Poesía de Leonor de Cavajal

LA POESÍA DE LEONOR DE CARVAJAL

Y LAS TRADICIONES CRIPTO-JUDÍAS

EN LA NUEVA ESPAÑA

Traducción en proceso.

The poetry of Leonor de Carvajal en the Crypto-jewish traditions in new Spain:

When the archives of the Inquisition in the countries of Latin America were opened to the public, we gained a better understanding of the history of crypto Jews judged and condemned by the Inquisition for their being faithful to the Jewish religion in Mexico, Peru and other countries of the continent.

One of the best known of the victims of the Latin American Inquisition was Luís de Carvajal who, rather than allow the Inquisition to intimidate him by confessing and asking for pity in order to avoid torture, proclaimed openly his faith in the Jewish religion and maintained this position with great courage and dignity through many years of trial until he was burned in an auto da fe.

Less well known is the case of his sister, Leonor de Carvajal, who also was tried and condemned to the flames.

Leonor was the seventh of nine children of Francisco Rodriquez de Matos and Francisca da Carvajal, who had gone to New Spain (today Mexico) at the end of the sixteenth century, seeking a better life than could be had in Spain. They live in Monterrey where their uncle Luis Carvajal y de la Cueva was founder. Between the years 1589 and 1590, most of the members of her family were condemned as “judaizers.” They were imprisoned for one or two years, forced to pay a heavy penalty and finally, “reconciled” to the Catholic religion. But, despite this, in 1595 the family was again accused and its members arrested by the Inquisition for “judaizing.”

After being interrogated several times, on Friday June 2, 1595 Leonor de Carvajal could no longer resist the torture and she began to testify against herself, her family and her friends. These confessions revealed that the family had been practicing Jewish rites for at least the three years preceding their trial.

The trials of Leonor and Luís de Carvajal resulted in their being condemned to death by fire. Leonor, her family and her Jewish friends were garroted and their corpses were burned on Saturday, December 8, 1596. Luís de Carvajal, as noted above, refused to confess his “sins” and stayed firm to the end in his Jewish faith. He was burned alive as a true martyr.

The testimony of Leonor Carvajal is more important than the others because it contains detailed description of the rites and ceremonies practiced by the crypto-Jews of New Spain. One of the most important aspects of these ceremonies was the use of songs and poems as prayers. Leonor recited dozens of these songs and poems and gave detailed descriptions of their meanings and of their importance in the religious system of the crypto-Jews.

This testimony also shows the importance of women in the transmission of Jewish religious traditions in the hearts of the Crypto-Jews. In the absence of a rabbi to function as spiritual head of the community, the duty of transmitting the religious beliefs, prayers and songs from one generation to another fell to the crypto-Jewish women. These women had memorized many poems that were recited and sung in the families’ religious ceremonies. Leonor was the first to describe and sing to the Inquisition the typical Shabbat songs of Jewish communities of Spain and Portugal of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

In the protocols of the trial of Leonor de Carvajal there are fourteen religious poems. Some of them are complete and others consist of only one or two stanzas. Among them are songs of moaning and of supplications to God, a Dekalogue in the form of a verse and songs of praise to God.

 

Charles Faulhaber of the The Bancroft Library, Berkeley, writes “The Bancroft Library has the original trial records of three of the members of the Carvajal family, along with about 100 other Mexican Inquisition trial records. The complete listing may be found at: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/”   This is the home page for the Online Archive of California. Go to “Browse/Search Finding Aids” and search for “Inquisition” in the search box at the bottom of the page. Mr. Faulhaber’s email address is: cfaulhab@library.berkeley.edu.

This is based on two articles. The prime source was: “La poesía de Leonor de Carvajal y la tradición de los cryptojudíos en Nueva Esapaña” by Michelle M. Hamilton (University of California, Berkeley) which appeared in Sefarad, Año 60, Fasc. 1, Madrid 2000. Additional information was obtained from an article by Moshé Shaul in Aki Yerushalayim. Both Ms Hamilton and Mr. Shaul have given permission to quote from their works.

Translations from Spanish and Ladino by Arthur Benvenistewith assistance from Dolores J. Sloan..

 

 

 

 

El siguiente poema fue encontrado en la transcripción de su juicio:  

 

Cantemos con alegria                             

Alavanças al Señor                                  

Le a faltado su favor.                              

Cantemos como esparando                   

El sancto rey Josaphat                           

Por piedad aguardando                          

En tiempo de adversidad.                      

La divina Magistad                                 

Mostro para su loor;                               

Que nadie que de el se fia                     

No le falta su favor.                                

Estaba un cuento de gentes                  

Y otras muchas millaradas,                   

Que cubrian tierra y mares                    

Contra este sancto obedients                

Mostro el Omnipotente                          

Verdardero defenssor;                            

Que nadie que El se fia                          

No le falta su favor.                                

Enbiole Dios un propheta                     

Que a los suyos animasse                     

Y que con voluntad recta                      

En el siempre confieasse,                     

Porque sin que peleasse                       

Le mostraría el Señor;                          

Que nadie que El confia                       

No le falta su favor                                

 

Este fragmento de un poema aparece solamente en el juicio de Leonor pero no en el del resto de la familia:

Yo dixe con gran dolor,                              

¡Ay! Que en medio de mis días                

Volví as las puertas sombrías                  

De esta carçel por mi herror                    

Y por las maldades mías, etc.                  

 

Este poema advierte de las terribles consecuencias que se sufrirán si alguien se atreve a prender las velas del Shabat:

 

En todas vuestras moradas                      

Fuego no ençendáis                                   

En el sábado que holgáis                          

Porque serán condemnadas                     

Las almas si tal obráis