“Conversas in Diaspora: The Second Inquisitorial trial of Isabel de Carvajal ” by Dr. Emily Colbert Cairns


The Sephardic Diaspora in the Early Modern period saw transatlantic exchange of religious and cultural practices as well as economic activity. Conversos and Jewish families participated in a global trade network that connected Iberia, Europe, the New World, and Africa. Amidst this dynamic exchange women tactically used the private realm of the home to maintain and preserve rituals and faith practices. This lecture will focus on the material observance of crypto-Jew, Isabel de Carvajal, as described in her Inquisition manuscripts. Themes of religious hybridity will be discussed; Isabel publically acted as a Catholic and attended mass, but in her home secretly practiced Judaism. This mixed identity is one of the key features of converso identity. She and the rest of her family were brought up on judaizing trials in 1595-96 in New Spain, today Mexico, and ultimately burned at the stake in an auto-da-fe.


Dr. Emily Colbert Cairns, a graduate of Hamilton College, received her M.A. and Ph.D in Spanish from the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on conversos and crypto-Jews in the Early Modern Period in the Spanish speaking world. She is an Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Salve Regina University Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

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