on February 15, 2021

Sephardic descent in Minas Gerais

on February 15, 2021

A descendência sefardita em Minas Gerais

The presence of New Christians and their descendants in Northeast Brazil is well known. But it is always good to remember that the Sephardic descent extends to practically all Brazilian regions. This is the case of the region now belonging to the State of Minas Gerais, which throughout the 18th century received New Christian Sephardims, who saw in the region's development an opportunity to settle down and develop their economic activities.

According to the coordinator of the genealogy team at Martins Castro, Camila Amaral, “the discovery of gold and diamond mines between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, favored the intense migratory flow, to that region, of individuals who were interested in developing mining activities and thus improving their lives, enriching themselves, improving their social status”.

It is important to remember that Minas Gerais, at that time, was a new, newly populated and developing region, which attracted the New Christians who were interested in the mining activity, directly or indirectly. Those who were not directly linked to the mining activity, in the extraction of gold and diamonds, took advantage of the increased flow of people and the generation of wealth in the region to develop their businesses. “These New Christians were merchants who established their businesses or who moved between villages to develop their trade networks”, explains the genealogist at Martins Castro.

from Portugal to Brazil

Regarding the origin of the New Christians who settled in mines, it is known that most of them migrated from the North of Portugal to Brazil. Camila highlights that “there was a massive migratory flow throughout the 18th century, sometimes from entire villages, which moved from the north of Portugal towards Minas Gerais. These villages were where the most numerous New Christian communities in Portugal were located.”

In Brazil, these Sephardim and their descendants were concentrated in some regions of Minas Gerais. Historically it is not feasible to specify the territories where they first settled, but according to the foundation date of the villages, today cities, throughout the 18th century it is possible to map where these individuals transited and settled. Among these towns/cities are Mariana, Ouro Preto, São João del-Rei, Tiradentes, Barbacena, Pitangui, Carrancas, Eurôca, Caxambu and all of Lavras.

The distance from the coast as a migratory factor

In addition to the region's development, the distance from the coast, at least in the first years of growth in Minas Gerais, was an attraction for the Portuguese New Christians. This geographical condition ended up offering a kind of refuge for these individuals, especially for those who continued to practice Judaism in secret. It is important to remember that, even after the forced conversion and already outside Portugal, the Sephardim continued to be the target of persecution in Brazilian urban centers where there is a more consolidated governmental, administrative and ecclesiastical structure, which, consequently, guaranteed the presence of a more systematic inquisitorial action in these places.

“Some New Christians saw, at first, in Minas Gerais also a kind of protection space, where they were protected from inquisitorial action, from a possible denunciation process. However, the development of studies on New Christians in the region of Minas Gerais demonstrates that this sense of protection did not take place throughout the entire 18th century. After all, as the Minas region developed, grew in economic importance and in terms of population, the inquisition turned its eyes to that region”, says Camila.

Thus, the need for observation existing in other urban centers, such as Recife and Salvador, which until then were the places of attraction for individuals from different origins, from the 18th century onwards, is also present in other locations. There is then an expansion of the inquisition's action, which throughout the 1700s gained strength in the current Southeast of Brazil.

Perpetuating its strategy of action, in Minas Gerais, the Inquisition also had a network of agents of civil or ecclesiastical origin that spyed, watched, denounced, denounced and eventually arrested people who committed crimes punishable by the Inquisition. Among these were, above all, individuals of New Christian origin, who were the main targets of the Court of the Holy Office, mainly for the crime of Judaism.

“In Brazil, Minas Gerais, in the 18th century, occupied second place in terms of imprisonment by the Tribunal do Santo Ofício. It only lost from Rio de Janeiro, so this also denotes that there was a very incisive action of the Inquisition there”, explains Camila.

The Sephardic descent in Minas

The Sephardic presence in Minas Gerais left an extensive offspring. In this context, two families can be highlighted. The first descends from fundador of Baependi, Tomé Rodrigues Nogueira do Ó. Direct descendant of the Sephardic Antônio Bicudo Carneiro, Tomé Rodrigues Nogueira do Ó, generated a numerous offspring that went beyond the State of Minas Gerais and extended beyond borders, reaching the States of Rio Grande do Sul, Espírito Santo, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro.

The second family is linked to Dona Joaquina de Pompéu, a well-known female figure in Minas Gerais. Joaquina was not a direct descendant of a Sephardic Jew, but married a descendant of Antônio Bicudo Carneiro. From this union resulted an extensive descent, whose ancestry is linked to a Sephardi.

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