The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Sephardi Dietary Practices and Marranis: Reflections on Food Rituals among the Sephardim in the Spanish and Portuguese Territories of the Americas (Sixteenth-Eighteenth Centuries)

This paper aims to question about the dietary practices of the Sephardim conversos– also called “Marranos” inthe Americas –, and will mainly focus on the territories in Mexico and Brazil, from 1570 until the end of the 18th century. Within this context, we will explore how the diet of the new Christians reflect Jewish identity and complexity. Thus, after briefly defining and inscribing the very terms “marrano” and “marranismo” we will discuss –particularly through the trials of the Inquisition– the reasons and the circumstances in which the Sephardi crypto-Jews dietary practices – including fasting – were practiced. How this highlighted a discrepancy between what they consumed, or not, and why it was done. Then, this paper will give an approach on how the religious feast of the Sephardi marranos served as evidence for the denunciations. A glimpse of the food they consumed in the Inquisition jails, and a reflection on fasting as a marker of hidden Jewish identity, will finally close this argument.

Key words: Conversos, Fasting, Food, Inquisition, Americas, Marranism