Rare Crypto-Judaism book collection on display at archives event

South Texas Archives, Jernigan Library - 09/18/18 - 09/21/18

Contact: Julie Navejar
julie.navejar@tamuk.edu or 361-593-2590

            KINGSVILLE (September 18, 2018) — A personal collection of rare Crypto-Judaism books will be on display from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, in the South Texas Archives inside the James C. Jernigan Library at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.


            The exhibit is presented by the South Texas Archives, the Department of Language and Literature and the university’s Hispanic Heritage Committee. It features the collection of Ricardo and Debbie Backal. Twenty-four Crypto-Judaism books were loaned to the South Texas Archives so they could be digitized and added to the archives website.


            “The Crypto-Judaism books are false family histories of Spanish Jews who migrated to Mexico in the 1500s to escape the Spanish Inquisition. The persecution followed them and began in Mexico,” said Lori Atkins, university archivist. “The families produced illustrated monographs with their declaration of the Christian faith to present when interrogated by church officials. They still practiced their Jewish faith in secret.”


            “Sometimes the families actually changed faiths and their Jewish history was forgotten. These books tell of a time in history that was unforgiving to many people of different faiths. They are written in Spanish and beautifully and colorfully illustrated,” she said.


             Backal and his family collected the books in Mexico, most in Mexico City, at flea markets and antique stores. Backal also owned the Mexican Calendar Art that was on display recently at the John E. Conner Museum.


            Several people will speak at the event, including Ricardo Backal, who will talk about the responsibilities of owning such an important collection.


            Dr. Miguel Bedolla, professor and director of the Health Career Opportunity Program at University of Texas in San Antonio, will speak about Crypto-Judaism. Matthew Tallant, processing archivist, and Daniel Thacker, digital archivist, both from the South Texas Archives, will talk about the archives role in preserving and sharing these rare items.


            For more information, call 361-593-2109.