At a time when Spanish society is trying to restore its historical memory to honor the victims, there is a town in Burgos that looks back centuries to save its Sephardic past. Castrillo Mota de Judíos has been in the news for years of anti-Semitic attacks for his efforts to build bridges and root out with the Jewish community.
But that wasn’t always the case, Castrillo had other “surnames” until 2015, when the Junta de Castilla y León approved the change in the 2014 European elections, which fifty residents approved, despite the fact that 29 of the votes ended in favour. and against 19. This change meant going from being called Matajudíos to Mota de Judíos. This is where the hatred of Spanish neo-Nazis originates.
Mixing up his past in this way wasn’t just about an anachronistic, outdated and offensive name – this was made clear by complaints – the small town in Burgos has its origins and owes much of it. History to the Jews. The name change opened up a new way of learning about its past and making itself one of the international benchmarks in harmony with the Jewish people and especially the Sephardic community.
Close to the border with the province of Palencia and in the middle of the Camino de Santiago Francés, away from highways and cities, is Castrillo Mota de Judíos. The small town is breathing calm, the morning cold and the wind swept through the clouds that watered the endless fields surrounding the municipality during the night. A few neighbors seen doing their job: a couple goes upstairs with a loaded wheelbarrow, the teleclub’s manager, who also works as a bar, comes in and out of his business, and heads home. The only person to break the silence is the baker, who calls the neighbors out of their house with the horn of his van. The picture is of a typical November in a Castilian town, hardly any people, and all that shows it’s a bit of vidilla is the smoke coming out of the chimneys and a cat coming to have a peek.
In the middle of the square of Antonio de Cabezón, a famous musician born in the municipality that was the agora of Castrillo in the 16th century, Montse appears with a blue bucket to do the chores of the nearby rural house he went to. The neighbor says he’s “proud” of his town and laughs, saying he “couldn’t say anything bad” about Castrillo. The attacks on neo-Nazis, the latest of which this summer, become even more serious when asked. “They let us live in peace, we didn’t mess with anyone,” she says. What he doesn’t understand is that they have traveled many miles—there is a group of Nazis coming from Madrid to make graffiti and burn pots—“What the hell are they dying for? Well, if they don’t have to call him like Pantoja said,” a smile returns to his face as he nods.
“Since this started, since February, there has been no shortage of people. Also, new people came to live, so they are very happy, I already told you, if you think that I will speak badly to you, you are wrong, ”says Montse, ending with a goodbye.
What the neighbor meant when he started is that Castrillo is recognized as a bond with the Jewish people, both in our country and abroad. This attracts people and the future. Since 2014, the effort to recover Sephardic memory has led to the establishment of the Sephardic Memory Centre, which will be excavated on a hill in the municipality called ‘La mota’, where the inhabitants originally resided and where archaeological remains are located. At the same time, twinning with the Israeli town of Kfar Vradim meant closer ties with the Jewish community, with key milestones such as the visit of Israeli officials and personalities like the French writer Pierre Assoulin.
Also something that stands out is the international vocation of this project. The town of fifty inhabitants was modeled after King Felipe VI. Conferred by the European Rabbinical Conference as “an example of the struggle against anti-Semitism” when the monarch received the Lord Jakobovits Prize for Jews of Europe in 2016, this award recognizes the support given to European Jews and the defense of their religious rights. His case has also been featured in the Israeli press, the New York Times or Le Mondé, and they have joined requests from around the world, including the entire Americas, as assured by mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez (Ciudadanos). Europe or Israel to learn the history of Castrillo.
For the visitor, unaware of the work being done to restore Hispanic-Jewish heritage that has led to closer ties to Sephardic communities in Latin America, Castrillo can walk through more than a town, nothing seems to reveal its past. At first glance, considering the façade of the Sephardic Memory Center, the present and Perhaps the future, although one can see. And the combination of the passage of time is seen in the contrast between the Hebrew writing of this building and the cross of the building opposite and the symbol of the Inquisition, a remnant of the existence of the Holy Office and a remnant of control and oppression. The population is Jewish from the municipality of Conversa and past eras.
From Mota de Judíos to Matajudíos and vice versa
To understand the origin of Castrillo it is necessary to go back to the Middle Ages, to 1035, but as the town’s mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez (Ciudadanos) summed up: “The story is not about how we came to Castrillo de Matajudíos, from calling ourselves Castrillo de Matajudíos Castrillo de los Judíos, if you don’t call us, in 1035, until 1640, when they called us Castrillo de Judíos, Castrillo de Matajudíos, and in 2015, when we took the name back”.
In the year 1035, Sancho III el Mayor de Navarra just died, leaving a power vacuum with the arrival of King Ferdinand I of Castile. After the death of his father, the inhabitants of the town of Castrojeriz took up arms. He took advantage of a pogrom to drive out the ruler’s agents and the Jews, forcing them to move to La Mota hill. Until then, the Jewish community in the town of Castrojeriz was important; this was something that remained hidden through a number of documentary sources, such as the example of the equalizing statute executed by Count Castilla García Fernández in 974. Christians and Sephardim. Over the years, and with pressure to convert to Christianity and his eventual expulsion in 1492, Castrillo de Judíos – named after him – fell into decline.
Controversy over its name dates back to the 16th century. Until then, it was called Castrello, Castriello or Castrillo de Judíos since its inception. The first change comes with the emergence of Antonio Cabezón as a musician for Carlos I and Felipe II, then theory is when Mota de Judíos was changed to Matajudíos to save the reputation of religious fanaticism in Europe within a few years. Added antisemitism between Protestants and Catholics. However, there’s also the possibility that it’s a complete typo when mixing ‘mota-‘ with ‘mata-‘. The fact is that the stories are one hundred percent true or not, already in the 21st century this name has received criticism.
look into the future
And with the ‘renaming’ of the town came projects to salvage the erased memory of Jewish culture in Spain. The final act was about the newly opened Sephardic Memory Centre. This Wednesday, the room dedicated to key patrons, the Hispanic-Jewish Foundation, was inaugurated. A delegation headed by the head of the organization, David Hatchwell, went to Castrillo Mota de Judíos.
The businessman showed his “personal satisfaction” in making the construction and commissioning of “a site that serves to unite cultures” a reality in a small town like Castrillo that is committed to “recovering the past”. “This is the first step to take more action at the centre,” he said.
Hatchwell set the example of the people as a way to heal the wounds of the Jewish community and outlined the “respect, tolerance and sincerity” they showed in making this transition by “always being mindful of the past, history and diversity”. “. , finished.
As the mayor reassured, the center opens a new phase for Castrillo. A Jewish family recently settled in the town, and as the mayor and a neighbor pointed out, they took a few more inquiries to relocate more people. “The problem is we don’t have room for everyone,” says Antonio, also a Castrillo resident.
This Burgos municipality seems to have found the recipe for depopulation, as these relocation requests amounted to ten families, as the councilor noted. Accompanying this interest in learning about Castrillo are requests from education centers in Israel, which aim to attract student communities to learn about Hispanic-Jewish heritage, thanks to a large library under construction.
In addition, agreements have been made to host traveling exhibitions, as Rodríguez explains – currently hosting the ‘Conversos y Comuneros’ exhibition on the presence of Jews in the War of the Communities and events such as concerts. All of this has sparked interest in the province and Castilla y León as well, because since the official opening on November 7, several groups have approached it, though not yet open. “We showed them, though, without the electricity meter,” the mayor explains.
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