The most amazing find after about 75 years is the discovery of the 400 year old Carvajal Manuscript that went missing from the National Library in Mexico in the 1930’s. It was found after it was put up for sale in London and New York, and is now being returned to Mexico.
Luis de Carvajal was a New-Christian, a descendent of forced Jewish converts to Christianity known as “marranos” (or anousim in Hebrew) who fled Spain to escape persecution by the Inquisition. He led an expedition of a group of several hundred New Christians to the Spanish colony of Mexico where they had bought land in the then remote areas of northern Mexico, in what is now near the US-Mexico border. However, the Inquisition were aware of his plan and he was arrested in 1595 for being a “Judaizer” a capital offense, meaning that in one of many ways he was suspected of remaining a practising Jew.
During his time in prison he wrote an account that is probably the oldest such manuscript from the Americas in existence. His memorias written under the name of Joseph Lumbroso, his original Jewish name, consists of personal statements that state his true opinions and expose the depredations of the Inquisition of the Catholic Church. He was indeed a Jew who retained beliefs that were Jewish. He was tortured by the Inquisitors and forced to reveal his plans. He was burned at the stake in 1596 at the age of 30 in a process called an auto-da-fe, or trial by fire, and another 120 people, his whole family and his friends, were arrested, tortured and many of them murdered.
But, some of his followers managed to escape the Inquisition and indeed lived along the region that is now the Mexican-US border area and practised a form of Judaism there for hundreds of years. Outwardly they were Catholics, but inwardly they remained secret Jews. I happened to meet a descendent of one of Carvajal’s followers. Her grandfather had become a Baptist minister in the US and his congregation consisted like himself of descendants of conversos who escaped Catholicism to become Protestant and practiced a form of Judaized Christianity. Her family moved to CA and she converted to Judaism and made Aliyah and lived in Netanya for a while. There is a large community of such anousim living in the region of New Mexico and the US northwest. They were discovered and written about by Stanley Hordes in his iconic book “To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico.”