Xuetes, the history of the converted Jews of Mallorca

The history of the converted Jews, is one of the darkest and surprising chapters in the history of Mallorca. Surprising, because an event taking place in the fifteenth century, led to the discrimination and stigmatization of a group in the mallorcan society, until mid-twentieth century.

In 1435 Mallorca´s Jews were forced to convert to Christianity, and this was the year in which Judaism formally ended on the island. The fact that these conversions didn’t respond to a religious belief, paved the way for these new converts to continue secretly with the practices of the Jewish religion. For this reason, they were pursued by the Spanish Inquisition with more or less intensity over the next centuries.

It is not until the end of the seventeenth century that we can begin to talk about the xuetes, also called xuetons, as the Mallorcans descendants of Jewish converted to Christianity, who at the end of the seventeenth century were prosecuted and sentenced by the Inquisition, for having practised the Jewish faith, which also carried one of the fifteen names considered by the rest of the island descendants from Jews. Paradoxically, in Mallorca has been proved the existence of more than two hundred names of Jewish descent, but only the holders of these fifteen names suffered social rejection. Specifically these family manes are: Aguiló, Bonnín, Cortès, Forteza, Fuster, Martí, Miró, Picó, Pinya, Pomar, Segura, Valls, Valentí, Valleriola and Tarongí.

The xuetes in Mallorca have formed a discriminated social group, forced inbreeding to the point that it has been demonstrated their genetic differentiation, compared to the rest of Mallorca. In addition, the vast majority of them have lived in the vicinity of the Carrer del Segell in Palma, today with the name of Jaume II in the old quarter of the city. They have identified themselves as people from the carrer (street in Catalan), referring to the street mentioned above, as the words xueta or xueto are considered offensive, synonymous with greedy in the colloquial Catalan of Mallorca. Despite its indisputable Catholicism, the church itself discriminated them until the twentieth century. In fact, they were forced into professions for wish they were accepted as traders and jewellers, which in many cases let them to enjoy a good economic situation.

The reasons for this social rejection are difficult to understand, but returning to the convictions of the Inquisition to the practitioners of the banned faith, in the seventeenth century. Among other penalties, which at least had to stay for two generations of convicts family members, was the ban on holding public office, become priests or marry people who were not xuetes. Apparently the habit, within the small society of Mallorca, led to these sentences to be kept far beyond what it had been stipulated.

Currently it can be said that the xueta issue in Mallorca is over, and discrimination is already part of the past. A very recent past, that has not prevented the emergence of associations dedicated to the recovery of the memory and legacy of the Jews in Mallorca.

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