December 7, 2008, - 8:35 pm

Yo Soy Judeo/Feliz Chanukah: DNA Test–20% of Spanish Men Have Jewish Heritage

By Debbie Schlussel
There might be a reason some Hispanic people like matzoh or other Jewish foods. A study shows that, in the Iberian Peninsula, 20%–or one in five–Spanish (and Portuguese) men has DNA showing Jewish heritage. Since I’ve written about the Secret Jews or “crypto Jews” living in the U.S. Hispanic community, this interests me, as well. It shows that many, many Jews–more than originally thought–were forcibly converted to Christianity around the time of the Inquisition and forcibly converted to Islam before that by the Umayyad Muslim dynasty.
As I’ve written for years, it’s thought that Al-Umayyads’ mass killings and forcible conversions of Jews were greater in number than the Holocaust.


Also, as I’ve noted before, Hispanic women in America show a greater likelihood of having the breast cancer gene, BRCA1, than any other group besides Ashkenazic Jewish women. I surmised then that this may be due to Jewish roots. This study may provide some confirmation of that, although most of the Jewish roots shown here are Sephardic (Oriental/Mideast) Jewish roots:

The genetic signatures of people in Spain and Portugal provide new and explicit evidence of the mass conversions of Sephardic Jews and Muslims to Catholicism in the 15th and 16th centuries after Christian armies wrested Spain back from Muslim control, a team of geneticists reports.
Twenty percent of the population of the Iberian Peninsula has Sephardic Jewish ancestry and 11 percent have DNA reflecting Moorish ancestors, the geneticists have found. Historians have debated how many Jews converted and how many chose exile. “One wing grossly underestimates the number of conversions,” said Jane S. Gerber, an expert on Sephardic history at the City University of New York. . . .
The study, based on an analysis of Y chromosomes, was conducted by biologists led by Mark A. Jobling of the University of Leicester in England and Francesc Calafell of the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. They developed a Y chromosome signature for Sephardic men by studying Sephardic Jewish communities in places where Jews migrated after being expelled from Spain in 1492 to 1496. They also characterized the Y chromosomes of the Arab and Berber army that invaded Spain in A.D. 711 from data on people living in Morocco and Western Sahara.
After a period of forbearance under the Arab Umayyad dynasty, Spain entered a period of religious intolerance, with its Muslim Berber dynasties forcing Christians and Jews to convert to Islam, and the victorious Christians then expelling Jews and Muslims or forcing them to convert. The new genetic study, reported online on Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics, indicates there was a high level of conversion among Jews.
Because most of the Y chromosome remains unchanged from father to son, the proportions of Sephardic and Moorish ancestry detected in the present population are probably the same as those just after the 1492 expulsions. A high proportion of people with Sephardic ancestry was to be expected, Dr. Ray said. “Jews formed a very large part of the urban population up until the great conversions,” he said. . . .
The issue is one that has confronted Dr. Calafell, an author of the study. His own Y chromosome may be of Sephardic ancestry – the test is not definitive for individuals – and his surname is from a town in Catalonia; Jews undergoing conversion often took surnames from place names.

It’s interesting that so many Hispanics in our hemisphere and Spanish natives back on Spanish soil are converting to Islam, the religion that once oppressed many of their Jewish ancestors and forcibly converted them (along with Christians who later controlled Spain during the inquisition). Interesting . . . and sad.
Read more on crypto-Jews–Hispanics (mostly in America’s Southwest) who live outwardly as Catholics and secretly as Jews, dating back to their traditions during the inquisition.

13 Responses

Debbie, I’ve been tempted to place this factoid in my “who gives a *” pile ever since it came out. On the other hand, the Spanish are unusually anti-Semitic and maybe a story like this could remind them that we aren’t so different. More likely it will have zero impact and just be another sad reminder to the three of us who care of what should have been in terms of Jewish population. Also, can you get me a critic’s copy of “Gran Torino”?

Anonymous1 on December 7, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Historians believe approximately 100 +/- people were burnt at the stake in Spanish-ruled territories now comprising Mexico and the USA southwest during the Inquisition (for the crime of “Judaizing”).

There is NO Santa Claus on December 7, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Interesting thought-I am sephardic so for me this piques my interest

mindy1 on December 8, 2008 at 6:14 am

Sadly, up until I read your article, I was completely unaware of the ‘Crypto Jews’, and I consider myself an historian (although more so U.S. History) … but nonetheless, an eye opener. I also read your link to last December article, as well as, others this morning. It’s incredible how long this has gone on (i.e.: the sad accounts of the Portuguese Jews having been forcibly converted to Catholicism in 1497).
The fact that many our now considering converting to Islam is alarming.
Now I’m just wondering how long before conservatives in this country become Crypto Americans?
BTW: Loved the Headline “Feliz Chanukah” …
Jimmy Lewis
SCS, Michigan

Jimmy on December 8, 2008 at 11:10 am

Hadn’t you ever wondered why “chili” and “chulent” are so similar, and not just phonetically. Traditionally, both dishes were comprised of leftover meat and beans. The peppers are just a nice addition in Mexico’s (and New Mexico’s) hot climate as they lower blood pressure and body temperature.

chsw on December 8, 2008 at 2:53 pm

John D. Long on December 8, 2008 at 4:49 pm

I just finished reading this (or something very similar) in a book I just read b Marcus Wilder on Mexico. I’m sure I could cajole him into sending you a galley proof for review if you’d like.
His book on Pakistan was what lead me to your site initially as I did some research after reading that book. You two have very similar worldviews.

John D. Long on December 8, 2008 at 4:52 pm

I don’t think that the biggest problem is some are considering converting to Islam (I think this is greatly exaggerated). The bigger problem is that so-called “Jewish” messianics are targeting them for conversion. These descendants of Iberian Jews have little or no knowledge of Judaism and are taken in by these Christian Messianics (some are called “Jews for Jesus,” but most are more surreptitious). These messianics have descended on the Southwest, especially New Mexico and South Texas, where many of us Crypto-Jews live. I, a Chicana, discovered my Jewish roots 30 years ago and even went through a formal conversion and lived in Israel before the fact of discovery of Anusim living in the Southwest came to light. You can consult my website’s Crypto-Jewish Resources page for reliable info–and also the site of The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies (

Miriam Herrera on December 12, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Hi Miriam

    I was one of the interpreters at Santangel ’98 at Dominican University and a frequent reader of your website.

    : )

    Ana on September 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm

My maternal grandmother’s last name was Berro.Searching my genealogiy I discovered that Berro is in fact a Sephardic surname. According to family oral tradition, those Berro came to Cuba from the Basque region; in one of the oldest document I was able to get from Cuba, I found that he declared himself as “natural form Vizcaya”. Berro is not a Basque surname. IO searched – that was abou 7 years ago- Sephardic genealogy sites, and discovered that there are Berro people in Gibraltar, Morocco, Belgiun; there was a large group in rhodes that was sent to Concentration Camps.
I know, because you can “feel it”, even if your are a practicing Catholic as I am, the Jewish genes in your system.
Furthermore, I found in a Havana telephone book from the 50s, that there were Berro families, in a neighborhood where many Jewish people had businessess.
On my father’s side, as you can see above, my surname is Cepero; closely related phonetically to Shapiro. You do not have to be a linguist to see the connection. Plus a Jewish acquaintance not long agao told me that the root of that name come from the Hebrew.
I understand now that the men in both my families, although baptized did not practice Catholicism; favored Masons… or were Agnostics.

I would like to get DNA confirmation; my Berro brandh of the family has no male surviving relative. My Cepero branch had, instead several. Is there any way to check the maternal acendancy, beside the paternal?

Thanks so much

Marta c. De Cardenas

Marta Cepero Nuñez (maiden names) on April 22, 2010 at 11:02 am


A few years ago, I had an imbecil of a doctor that almost killed me. I asked him for a referal for a mamogram. Granted he was more interested in saving a few dollars to the insurance company and I was so young and stupid that dismissed my valid concerns. Eventually, I demanded the exam and he referred me to a Jewish doctor, not without giving his personal opinion that I had this “crazy” of having a mass of my left axila. The Jewish doctor convinced by the moron dismissed me with a few suggestions to take Primrose Oil in the mornings.

Facing substantial discomfort, I decided to visit the Jewish doctor this time without a referral. After a brief exam, he looked at me in disbelieve and scheduled my surgery for next day.

Granted I had a series of exams none showing the massive tumor on my left axila and because my breast tissue was too dense to show the tumor.

I filed a formal complaint against my PCP for his pickle juice prescriptions to aliviate pain for a breast tumor. Four years has been since I had surgery and I’m will never forgive the ignorance of this doctor who refused to treat me due to his prejudice, added he is a devout catholic who tends mass on the daily basis. I learned my lesson and decided to pay a few dollar to upgrade my insurance.

There are thousands of Jews in Latin America. My father has a Jewish mother and my mother’s parents are both of Jewish descend. Some of relatives are practicing orthodox Jews. Granted many Jewish families (in Panama) assimilated in the 1940’s during the persecusion of Jews at the hands of Panamanian Nazi President, Arnulfo Arias Madrid.

After, this experience my insurance paid for one of the leading breast cancer specialist in the United States. Also paid for a BRCA1/2 exams and genetic counseling. According to the results I’m a JEW.

A on September 18, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Of course the Spanish have jew in them. the jews came to Spain with the Romans as slaves. There was obviously some mixing. Then the jews helped the Arabs take over Spain, when they were under German rule. There were definitely mixed marriages. Then more jews came with the caliphate, etc. The jews were in Spain before the Inquisition for 1,500 and there was some mixing during that time. However, Jews were also in other European countries after the diaspora so it is silly to argue that Spain has any more jewish blood than other countries. The only argument is that the arabs were more tolerant of jews and thus, during their rule, a lot of jews came to Spain that did not go to other less tolerant European countries. This is the only argument in my opinion.

So what, the Spanish are roman, iberian, celt, german, and some have jewish and some have arab and or berber, so what……….who cares? is it for purposes of affirmative action that the jews are so interested in being considered descendants of Spain or of spanish origin? I know of jews who have gotten affirmative action arguing spanish origin. Who cares??????

yes the spanish and all europeans are antisemtitic and there is jewish blood in all of europe. If you were to do a study of french men, german men and such, you would problably find some jewish blood. Of course, you would turn it all around and say that the sephardim who left Spain have spanish blood (visigoth, iberian, celtic, roman, arabic/berber) because of all of the mixing………so who knows who got what from whom??????? to really know you would have to test the blood of the real hebrew (without any mixing with european or arab, to figure our if who has jewish blood!!!!!!!!!!. Good luck finding a real heb!!!.

lAURA sCHMIDT on July 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm

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