The Faith of Remembrance
Nathan Wachtel. Translated by Nikki Halpern. Foreword by Yosef Kaplan
"One of the most important books on crypto-Judaism in the New World, bringing together Wachtel's classic combination of anthropologist and historian into psychological and spiritual investigations of the Marrano community. Based heavily on archival research of Inquisition cases in Mexico City and Lima, this book stresses the syncretist tendency of this group whose knowledge of Judaism and Hebrew was minimal and who couldn't help mixing in a good deal of Christian practice and theology."—Jonathan Israel, Institute for Advanced Study
"Wachtel is truly a brilliant and impeccable scholar. Innovative and massively researched, The Faith of Remembrance is written from the heart."—Nancy Farriss, University of Pennsylvania
From reviews of the French edition
"Wachtel combines a rigorous microhistorical inquiry with the desire to bring us 'the lived, the affective, and the immediate,' or the emotion aroused by sampling the chronicles of suffering in the jails of the Holy Office. With the help of a wealth of details, he immerses us . . . in the everyday world of the Marranos."—Danielle Rozenberg, Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions
"Wachtel unravels the complex history of each case study with the mix of prudence and audacity that has become his trademark. It is at this level that his microanalytic approach demonstrates its full potential: not only does it allow the author to be attentive to the details, opacities, and contradictions of each episode, but it also makes possible a keen contextualization of the Marrano experience."—Jacques Revel, Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales
In a series of intimate and searing portraits, Nathan Wachtel traces the journeys of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Marranos—Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism but secretly retained their own faith. Fleeing persecution in their Iberian homeland, some sought refuge in the Americas, where they established transcontinental networks linking the New World to the Old. The Marranos—at once Jewish and Christian, outsiders and insiders—nurtured their hidden beliefs within their new communities, participating in the economic development of the early Americas while still adhering to some of the rituals and customs of their ancestors. In a testament to the partial assimilation of these new arrivals, their faith became ever more syncretic, mixing elements of Judaism with Christian practice and theology.
In many cases, the combination was fatal. Wachtel relies on inquisitorial archives of trials and executions to chronicle legal and religious prosecutions for heresy. From the humble Jean Vicente to the fabulously wealthy slave trafficker Manuel Bautista Perez, from the untutored Theresa Paes de Jesus to the learned Francisco Maldonado de Silva, each unforgettable figure offers a chilling reminder of the reach of the Inquisition.
Sensitive to the lingering tensions within the Marrano communities, Wachtel joins the concerns of an anthropologist to his skills as a historian, and in a stunning authorial move, he demonstrates that the faith of remembrance remains alive today in the towns of rural Brazil.
Nathan Wachtel is Professor Emeritus at the Collège de France and author of numerous books, including Gods and Vampires: Return to Chipaya and The Vision of the Vanquished: The Spanish Conquest of Peru Through Indian Eyes, 1530-1570.
Nikki Halpern is an independent scholar and translator based in France.
Yosef Kaplan is Bernard Cherrick Professor of the History of the Jewish People at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.