The month of September: Latin American Independence and Jewish Holidays!

September presents us with an opportunity to look at the Latin American Independence movement, and Jewish culture and traditions. Most importantly the question is:

How these two events have to do with each other?
I hope you join me and read this fascinating piece of history that is little known.

Converso- Jews have been living in Latin America since the first voyage of Columbus. It’s widely known that he brought a -Torres who spoke many old world languages as an interpreter. However, little has been published about the knowledge and equipment that helped Columbus reach the “Unknown World” of America.

When Columbus sailed in 1492, he carried with him, Abraham Zacuto’s “Astronomical Tables,” and Zacuto’s the copper Astrolab, which accuracy to determine the meridian altitude of the sun, had been improved by the following Jewish scientist:
Joseph Vecinho, Maestre; a pupil of Zacuto;  Rodrigo, the Court Physician;   Moses, Mathematician;   Nurenberg the navigation expert, and Martin Behaim, cosmographer. This improvement made Columbus and Vasco de Gama later discoveries possible.

Avraham ben Shmuel Zacuto, Portuguese: Abraão ben Samuel Zacuto; 12 August 1452 – c. 1515) was a Spanish astronomer, astrologer, mathematician, rabbi, and historian who served as Royal Astronomer to King John II of Portugal. developed a new type of astrolabe, specialized for practical determination of latitude while at sea, not ashore. Zacuto’s Almanach supplied the first accurate table of solar declination, allowing navigators to use the sun instead. Ah! by the way, the crater Zagut on the Moon is named after him.

Converso Jews came to Latin America

Many Converso-Jews came to Latin America because they have the academic and scientific knowledge and skills that were needed in the New World. They were Mathematicians, Musicians, Physicians, Merchants, and more.

Converso-Jews living in Latin America were oppressed by the archaic laws of Christian Spain. just as much as the Creoles and Mestizos. So, they too joined the insurgents in the fight for independence.

In 1804 -In Haiti a former slave “François Dominique Toussaint Louverture” established the first “black republic” in the Americas.
In 1810 – In Mexico, a priest “Miguel Hidalgo” rang the bells of the church and incited the parishioners to fight for their freedom. Spain had brought Converso-Jews from Spain to populate new areas in Mexican territory such as Tamaulipas, Monterey, and South of Texas,  those jews joined in the fight for independence too.
In 1818 – In South America, Bernardo O’Higgins got Chile and Argentina’s freedom.
In 1810 -1825 –  Simon Bolivar, a creole soldier led the fight for the independence of several countries in South America. He was joined by the Jews from Curacao. At the time, Curacao had become a Dutch colony.

Dutch and English Colonies of the Caribbean were the first places in the New World where Jews could openly and safely embrace their faith. First in the short-lived Dutch enclave of Recife in northern Brazil (1630) and then in places like Curaçao, Suriname, Barbados, and Jamaica, Jews were afforded basic civil rights that ensured their right to freely practice Judaism. []

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