Spain offers citizenship to descendants of Jews who fled persecution during Inquisition

(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

New Mexico residents descended from Jewish families who fled Spain during the religion-driven Inquisition can claim Spanish citizenship thanks to a new law.

The law administered by the Spanish Ministry of Justice gives descendants until Oct. 1, 2018 to apply for a passport, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The law was created to recognize the expulsion of Jews between 1492 and 1498. Families settled in places like Argentina, Chile, Turkey and New Mexico.

"They were just trying to get the heck away from the Inquisition," said historian Orlando Romero of Santa Fe.

The term Crypto Jew refers to the families that practiced their Jewish faith in secret, as 71-year-old Albuquerque resident Maria Apodaca remembers her grandfather doing.

"I thought they were just Hispanic Catholic traditions," Apodaca said. "They were not."

She plans to pursue the application for Spanish citizenship.

Attorney Luis Portero de la Torre represents the Ministry of Justice is traveling to different countries meeting with groups to explain the application, which requires documentation and background checks.

"You can live and work not only in Spain, but you can live and work in any of the (European Union) countries, any place you choose," he said in Albuquerque last week. "It's a tremendous opportunity, especially for the younger people."

DNA evidence is not currently accepted as part of the application process.

"Documents can be destroyed by war or fire or water," said Albuquerque genealogist Schelly Talalay Dardashti, who has asked that DNA be considered when no other proof is available. "DNA doesn't lie."

An estimated 70,000 applications are expected to be filed. Over 1,000 applications have been submitted so far.

"In New Mexico, these families are huge," said Sara Koplik of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico. "There are thousands and thousands of people who have extensive genealogies here and would qualify."

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