Luis de Carvajal the Younger (also Luis de Carabajal) died at the stake in the Inquisition on Dec. 8, 1596, after being tortured and denouncing (and then recanting his confessions) his entire family.

De Carvajal has been the subject of many books, and even an opera (“Carvajal“) in recent years, because of his story’s drama and because he left behind significant written materials, including a memoir and Jewish poems, that were hidden in the Mexican Inquisition’s archives for more than 300 years before being released.

As a result of those writings, de Carvajal is today acknowledged to be the first Jewish author in the New World.

De Carvajal was a member of a distinguished family of Mexican “anusim” (crypto-Jews). His uncle of the same name was Spain’s governor of the New Kingdom of León, all of today’s Mexico and part of the present day U.S.A., before he was denounced as a crypto-Jew. His youngest brother, Miguel, who with another brother escaped to Salonika, Greece, became a celebrated rabbi under the name of Jacob Lumbroso.

De Carvajal’s extended family was involved in founding the city of Monterrey, which still bears Jewish heritage, including popular Sephardic family names like Garza, local festivities, and particularly cuisine (cabrito – roasted goat, and semitas – small sweet rolls like challot even possibly used in some form in crypto-Jews’ Passover seders, although semitas’ ties to Jews are disputed).

De Carvajal was first tried in Mexico City in 1590 and was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment in an insane asylum, but eventually released.

In his secret writings, probably dating around 1591 or 1592, de Carvajal identified himself as Joseph Lumbroso, the Enlightened one, which was also code referring to the biblical Joseph, himself a form of crypto-Jew in Pharaoh’s courts.

De Carvajal in his autobiography wrote of the time when he was released from prison and claimed to be a devout “New Christian.” Yet, when he studied in monastic houses to pay off the Inquisition’s fines he would not eat the monks’ food, because he would not defile himself with their non-kosher meals. Obeying the laws of kashrut, insofar as he understood them, he would only eat the bread he himself brought along.

De Carvajal wrote of his loathing of the monks. The alienation and disgust were so great that he not only wanted to eat by himself but preferred the company of beasts in the stable, particularly the horses.

Back on trial in 1596, de Carvajal was shown a manuscript beginning with the words: “In the name of the Lord of Hosts” (a translation of the Hebrew invocation, “b’hem Adonai Zevaot”), which he acknowledged as his autobiography. He and his brother Baltasar had also composed hymns and dirges for Jewish fasts.

He was put on the rack from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. on his last day and denounced no less than 121 persons, including his immediate family, though he afterward repudiated his confession. He threw himself out of a window to escape further torture, but he did not die.

Shortly before his death in the auto-da-fe, he wrote his monotheistic principles, partly modeled after Maimonides’ “Thirteen Principles of Faith.”

I believe in the one and only God, almighty and true, Creator of heaven, earth, and sea

I believe that God our Lord and universal Creator is one and no more

I believe that the law of God our Lord, which the Christians call the dead law of Moses, is alive and everlasting, as recorded in the holy Pentateuch

The fourth belief of mine is that it is a sin to worship idols and images.

I believe that the Sacred Sacrament of Circumcision is eternal.

I believe that Christ (literally “the anointed,” as in Hebrew mashiah) the true Father of the future son, Prince of Peace, real son of David, possessor of the scepter of Judah has not arrived

I believe in what relates to the mysterious vision of the holy Daniel

Tenth: I believe that King Antiochus, whom the Holy Scriptures called root of sin, because he was the persecutor of God’s people and of His holy law, represents the kings of Spain and Portugal…from which originate the branches of the inquisitions and the persecutions of the blessed martyrs…true Jews (whom they call) Judaizing heretics. However, Judaizing is not heresy but is living according to the Commandments of God our Lord.

De Carvajal concluded with a confession that sounds like a prayer recited on the Day of Atonement:

I again swear, in the name of the Almighty, to live and die for His faith. May it please Him, so that, imitating the zeal of Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, and Matathias, I shall joyfully give away my soul for the faith of the Holy Testament for which they died.

I hope for strength from the Lord. I do not trust myself, since I am only flesh and of frail nature; and just as I have placed a mother and five sisters in danger for this faith, I would give away a thousand, if I had them, for the faith of each of His holy Commandments.

My Lord, look upon me with grace, so that it may be known and seen in this kingdom and upon all the earth that Thou art our God and that Thine almighty and holy name, Adonay, is invoked with truth in Israel and among Israel’s descendants.

I commit this soul that Thou gavest me to Thy holy hands, promising with Thy help not to change my faith till death nor after it.

I end happily the narrative of my present life, having lively faith in Thy divine hope of saving me through Thine infinite mercy and of resurrecting me, when Thy holy will is accomplished, together with our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his faithful sons, for whose holy love I beg Thee humbly to confirm this and not to forsake me.

May it please Thee to send the angel Michael, our prince, to defend and help me.

O Lord, have mercy on the glory of Thy name, Thy law, and Thy people, and the world which Thou Thyself didst create; fill it with Thy light and the truthful knowledge of Thy name, so that heaven and earth will be filled with Thy glory and praise, amen, amen.

I again swear, in the name of the Almighty, to live and die for His faith. May it please Him, so that, imitating the zeal of Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, and Matathias, I shall joyfully give away my soul for the faith of the Holy Testament for which they died.

I hope for strength from the Lord. I do not trust myself, since I am only flesh and of frail nature; and just as I have placed a mother and five sisters in danger for this faith, I would give away a thousand, if I had them, for the faith of each of His holy Commandments.

My Lord, look upon me with grace, so that it may be known and seen in this kingdom and upon all the earth that Thou art our God and that Thine almighty and holy name, Adonay, is invoked with truth in Israel and among Israel’s descendants.

I commit this soul that Thou gavest me to Thy holy hands, promising with Thy help not to change my faith till death nor after it.

I end happily the narrative of my present life, having lively faith in Thy divine hope of saving me through Thine infinite mercy and of resurrecting me, when Thy holy will is accomplished, together with our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his faithful sons, for whose holy love I beg Thee humbly to confirm this and not to forsake me.

May it please Thee to send the angel Michael, our prince, to defend and help me.

O Lord, have mercy on the glory of Thy name, Thy law, and Thy people, and the world which Thou Thyself didst create; fill it with Thy light and the truthful knowledge of Thy name, so that heaven and earth will be filled with Thy glory and praise, amen, amen.

Excerpt taken from “Scorched Parchments and Tortured Memories: The ‘Jewishness’ of the Anussim (Crypto-Jews) by Moshe Lazar, a chapter in “Cultural Encounters: The Impact of the Inquisition in Spain and the New World.”

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