedom]

The early republican constitution did not serve as a legal basis for overt Jewish life, for it established Roman Catholicism as the state religion and prohibited open practice of any other religion (Paragraph 5 of the Constitution of 1833).

It was only in 1865 that a special law permitted non-Catholics to practice their religion in private homes and establish private schools. A series of liberal laws from the years 1883-84 that established, inter alia, civil marriage and state-controlled registration of citizens (rather than church controlled) extended religious tolerance. The constitution of 1925 explicitly established freedom of religious observance for all religions that are not opposed to morality.

[since 1882: Jewish immigrants after Russian pogroms - Jewish immigrants from Argentina - Jewish organizations and camouflage]

During the 19th century individual Jews reached Chile and for the most part assimilated with the population. At the start of the pogroms in Russian in 1882, Chile was mentioned as a possible haven for persecuted Jews, and during subsequent years it seems that Jews arrived in the country either individually or in small groups. But it was (col. 463)

only at the beginning of the 20th century that they began to increase in number. The most prominent immigrants until World War I were East Europeans who had first tried to settle in Argentina and Sephardi Jews from Monastir, Macedonia, who arrived in Temuco, southern Chile, and laid the cornerstone of Chile's Sephardi community.

Outstanding among the early arrivals was Naum Trumper, the son of settlers from Moisésville in Argentina, and a close friend of President Arturo Alessandri of Chile; among the later settlers, the Testa, Arueste and Albala families. The first communal prayers were held in Santiago in 1906, and the first Jewish organization, Sociedad Unión Israelita de Chile [["Israelite Union of Chile"]], was founded in 1909. Nevertheless, many Jews did not feel secure in the Catholic state, and therefore camouflaged their other organizations with such inconspicuous names as Filarmónica Rusa [["Russian Philharmony"]] (founded in Santiago in 1911 and later known as Centro Comercial de Beneficencia [["Commercial Welfare Center"]], 1914) or Centro Macedónico (founded in Temuco in 1916).

[Herzl Zionism and annual Zionist congresses in Chile - central Jewish organization Circulo Israelita]

[[Racist]] Zionist activity began in Chile in 1910, but it was the *Balfour Declaration and international recognition of the aims of Zionism after World War I that noticeably increased its momentum. In its wake, and under the impact of the Tragic Week in *Argentina, the need for a centralized Jewish organization was forcefully expressed, and consequently, in September 1919, the first Congress of Chilean Jewry was convened. It was attended by representatives of 13 organizations from six cities, including both Ashkenazim and Sephardim, together with representatives of Hijos de Sión [["Sons of Zion"]] from Caracautín, the organization of the Indian judaizers.

The congress dealt with Jewish matters of a general and local nature, and, despite the differences of opinion, established the [[racist]] Federación Sionista de Chile [["Zionist Federation of Chile"]], the central organization of Chilean Jewry and its official representative vis-à-vis both the Jewish and non-Jewish world. From then on, a local [[racist]] Zionist congress has been convened annually in Chile.

The unifying objectives were implemented further a year after the congress, when the Ashkenazi communal organizations in Santiago united to form the Círculo Israelita [["Jewish Circle"]], which has remained one of the principal Jewish organizations in Chile. In the same year, the Centro Juventud Israelita [["Israeli Youth Center"]] was established by university youth, who in 1922 founded the Policlínica Israelita [["Israelite Polyclinic"]] as a clinic for the general population.

[1922: Immigration plans of ICA]

In 1922, the *Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) investigated the possibilities of implementing a settlement project in Chile and thereby expanding Jewish immigration. But these plans never materialized, and Jewish immigration throughout the 1920s continued to be a trickle.

[1930s: expansion of the Jewish Circle - youth organization - more Zionism - and communism and anti-Zionism]

The Jewish organizations continued to develop and by 1930 had crystallized. The Círculo Israelita embarked upon diversified community activity (in the field of culture, education, religious affairs, and especially in burial services) and also erected a large central building to serve the entire community.

The Sephardi organizations increased in number and diversified their activities. *WIZO was founded in 1926; the growing youth organizations united to form the Asociación de Jóvenes Israelitas [["Israelite Association of the Young"]] (A.J.I., 1928), which continued to administer the Policlínica and also developed a legal aid service.

[[Racist]] Zionist activity had likewise made great gains. As early as 1922 Chilean Jews contributed more to the *Jewish National Fund than Jewish communities with much larger populations; 1,600 persons acquired the shekel [[bonds]] in 1929, and the *Keren Hayesod had considerable revenues.

On the other hand, during and following the 1920s, anti-Zionist and particularly communist elements were active among Jews in Chile. In 1930-2, a severe crisis overtook organizational life in Santiago, particularly Círculo Israelita [["Israelite Circle"]] and the Federación Sionista [["Zionist Federation"]]. (col. 464)

[Crisis after 1929 - Jewish burial society formed]

In part the crisis stemmed from the financial difficulties faced by the Jewish organizations as a result of the economic crisis that greatly affected the peddling business; in part it was caused by tension within the Zionist Movement and social and political instability. In the wake of the crisis, the philanthropic Bikkur Holim organization of Santiago, founded in 1917, also entered the field of communal activity and, in particular, a new hevra kaddisha [[Jewish burial society]] was formed and acquired its own cemetery, putting an end to the monopoly on burial services previously held by the Círculo Israelita.

[1931-1939: Controversy about immigration - committee for immigration - 1,000s of Jews coming from Germany - and more organizations founded]

In 1931 *Hicem established a committee in Santiago to represent the organization in matters of immigration. The committee did not support the activities of the local group, Bikkur Holim, and the latter accused Hicem of spreading information about the great possibilities of absorbing a large immigration that created illusions incongruent with the actual economic situation in Chile. This conflict led to a public controversy within the Jewish community that lasted throughout the decade and negatively influenced the already limited possibilities for Jewish immigration.

The controversy was finally resolved on the eve of World War II with the establishment of a committee for immigration whose composition and activities were agreeable to both sides. Meanwhile, despite the restrictions and the difficulties imposed on immigration, thousands of Jews from Germany entered the country during the 1930s and quickly established an auxiliary organization (Hilfsverein [["Help Association"]], later known as Comité Israelita de Socorros, Cisroco, 1933 [["Israelite Help Committee"]]), a communal institution (Sociedad Cultural Israelita B'ne Jisroel, 1938), and a [[racist Zionist]] B'nai B'rith lodge (1937). Thus another social and organizational element was added to Chilean Jewry and left its mark on the community as a whole.

[1939: Jewish refugees are kept in the south - movement to the capital - anti-Semitism against German Jews to settle in the south - Representative Committee founded]

Some of the refugees - 879 in number - who reached Chile after the outbreak of the war were accepted on condition that they settle in the south and not move to the capital.

[[In the south of Chile winter lasts 5 months with fog without end and much rain with temperatures of 0 to 5 degrees, absolutely uncomfortable. Summer is with much rain with temperatures up to 18 degrees]].

Fifteen families made an attempt at agricultural settlement, especially on the island of Chiloé, and tens of others were supposed to follow them; the rest settled in the cities of the south.

After several years of living in difficult climatic and economic conditions, however, a sizable number settled in the principal cities of the country. This move was in turn exploited by the anti-Semites, who had already attempted to harm Chilean Jews during the 1920s and whose activities had increased during the 1930s and particularly during the war. They now demanded that all German refugees be obligated to settle in the south.

Against this background of intensified anti-Semitism, the Comité Representativo [["Representative Committee"]], the central body of Chilean Jewry, was established in 1940. This organization encompasses all the Jewish organizations of Chile and represents Chilean Jewry vis-à-vis  the authorities, combats anti-Semitism, and also engages in matters of a general nature. It is a member of the [[racist Zionist]] *World Jewish Congress. An agreement between the Zionist Federation and the Comité Representativo signed in 1943 accords to the former all Zionist activity and its representation vis-à-vis the local authorities.

[[There is no number of Jewish refugees indicated. Probably there were also Jewish refugees coming under contingents of other countries]].

Despite anti-Semitism, the economic position of the Jews gained increasing stability during World War II, and in 1944 the Banco Israelita [["Israelite Bank"]] was established in Santiago. It rapidly became one of the most respected credit institutions in the country. After World War II a small number of Jews continued to arrive in Chile, and in 1957 some refugees from Hungary were permitted to enter the country.> (col. 465)

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Chile, vol.
                          5, col. 461-462
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Chile, vol. 5, col. 461-462
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Chile, vol.
                          5, col. 463-464
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Chile, vol. 5, col. 463-464
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Chile, vol.
                          5, col. 465-466
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Chile, vol. 5, col. 465-466


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