The Caribbean ...

Caribbean history reveals the significant role the region played in the colonial struggles of the European powers since the 15th century. The Caribbean history can be traced via the history of the pioneering Jews that helped discover Latin America. This brings back to the saga of Sefarad wherein the Conversos were an integral part of the Spanish and Portuguese expeditions to the continents that represented the “New World”. The Spanish permitted only Christians to take part in New World expeditions after its Crown expelled the Jews in 1492.

After the expulsion, many Sephardic Jews migrated to the Netherlands, France and eventually Italy, from where they joined other expeditions to the Americas. Others migrated to England or France and accompanied their colonists as traders and merchants. By the late 16th century, fully functioning Jewish communities were founded in the Portuguese colony of Brazil, the Dutch Suriname and Curacao, including Spanish Santo Domingo and the English colonies of Jamaica and Barbados. There were several unorganized communities of Jews in Spanish and Portuguese territories where the Inquisition was active, including Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Peru. Many in these communities were Crypto-Jews who had generally concealed their identity from the authorities.

By the mid-17th century, the largest Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere were located in Surinam and Brazil. Several Jewish communities in the Caribbean, Central and South America flourished, particularly in those areas under more tolerant control of the Dutch and English. Additional immigrants arrived to this region as part of the massive emigration of Jews from Eastern Europe in the late 19th century. During and after World War II, many Ashkenazi Jews emigrated to South America for refuge.